Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Schneider Family Book Award

Schneider Family Book Award, a circular silver-on-blue logo depicting children holding hands circling a globe with the name of the award rimming the top of the circle. The name of the award is written in Braille beneath the emblem.
Given a class assignment to write about a school or library children’s book award, I decided to learn more about the Schneider Family Book Award, one among what are collectively referred to as the American Library Association’s Youth Media Awards.

(With its emphasis upon portraying the experience of people with disabilities, the Schneider award uniquely piqued my interest as a woman on the autism spectrum.)

According to the official manual, Dr. Katherine Schneider and her family endowed the Schneider Family Book Award in 2003. “Three awards are given annually to recognize and honor books for their distinguished portrayal of people living with a disabling condition.” One award apiece is presented to a book in one of three age categories: 0 to 8, 9 to 13 and 14 to 18.

Each year, the awards are presented to books that were published during the previous year.

The person with a disability can be the book’s protagonist or a secondary character, but he or she must be “integral to the presentation, not merely a passive bystander,” and the book must present accurate information on a disability.

The manual notes that Dr. Schneider “intentionally allowed for a broad interpretation” of living with a disability, whether “physical, mental, or emotional.” However, “Books with death as the main theme are generally disqualified.”

In her remarks for the first presentation of the Schneider Family Book Award on June 29, 2004, Dr. Schneider reflected that her hero growing up was the librarian at the Michigan Library for the Blind. Dr. Schneider’s “thirst for knowledge” was whetted by “that special librarian,” who supplied her with “books in Braille and on records from the Library of Congress collection,” and her mother, who “read me many books that were not available in Braille or on records.”

“The upshot of that thirst was a Ph.D. from Purdue and a very satisfying thirty-year career as a clinical psychologist.”

During the 1950s, when Dr. Schneider attended grade school, “the only media mentions of blind people were of Helen Keller, Louis Braille, and the seven blind men who went to see the elephant. Other disabilities fared no better.”

Dr. Schneider added during her inaugural remarks, “Fifty years later we’re here to celebrate the fact that the situation has dramatically improved.” She noted that there were “many wonderful children’s books to consider, which represent the experiences of the one out of seven Americans who have a disability. The disability experience in these wonderful children’s books is part of a character's full life, not the focus of the life.”

Works Cited
  • American Library Association. Schneider Family Book Award. Web. 28 October 2014.
  • ----. Schneider Family Book Award Manual. Web. 28 October 2014.
  • Schneider, Katherine. Foreword (Remarks on the occasion of the first presentation of the Schneider Family Book Award). Schneider Family Book Award Manual. By the American Library Association. Web. 28 October 2014.

Composed for Cuesta College’s LIBT 210, School Library/Media Center Services

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