Archives for posts with tag: Schneider Family Book Awards

How Do I Get There From Here? Planning for Retirement When the Old Rules No Longer Apply by George H. Schofield, Ph.D. talks about three overlapping stages of growth between fifty and old age. I think I’m entering the third one: new simplicity.  I’m becoming impatient with some volunteer commitments and am moving away from them as quickly as I can decently do so. I’m focusing more on how I can mentor younger people and do less myself. I want to take better care of myself; more exercise and de-cluttering come to mind.

Mentoring has involved going to meetings and making facilitative comments to help the chair keep the meeting on track. It also involves providing lunches for people who are working so they can come and bitch and strategize. I’ve said “no” to chairing projects so I can say “yes” to supporting younger people chairing. And then there’s the celebrating when a younger person has finished a project.

This week I had the opportunity to tell a young woman doing a project on the Schneider Family Book Awards about their history.  It felt odd to clearly be a historical figure—The Founder.  Founding something for me involved stepping up to do something even though I hadn’t a clue about how to do it and recruiting people to help me who had the right expertise.

The internal struggle for me is about am I being selfish?  A wise friend of mine in his eighties says it’s a balancing act between serving others and taking care of oneself and that the balance changes over the years.

As the Bob Dylan song says:

“The slow one now will later be fast

As the present now will later be past

The order is rapidly fadin’.

And the first one now will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’.”

My priorities seem to be changing toward putting more energy into fewer tasks, mentoring and a new balance of self-care and other-care.  In case any of this rings a bell with you, I’m reading Finding Our Way Again by Brian Mclaren and finding it helpful.  Onward!


Thank goodness we can celebrate Teen Read Week no matter what age we are. For me, part of it is nostalgia and part of it is awe at what’s out there now for teens.

As a teen I loved science fiction by Asimov, Heinlein and Clarke, probably a precursor to my adult love of thrillers and mysteries. I didn’t care about the fantasy parts of the genre, just heroic conquering of planets for the good guys. I also enjoyed some historical fiction like Rosemary Sutcliff’s Lantern Bearers. I was pleased to see Nancy Pearl also recommended it in her Book Crush: for Kids and Teens. Reading Grapes of Wrath in English class hooked me on John Steinbeck. Someday I’ll reread some of his novels, a rarity for me. I just love his characters.

Another English teacher made us read a memoir. I read Keep Your Head up Mr. Putnam! about Peter Putnam’s first guide dog. Reading about a living blind adult was a great change from Louis Braille and Helen Keller bios, all that I’d had before for role models.

How times have changed! This year, Teen Read Week, a national initiative created by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), features a multi-lingual “Read for the fun of it!” theme. The theme highlights the resources and services available to the 22 percent of the nation’s youth who speak a language other than English at home.

A national group of authors and publishers, We Need Diverse Books published the following piece this week: “Perspectives of Authors With Disabilities – We Need Diverse Books”

There are many more memoirs of people with disabilities suitable for reading by teens. Two of my recent favorites are Needles by Andie Dominick about her life with diabetes and Prison Baby by Deborah Jiang Stein about the emotional issues related to her adoption and how they influenced her life. My Beloved World by Sotomayor (who also has diabetes) provides a great read for teens about a full productive life with a disability on board.

To find out what’s new in teen books, beyond the best sellers, try looking for Alex, Printz, Schneider Family and other book award winners. For those of you who think you’re beyond teen reads, remember Harry Potter was penned for teens, not adults.

While snooping around for trends in teen reads, I discovered a mystery by Linda Greenlaw, Fisherman’s Bend, a fishing boat captain whose writing I love. I’m off to start reading it and hopefully to lose myself in the joy of reading. That’s the point of Teen Read Week, no matter what age one is.

This week I get to speak to the luncheon celebrating this year’s winners of the American Library Association’s Schneider Family Book Awards for children’s books with disability content. This is the thirteenth year so I’ll reflect on thirteen signs of progress towards full inclusion in media I’ve noticed this year.

The first four signs are the books themselves:

  • Fish in a Tree by L. Hunt
  • Emmanuel’s Dream by L. Thompson
  • The War that Saved My Life by K. Bradley
  • The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by T. Toten

The children and teens in these three novels and one biography all show grit. They have the passion and persistence to deal with both their disabilities and people’s disabling attitudes. Much in each of them for young readers both with and without disabilities to emulate.

