The American Library Association (ALA) bestows many awards upon books for children, the most notable being the Newbery Medal and the Caldecott Medal. Did you know that there are many other awards given by ALA? My personal favorite is the Schneider Family Book Award. To quote the ALA website, “The Schneider Family Book Awards honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” Each year, a children’s book, a middle school book, and a teen book is chosen for this award. Books prominently featuring characters with a disability can be hard to find. Children need these books, though. For some children who have a disability, it may be a rare chance to read about a kid whose life is similar to their own. For children who have a family member or friend with a disability, it is a chance to read about a world that reflects their own. And, for children who are lucky enough to not be affected by disability, it is a chance to understand and learn.
In January of each year, the award is announced. This year’s winner for the picture book category is “Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah.” It is the true story of a young man from Ghana born with a malformed right leg in a community where those with disabilities are expected to become beggars and are considered a curse. Emmanuel’s mom refuses to raise her son that way. She makes sure he learns to walk and receives an education. He, in turn, sets out to teach his city and the next city over and the next city over and the next city over that individuals with disabilities can be capable of much more than begging. He does this by planning a major bike ride where everyone in every village can see him accomplish something amazing, since he has to learn to pedal with just one leg.
At the end of the book, there is an author’s note with information about Emmanuel’s foundation. After going to website, I learned that Emmanuel is now an amputee, using a prosthesis. As a mother of a child with a prosthetic leg, I couldn’t wait to show this book to my daughter and show her pictures of the man with a leg just like her own. This is the kind of experience that these books allow to happen, and I am grateful for the Schneider Family Book Award for highlighting these books that may otherwise not find a big audience.
To learn more about the Schneider Family Book Award and to look at lists of past winners go to ALA’s website here:http://www.ala.org/awardsgrants/awards/1/apply