ALA Annual 2012

Spotlight on the Schneider Award

I bet we librarians can name dozens of Caldecott, Newbery, and even Printz award winners at the drop of the hat.  Because of their longstanding history and prestige, these awards are quite visible in our librarian community.  There are other awards, like the Schneider Family Book Award, that may not have an extensive history as the Caldecott or Newbery.  However, that doesn’t mean that their significance to the world of children’s literature should be overlooked.

The Schneider Family Book Award is a newer addition to ALA’s Media Youth Awards. This award honors an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.  Each year, three awards are presented for the best Teen, Middle School and Children’s Book.  This year at the 2012 ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim, three books were awarded with this high honor: Close to Famous by Joan Bauer, Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick, and Running the Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen.

This award is particularly special to me.  As someone who works with children with special needs, I try to make sure that these patrons are welcomed and included in all library services.  But I think it’s equally important to see characters with disabilities reflected in the books we have on our library shelves.  The Schneider Family Book Award jury works extremely hard to select books that depict characters with special needs in a positive light.  So, when I’m recommending a book to a family with a child with special needs, I am confident that a Schneider Family Book Award winner will be of the highest caliber and will ring true to their unique experience.

It’s so encouraging to see authors take the time to highlight the disability experience in their writing, and for ALA to award the authors that excel at this.  Children often want to read books about characters like them and experiences like their own.  But for children with a disability, finding a book like this may not always be an easy task.  That’s just one of the reasons why this award is significant to the work that we do in libraries.  Not only do these books help bring awareness to the disability experience for everyone that reads them, they also allows children with special needs to connect and see themselves in the stories.

 2012 Schneider Family Book Award Winners
Close to Famous by Joan Bauer

Twelve-year-old Foster dreams of growing up to become a famous celebrity chef despite her reading disability. Can the quirky townsfolk of tiny Culpepper help Foster succeed?


Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Rose and Ben are children who are deaf living 50 years and worlds apart, yet both marvel and connect with the world around them. The American Museum of Natural History links their separate stories — one narrated in text, the other through cinematic illustrations.

The Running Dream by Wendelin Van Draanen

When sixteen-year-old track star Jessica loses her leg in an accident, she is devastated believing she will never run again. Rehabilitation forces Jessica to confront disabilities and rethink her physical limitations.



  1. Marilyn Irwin

    Thank you for the nice write up on the Schneider Family Book Awards. As chair of the 2013 jury, I obviously feel that this is an important award also. Please check out for additional information about the award if you aren’t familiar with it. If you run across books that the 2013 jury should consider, please feel free to submit titles, authors, publishers, and ISBN numbers.

  2. Renee Grassi

    Thanks, Marilyn, for the information!

  3. Heidi Knuth

    Love this, Renee! I always make sure the Schneider is included on “lists of lists” etc, and have made it a priority as one of our boards on our new Pinterest profile 🙂

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