This year there were 135 books submitted for the librarian judges to choose among.  When the awards started, there were a third that number. Since my goal in setting up the awards was more good realistic books about disability experiences, this makes me very happy.

Teachers, parents and librarians are key to children getting good books in their hands. I skimmed three textbooks on teaching children’s literature published since 2011 and each of them had a brief mention of disability-related books and how to pick the wheat from the chaff.

About ten years after I started these awards, the We Need Diverse books grassroots coalition got started. They do include disability in their efforts towards diversity.

There’s a wikipedia article about the Schneider Family Book awards. For those of us who consider Wikipedia a trusted source on the Internet, it’s good that it’s out there. Parents seeing a SFBA award sticker on a book might research it and be led to other winning books.

There’s an emphasis on intersectionality these days in dealing with diversity.  Somebody is not just a Disabled Person. We all have multiple identities, gender, sexual orientation, race, etc. The winning books show these multiple identities in their characters.

If there was a Bechdel test for disability-themed books, these would pass it. The Bechdel test for women in film is that there are at least two prominent female characters and they talk to each other about something other than men in the film. Books with only one disabled character would not pass.

There’s now a Disability in Kid Lit website with reviews by people with the disability the book is about. “Nothing about us without us” as the slogan in the disability rights movement says. If you’re wondering if it really matters whether a reviewer has the disability, consider the difference in reviews of the movie “Me Before You” depending on whether the reviewer had a disability or not!

The good news for kids with reading disabilities and visual impairments was that all of the books were available on Bookshare when they won the awards and three out of four were available from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. The fourth book was subsequently made available by NLS. My local public library also had three out of four available in alternate format.  If you can’t read the book, it doesn’t help much even if it’s a good one!

Out in the world, there is beginning to be better journalism about disability issues.  One day I read headlines about “Blind Birder Recognizes Three Thousand Calls” and “Dyslexia Motivated Tommy Hilfiger to Try his Skills at the Fashion Business”. Both articles highlighted accomplishments but without the sickly sweet verbiage of inspiration porn still present in much journalism.

Realistic journalism and portrayals in children’s and young adult books move us toward less stigma and more inclusion for people with disabilities. Thanks to the American Library Association for the care and attention it gives to the Schneider Family Book awards every year, and to the teachers, librarians and parents who will share these good books with children and teens.

I just finished reading A Step Toward Falling by Cammie Mcgovern. It’s a young adult novel about teens with and without disabilities trying to navigate hard situations including regrets, forgiveness, and trying again. Most of all it’s about the angst of rejection and being who you are anyway. The author gets a lot of the disability pieces right, sitting alone at the lunch table, trying to figure out if the non-disabled person is being truly friendly or patronizing, etc. There’s no quick fixes or happy ever after endings.

As I read it I remembered the loneliness of high school broken through by a few good friends. The book makes the point that that is a common experience because of rejection or feared rejection because of characteristics like being a jock, a nerd or having a disability. Teens reading it will be a bit comforted by knowing they’re not alone.

I’d like to write an epilogue reassuring the teen readers that It Does Get Better. As I set forth into a week of guest lectures, meetings, book clubs, meals with friends and a bridge game to keep me humble, I know I am useful and beloved in my world. Yes, it’s a struggle and sometimes I don’t feel the love, but it’s there. I noticed that one of the 2016 American Library Association Schneider Family Book award winners, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten is dedicated to people who feel different knowing they are not alone.

The ending of this poem, “The Laughing Heart” says it better than I can:

your life is your life.

know it while you have it.

you are marvelous

the gods wait to delight

in you.

—Charles Bukowski

Once again at the midwinter meeting of the American Library Association, along with other children’s book awards, the Schneider Family Book Awards were announced for books with disability content. A jury of children’s librarians chose from among many fine books the following:

Young Children’s: A Boy and A Jaguar by Allan Robinowitz
The renowned cat conservationist reflects on his early childhood struggles with a speech disorder, describing how he only spoke fluently when he was communicating with animals and how he resolved at a young age to find his voice to be their advocate.

Middle school: Rain Reign written by Ann M. Martin
Struggling with Asperger’s, Rose shares a bond with her beloved dog, but when the dog goes missing during a storm, Rose is forced to confront the limits of her comfort levels, even if it means leaving her routines in order to search for her pet.

