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Author and Role Model

Categories: Blind or Visually Impaired

  Katherine Schneider, a clinical psychologist, accomplished author, and member of RFB&D for over five decades, has founded a unique series of awards to express her love of books and promote children’s literature exploring the disability experience in children's lives. As RFB&D staff, we’re always delighted to learn more about the fascinating lives and accomplishments of our members. Often enough, these learnings come about in the course of our daily work. This past spring, one of our librarians was processing a newly selected title, “Waiting for Normal” by Leslie Connor, as part of our program to inspire recreational reading in our younger members. We routinely select books on the topic of disability for the library. A Braille inscription on the logo for “The Schneider Family Book Award” caught her eye and the story of the author behind the award soon emerged.  The author turned out to be Katherine Schneider, the author of two books in RFB&D’s library, founder of the Schneider Family Book Award program -- and a member of RFB&D for over 50 years! Growing up as a blind child in the 1950s, Katherine’s hero was the librarian at the Michigan Library for the Blind, who first sent her books in Braille and on records. These accessible books and her mother reading to her inspired her lifelong thirst for knowledge. At that time, images of people with disabilities as inspiration for a young child to emulate were very rare. Katherine went on to receive a PhD from Purdue University and launch a satisfying 30-year career as a clinical psychologist. In an interview posted on the American Foundation for the Blind website, she says, "The best things about this career have been the opportunities to help people and to work in university surroundings with people who are excited about learning. Being a clinical psychologist requires listening skills that I honed in part thanks to my blindness. Clients often comment that they think I can empathize with their struggles because I've struggled to get where I am. The negatives of this career are that it is overcrowded and takes at least eight years of education beyond high school." Later in life, she felt called to share her love of books and promote children’s literature exploring the disability experience in young people's lives. The fulfillment of this goal was the development of the Schneider Family Book Awards program, endowed by the Schneider family in 2003.  Every year, three children’s books on the disability experience are awarded this honor by the American Library Association. RFB&D’s library includes all 21 titles that have received the award and they are currently highlighted on the Audiobook catalog page on our website.  We are proud to honor the accomplishments of this long-time RFB&D member and applaud the inspirational forays into reading that the Schneider Family Award books offer to our younger members.

- Pam Johnson, RFB&D Director of Library Services