First Newbery Medal for children’s literature awarded to Hendrik Willem van Loon

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On this day in 1922, the American Library Association (ALA) awards the first Newbery Medal, honoring the year’s best children’s book, to The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Willem van Loon. The idea for an award honoring outstanding contributions to children’s literature came from Frederic G. Melcher, a former bookseller who in 1918 became an editor of Publisher’s Weekly. Over his long career, Melcher often looked for ways to encourage reading, especially among children. In 1919, he co-founded Children’s Book Week with Franklin K. Mathiews, librarian of the Boy Scouts organization. Two years later, Melcher suggested the creation of a children’s book award at a June 1921 meeting of the Children’s Librarians’ Section of the ALA. He proposed that it should be named for John Newbery, the 18th-century English bookseller and author who was considered the father or ”inventor” of children’s literature.





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