Teen: Girls Like Us written by Gail Giles
Graduating from their school’s special education program, Quincy and Biddy are placed together in their first independent apartment and discover unexpected things they have in common in the face of past challenges and a harrowing trauma.

Certain kinds of books are unfortunately not eligible for this award. A young adult novel by a friend of mine, Cecelia Zorn Angels Don’t Get Tattoos about a young woman dying of cancer and her friends and family couldn’t win but I’d add it to your short list. It’s far more believable than Fault in Our Stars in my view. In any case, some good books to add to your reading list if you are interested in children’s literature.

National Public Radio talked about some of the children’s book awards including the Coretta Scott King award, but not the Schneider. The We Need Diverse Books initiative makes a good point, but even they don’t talk much about books with disability content. Disability as diversity is just starting to get noticed.

We’ve come a long way from when I was a child and biographies of Louis Braille and Helen Keller were about all that was out there. I’m proud that the book awards I started are helping bring notice to the life experiences of the 19% of us with disabilities.

Here’s to good reading!

schneider book club_blogtour
Sometimes one has a chance to do something big and good. Such a chance came my way in 2002 when my father died. As he was nearing the end of his life, he said “you’ll probably give your inheritance to some good cause, won’t you?” Since I had a job and no dependents other than a guide dog I said I would and started thinking what good cause would honor my parents. I came up with children’s book awards for good books about the disability experience. Toward the end of June we celebrated ten years of these awards being given by the American Library Association.

When I was young there weren’t many books about people living with disabilities other than The Little Lame Prince and biographies of Helen Keller and Louis Braille. So I started the Schneider Family Book Awards through the American Library Association. I drafted criteria (modeled on the Coretta Scott King awards but for disability content). I turned over the criteria and a big check to the ALA and awaited results.

A committee of librarians (all volunteers) puts hours into reading and discussing each year’s entries. They give three awards per year to authors or illustrators of children’s books about the disability experience. When children go into the youth area of their libraries now, librarians can recommend books to fit their situations, whether they are a child with a learning disability who can read My Thirteenth Winter or a blind child with a sighted parent who can read Looking out for Sarah printed both in print and Braille, they’ll know that they’re not alone.

Each year there have been more books for the judges to pick among. My hope that a well done award would attract writers is working! The publishers of the award winners also receive positive notice which makes them more likely to publish disability content.

Several years ago when I was looking for a publisher for my book for young children about living with disabilities, Your Treasure Hunt: Disabilities and Finding Your Gold I received several turn downs from publishers who liked it a lot (or at least said they did) but were unsure of the market. So I ended up self-publishing and hustling to publicize it. If publishers know there is a market because there’s a prestigious award, they’ll publish more in this area of diversity.

I usually don’t interact with the committee except at the yearly celebratory lunch. One year a graphic novel was chosen, which felt like a gut punch to me because just like when I was a kid, a large part of that book was not accessible to me. I shared my feelings with them and worked to try to figure out how to make it accessible for blind kids. The National Library Service had one of their great narrators try to describe the graphic sections. They did it in such a way that blind kids could pass a test on it, but I’m sure this is a situation where a picture was worth more than a thousand words.

The committee has missed a few worthy candidates for the award like Good Kings Bad Kings by Nussbaum and Accidents of Nature by Harriet Mcbride Johnson. Since my background is not in English those books may not have had the literary merit they look for, but this reader could tell that the authors (who both had disabilities) got the disability parts right. Too many good books for all to get awards is a good problem. In the next ten years, I hope for many more great books, increased quick access in alternate formats like Bookshare, and more authors with disabilities rising up to win these awards.

When I started this project, I had no idea how to do it. I just had fire in my belly for kids to have interesting and realistic books about disability life experiences to read. Moral of the story is: go for it and the details will work out somehow. The pebble tossed into the pond has widening ripples. This blog is part of a blog tour about ten years of the Schneider Family Book Awards. Read some more blogs and good luck winning free books!

Giveaway information –

One person will win a set of all 3 Schneider Family Book Award Winners from 2014. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address.

(Just an FYI: There is one winner total, but readers can enter from any blog participating in the tour.)

Here is the link for the giveaway. WordPress will not accept the widget code but the link should take them to where they can fill out the form to official enter into the giveaway. Your techie assistant can look at Nerdy Book Club to see how they included it.

Link for giveaway: