100 Years of Newbery! - National Council of Teachers of English
Back to Blog

100 Years of Newbery!

As we look towards 2022, we can look forward to celebrating a century of the Newbery Medal!

Since 1922, the Newbery Medal has been awarded for the “most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.” This anniversary not only commemorates a century of captivating books, but celebrates the longevity and evolution of the award. The world has changed in the last 100 years, and with it, the Newbery Medal seeks to recognize stories that represent and respect all youth.

The John Newbery Medal takes its name from the eighteenth-century British bookseller who first conceived of publishing books for children. First presented in 1922 to Hendrick Willem Van Loon for The Story of Mankind, the medal is awarded each year to an author whose work was published during the preceding year and who is a United States citizen.

How did this award come to be? On June 22, 1921, Frederic G. Melcher proposed the award to the American Library Association meeting of the Children’s Librarians’ Section and suggested that it be named for the eighteenth-century English bookseller John Newbery. The idea was enthusiastically accepted by the children’s librarians, and Melcher’s official proposal was approved by the ALA Executive Board in 1922. In Melcher’s formal agreement with the board, the purpose of the Newbery Medal was stated as follows: “To encourage original creative work in the field of books for children. To emphasize to the public that contributions to the literature for children deserve similar recognition to poetry, plays, or novels. To give those librarians, who make it their life work to serve children’s reading interests, an opportunity to encourage good writing in this field.”

The Library of Congress houses a unique collection of select children’s books published more than 100 years ago. These include classic works that are still read by children today and lesser-known treasures drawn from the Library’s extensive collection of historically significant children’s books. You can read more about the collection or watch a webinar exploring this unique online collection of historically significant children’s books.

For some teaching ideas tied to this collection, check out this blog post.

Interested in exploring older books? Take a look at this digital collection from the Library of Congress, launched as part of its celebration of the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week in 2019.

If you are looking for contemporary book suggestions, look no further than the books named by the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award and the NCTE Orbis Pictus Award. The Build Your Stack® initiative is also focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries. Visit this site for links to webinars and blog posts with text suggestions.

What are some of your favorite award-wining texts?


Curious about the NCTE and Library of Congress connection? Through a grant announced by NCTE Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick, NCTE is engaged in new ongoing work with the Library of Congress, and “will connect the ELA community with the Library of Congress to expand the use of primary sources in teaching.” Stay tuned for more throughout the year!

It is the policy of NCTE in all publications, including the Literacy & NCTE blog, to provide a forum for the open discussion of ideas concerning the content and the teaching of English and the language arts. Publicity accorded to any particular point of view does not imply endorsement by the Executive Committee, the Board of Directors, or the membership at large, except in announcements of policy, where such endorsement is clearly specified.