During an Ofsted Inspection, at one of my Nurseries, the inspector suggested that our resources should reflect diversity more.
Around the same time I attended a course about the new Disability Discrimination Act. During the training course we talked about toys and books reflecting realistic and positive images of disability. It was obvious, from the trainer and other Nursery Managers, that there was a lack of these resources available at the time.
It was time to go shopping to update our resources!
I found it quite easy to find multi-cultural books and toys featuring different ethnicities but couldn’t find many books featuring disability.
The books that I did find used the story to explain the disability, which was not want I wanted. I wanted the character with a disability to be part of the story, to introduce the disability to other children, but not draw attention to it.
After some further research I decided to create my own books to meet the growing demand for inclusive resources. I didn’t want them to be available just to tick a box on the curriculum / guidance for diversity, I wanted them to really help to break down barriers, be educational and fun!
I decided on the familiar theme of ‘days out’ because my daughter, Harriet, who was 4 at the time loved going for days out. I planned to include lots of relevant educational content; colours, shapes, weather, transport, time, animals, family and friendship. I took a lot of time creating each character to make sure they were as inclusive as possible. Considering all aspects of their physical appearance; hair colour, skin colour, individual needs and their family. I wanted all children to think the book was for them.
‘Hattie and friends’ was born in 2005 with the 1st title, ‘A Day at the Zoo’, on sale from January 2006. 3 more titles followed in the next 3 years.
As an independent publisher it’s difficult to reach people but with limited advertising, mainly on social media, over 8,00 books have been sold to; Nurseries, Childminders, Primary Schools, Libraries and others.
It feels great to know ‘Hattie and friends’ is helping these settings to be inclusive. I also love to visit primary schools, when I can, to talk to Years 1 and 2 about being an author.
How Inclusive is your Bookshelf?
Disability is part of everyday life and I believe children, from a young age, should see characters with disabilities in their story books.
Inclusion means accepting everyone and the differences we have, therefore the character’s disability should be entirely incidental, in my opinion. I didn’t want my characters to be ‘special’, have magic powers or appear different.
If young children see positive images of disability and receive a consistent message of tolerance and acceptance I believe this would have many benefits to society. Unfortunately people with disabilities face daily struggles with disrespectful attitudes towards them. We can improve these attitudes, which have been developed over many years, by addressing how we present disability to our children.
I regularly visit primary schools to talk about my books and I don’t mention the disability aspect, intentionally, until the end. When I ask the children if they can see anything different about my characters they often can’t see any differences which is exactly the point!
The important message is that all children can be friends and have fun, abilities are not important. All young children accept differences, their curiosity will raise questions and they develop attitudes from the answers they receive.
We must show, through our attitudes and actions, that we value all children equally.
I always love to hear feedback about my stories so please let me know what you think:
More information: www.hattieandfriends.co.uk
Find me on Twitter: @Hattiesfriends