Confession time! Despite having been a Special Education Teacher and Administrator, I did not learn of the Schneider Family Book Award until 2009. Yes, I was a bit late to the party. It was in 2009 that I had joined twitter and met some amazing teachers and librarians who began to expand my awareness of the different awards that made up the American Library Association's (ALA) Youth Media Awards. From various conversations, I discovered a book called Anything But Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin. I read it aloud to a class of 5th graders in preparation for our National Inclusive Schools Week celebrations. The class was comprised of mostly typically developing 5th graders but we also had several students who were fully included in the classroom that were identified as being on the Autism Spectrum. Additionally, a few of the students in the classroom had siblings with Autism. After reading the book, I was curious what these students would think.
The book took us several weeks to read. However, I loved watching as the students began to make connections between Jason (the main character) and some of their classmates. Other students would pipe in with how their sister or brother were similar to Jason. The comments and discussions were never mean or negative. For many of them, having a classmate or sibling with special needs was just a regular part of life. They nodded with understanding or made comments of how they might have helped Jason in a different way. I was pleased with their responses and also thankful for the opportunity to have a school where children with special needs were included and were apart of the school community.
Several weeks later, I was thrilled to come back to the class and announce to them that Anything But Typical had won the Schneider Family Book Award and showed them what the medal looked like. They were excited that a book that they had read had won an award.
In 2010, I picked Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper as my read aloud prior to National Inclusive Schools Week. Melody's story resonated with me. I had taught in a classroom with young children with severe special needs for several years and the story brought back a flood of memories for me. I wanted the 4th graders I was reading with to understand Melody and through her story begin to imagine how difficult it was if you could not speak for yourself or even do simple tasks. We went slowly through chapters to try and better understand Melody's world and how she would feel.
When I attended ALA's Youth Media awards in 2011, I was of course cheering for Out of My Mind. Since the Schneider Family Book Award is announced right after the Alex Awards, I did not have to wait long for the announcement. I was super thrilled to hear that The Pirate of Kindergarten by George Ella Lyon had won for Best Book for the Young Child. And when they announced the Best Book for Young Adult as Five Flavors of Dumb by Anthony John, I was ecstatic. However, in the middle, the Best Book winner for Middle Grade was not my beloved Out of My Mind, but instead Jordan Sonnenblick's After Ever After. I was a bit disappointed but I believed that the committee had worked hard and had made a decision that met the criteria of the award.
A little over a year later, in 2012, I was asked to be on the 2013 Schneider Family Book Award Jury. This was a huge honor for me. It was during this time that I saw first hand how hard the committee works and how many books they read and how seriously they take the discussions to select the winners for each category. Though I do not know any of the reasons why the 2011 jury selected After Ever After over Out of My Mind, my understanding and appreciation for the process had grown. In 2013, I then served as chair of the 2014 Schneider Family Book Award Jury. This time, I had an opportunity to lead a committee through the process. It was truly a rewarding experience and one that I will cherish for a very long time.
At the end of June, the Schneider Family Book Award jury, and winners, along with publishers and ALA staff members celebrated the 10th Anniversary of this very important award. In an effort to raise more awareness for both the award and the books honored through the award selection, we are hosting a two week blog tour. Join us in celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award. This award honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences. By celebrating together we can raise awareness for the need for more quality books about the disability experience to be written and published. As we think about the need for diversity in books, let us remember that children and adults with special needs should also see themselves portrayed positively among the pages of the books that we read.
Check out all of the links of the Schneider Family Book Award 10th Anniversary Blog Tour & Giveaway:
July 6, 2014 Nerdy Book Club
July 6, 2014 Kid Lit Frenzy (that's me)
July 7, 2014 Nonfiction Detectives
July 9, 2014 Teach Mentor Texts
July 10, 2014 There’s a Book For That
July 11, 2014 Kathie Comments
July 12, 2014 Disability in Kidlit
July 14, 2014 Librarian in Cute Shoes
July 15, 2014 The Late Bloomer’s Book Blog
July 16, 2014 Read, Write, and Reflect
July 17, 2014 Read Now Sleep Later
July 18, 2014 Unleashing Readers
July 19, 2014 Great Kid Books
July 20, 2014 Maria’s Mélange
To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the Schneider Family Book Award, we are providing readers with an opportunity to win a set of all three 2014 Schneider Family Book Award Winners. Participants must be 13 years or older and have a US or Canadian mailing address.