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Richard and Michele Steckel - Illustrator Human and Civil Rights Award

Documenting 'Milestones' Garners Husband and Wife Literary Team NEA Award


WASHINGTON - July 02, 2008 -

Stories and prose based on familiar occurrences from childhood, such as losing a tooth, having a pet or making a friend, have made for some of literature's most popular and beloved titles. These happenings, along with others, are the basis of a collection of images and writings from Richard and Michele Steckel.

For delivering the message that the commonalities of childhood can be a starting point for understanding and tolerance, the Littleton, Colo., husband and wife team will receive the National Education Association Author-Illustrator Human and Civil Rights Award.

The honor is presented by NEA to those whose graphic and literary creations help students understand the significance of human and civil rights in everyday life. The Steckels will receive the award July 2 at NEA's 42nd annual Human and Civil Rights Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Aptly titled, "The Milestones Project," the book is an enjoyable literary journey for the young and young at heart. In its beauty, "The Milestones Project" uses photos and the thoughtful musings of children to connect them and their families with counterparts around the world. And while it also highlights unique aspects of world cultures, it artfully deemphasizes characteristics and differences that have in the past been the source of conflict.

Since 1998, when they came up with the concept of a photographic project that would use childhood milestones as a tool in global understanding, the Steckels' work has taken them around the world. They have taken photos, exhibited their work, received awards, established a Milestones Peace Prize for Children, and published workbooks in English and Spanish for Head Start.

The Steckels' mission of humanity has earned the pair wide recognition. In 2003, they were awarded the Global Tolerance Award from the Friends of the United Nations and in 2005, the Ambassador of Peace Award from the Conflict Center in Denver. That same year, "The Milestones Project" received the Notable Book Award from the Children's Book Council and the National Council for the Social Studies.

"The world is changing, and the way we educate has to change too," said NEA President Reg Weaver, who also serves as vice president of Education International. "The fact is our children must know how to operate, cooperate and excel in a diverse and global 21st century world. By highlighting the ties that bind, and should unite us, Richard and Michele Steckel are educators in every sense of the word-and defenders of human and civil rights."

The National Education Association Author-Illustrator Human and Civil Rights Award is based on the belief that literature and art can be used to teach that human and civil rights are real and personal, as well as academic and historical. This award is presented to those whose works promote an understanding and appreciation of human rights and civil rights.

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

Contact: Stacey Grissom  (202) 822-7823