It is about inclusivity.
I was pleasantly surprised to see on the School Library Journal homepage, Newbery Books Lack Characters With Disabilities by Debra Lau Whelan. “Although there have been more kids with disabilities portrayed in Newbery Medal-winning titles in recent years, there still remains a huge discrepancy between the number of characters in Newbery Award-winning books and how many children in the general population attend special education classes, says a new report.” (via SLJ article and Debra Lau Whelan)
1) Where are the authors with disabilities and why are their voices not being heard?
2) Where are the children’s books about parents and/or children who are living normal lives but perhaps may have a disease of some sort? For example, “MY MOMMY HAS BREAST CANCER” is a book that needs to be written, given the number of women (and men) diagnosed each year. If it has been written, my apologies. And yes, there are plenty of other diseases out there and I do not mean to minimize them, but how incredibly helpful it would be for a children’s book to take on ‘niche content’, that is real!
Sharon M. Draper has a wonderful novel, Out of my Mind [Simon and Schuster 2010] for ages 10 and up. The main character, Melody, has cerebral palsy - but ‘it’, the disease, does not have her. I fell in love with Melody because despite her disability, she fights to get the words in her head, heard. She’s also hilarious! It’s a MUST READ and should be in every home and on every library shelf because it unveils the realities of what it’s like to be labeled as ’different’, and yet still live in the same world as everyone else. It begs the question, ARE WE REALLY DIFFERENT?
Another yummy book I’ve read recently and adored, Tony and Lauren Dungy’s You Can Be A Friend [Little Simon Inspirations, January 2011].
“In this story, Jade has been planning to have her birthday party at a water park, but her new friend, Hannah, is in a wheelchair. Now Jade has a decision to make: is it more important to keep her party where she planned, or to make sure all her friends have fun? Tony and Lauren Dungy present this subtly beautiful story, which will help any parent explain that having limitations can never limit the boundaries of friendship.” (Comes via BCNN1.com – Author Spotlight)
If we keep everyday people at the forefront of what’s important, we can’t lose.
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