Thursday, January 28, 2016

The letter of your life -- Diane Mettam

Hello, dear friends.  I’m sorry it’s been so long since I have written.  It’s been a challenging few weeks.  I’ve been fighting more infections, I took a fall off my deck bringing in the bird and squirrel feeders, and family members have been going through some difficult times.  I am weary.

I find as I grow older that the physical resources that allowed me to bounce back from falls and illnesses and emotional crises when I was younger just aren’t there.  Faith and trust in God aren’t enough to bring me bouncing back.  They’re enough to keep me going, but this aging, wounded body needs more time and rest than I’m willing to admit. 

There were lucky breaks, so to speak.  When I fell, I didn’t break anything but my pride.  I fell face first onto river rock, but luckily I was wearing my glasses, and the lenses took the brunt of any facial damage.  And since they were my old prescription, and I was getting my new permanent glasses the following week, there wasn’t much damage done.  I did get some nasty bruises, and my right shoulder is still painful, but all-in-all I am fine.  And a friend from church will be installing a safety railing.

Some of you know I volunteer as an Early Literacy Tutor in a local elementary school.  I’m always looking for good books that are easy to read, beautifully illustrated, and keep my children excited about literature.  I was thrilled to learn about the Schneider Family Book Award, which was established in 2004.  It honors books written about a character with a disability in three different age groups, younger children (ages 0 to 8), middle grades (ages 9 to 13), and teens (ages 14 to 18).

According to the American Library Association, “The definition of disability is very broad. The disability may be physical, mental, or emotional and the person with the disability may be a child or adult, who does not have to be the main character. The character must, however, play a significant role in the story.”  And books are very well-written.  “It is not uncommon for there to be some overlap with other literature awards each year, which emphasizes the Jury's search for well-written, quality literature for young people, just with a slightly different lens. . . If no title is deemed worthy within a category, the Jury can choose not to give an award in that category, as they did in the young child category in 2012. There is, in fact, a scarcity of quality books received for consideration in the birth to 8 category.”

The founder of the award, Dr. Katherine Schneider, is senior psychologist emerita from University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Counseling Services, who happens to be visually impaired.  “Dr. Schneider often mentions the dearth of books having a character with a disability when she was a child - let alone well-written ones. The Award allows young people with a disability or living with someone with disability to read good literature about characters like themselves.  However, “(j)ust as stories featuring soccer players aren't meant just for soccer players to read, neither are books having a character with a disability. We know reading about something helps the reader understand the people and the situations. Certainly that is part of the intent of the award.”

I have read several of the books and am so excited to share them with my students, and with you.  A list of all the winners can be found at:

I hope you will join me in getting these books into our local church, school and public libraries, and into the hands of young readers. 

“You yourselves are our letter, written on our[a] hearts, to be known and read by all;” 2 Corinthians 3:2

We thank you, Lord, that new minds are opening the doors of possibility for our young people through the wonder of books.  Help us to disseminate these resources in our communities, and be encouragers of all our children, so that they will have open hearts, open minds, and open doors.  Amen.

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