Blog

School Visits

I visited Poplar Farm Primary School recently to be interviewed by SEND Workforce Development. They wanted to ask about my books and what inclusion means to me. The interview went really well!

This school was opened in 2018 but it still looks brand new. I was lucky to have a little tour and see what a fabulous school it is.

I also had the opportunity to talk to the Headteacher about my books and my Author Visits.

Great news … They’ve just booked an Author Visit for June -Yay!

I’m looking forward to meeting them all soon.

If you’re interested in a visit just get in touch: lesley@hattieandfriends.co.uk

I regularly visit local schools, within an hours drive of Lincoln.

Newark Book Festival Event

I’m so excited to announce that I’ll be holding a Storytime Event in this beautiful space, at 4pm on the 7th July. This is part of the Newark Book Festival Fringe Programme. All young children, and their grown-ups, are welcome to come along to this FREE Event.

Grain @No.1 is kindly hosting, in their fabulous Antiques Shop, in the heart of Newark.

I’ll be reading my ‘Hattie and friends’ stories, all about days out, in the ‘White Space’.

Children will also be able to play a matching game with ‘Hattie and friends’ painted stones & get ‘hands on’ with my books and jigsaws.

Signed books will be available to buy.

I will also have a stall all day Saturday and Sunday, in the Literary Village.

I hope to see you there!

 

World Book Day 2022

I enjoyed a fabulous day, last Thursday, celebrating World Book Day with 2 local nurseries.

The children and staff were dressed as their favourite book characters and they were very excited to meet an Author! I told them about my books, we played a matching game with my painted stones then the children had the opportunity to get ‘hands on’ with my books and jigsaws.

Some children ordered signed books to take home, I hope they enjoyed them.

It was all great fun!

 

The Teachers’ Podcast

 

I really enjoyed this interview with Claire Riley, CEO of Classroom Secrets. She also has a daughter called Hattie!

We went off on a bit of a tangent about gender equality, something we’re both passionate about, being parents of girls.

How many times do you hear someone saying how pretty your daughter is? Is there anything wrong with that? It’s not just boys’ colours and girls’ colours that are engrained in our society.

Lots of food for thought!

Inclusivity in Story Books: Lesley Berrington, author of Hattie and Friends – YouTube

Back to School 2021

I’m writing this in the middle of August, when teachers, other school staff and children are enjoying their summer break.

After the Lockdowns and endless restrictions, they can finally meet with friends and relax for a few weeks. They certainly won’t want to be thinking about September yet, but I can’t wait!!

After 18 months of being confined to Hattie HQ I’ll be visiting primary schools again, and I’ve already got 7 visits booked in September / October… Woo-Hoo! I can’t wait to see all those little faces again and inspire their creativity.

2020/21 feels like a lost year in a lot of ways but it’s also brought new opportunities for me. I’ve spent a lot of time promoting my books on social media and I’ve connected with some wonderful people. I’ve been invited to take part in interviews, record podcasts, and write blogs for a variety of groups and organisations.

I’ve always thought that ‘Hattie and friends’ would make a great TV Programme, so I’ve also been researching Animation ideas. I submitted my first Arts Council England Funding Application to support this new and exciting work. I’ve recently found out that, unfortunately my application has been unsuccessful, this time. There are so many wonderful applications, only 1 in 4 was successful in this Round. Well, I’m not one to give up so I’m working on my next application which will be submitted in September! We definitely need to see more disability inclusion on Children’s TV.

Without a break from ‘normal’ life these projects would never have happened.

I’ve found a lovely community of helpful and supportive Educators, particularly on Twitter. (I’m still trying to figure out Instagram!) Some have become friends, which has been very welcome because my dog’s a lovely companion, but he doesn’t have much conversation!

If you’re on Twitter come and say ‘Hello’, I’m @Hattiesfriends.

The first week in September is always an exciting time if you have any connection with Education.  It’s a new beginning, as children move up to their new class, bringing excitement, anticipation, and some apprehension with them. Teachers, rested from a well-deserved break, are full of enthusiasm for the year ahead. What will this new year bring?

We’ve all learnt new skills, dealt with changes in how we work, last minute cancellations, disappointment, and isolation. We’ve picked each other up when it’s been too difficult. All these experiences have made us stronger and more resilient, able to face the next challenges together.

I’m full of hope for the year ahead and grateful for the positives from the last one.

 

 

It’s Book Festival Season!

I’ve recently taken part in The Sue Atkins Book Club Book Festival where I was interviewed by Ian Gilbert from Independent Thinking Ltd. You can see the full video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDsg7mOMZek&t=653s

This was a fabulous online event and all the videos are still available to watch on Sue Atkins You Tube Channel. Mine has had over 1.5K views!!

 

This week I’m preparing for Newark Book Festival, where I have a stall in the Market place, over the 10th and 11th July. It’s always fun meeting lots of new people and chatting about books!

If you’re local, come and say ‘Hello’.

Inclusion For All Blog written for Diverse Educators

We All Need Inclusion

When I started searching for more diverse resources for my nurseries, it was quite easy to find books featuring children from a variety of ethnic backgrounds but disability was just invisible!

I found very few story books featuring disability. The ones I did find made the disability ‘special’, I didn’t want that, I wanted to introduce disability without drawing attention to it.

It was also important to me that the disability was not mentioned in the text, it was purely incidental so that the character was not defined by their disability.

After further research I decided that I could meet this growing demand and Hattie was born!

 

I created ‘Hattie and friends’ around 15 years ago and, sadly, over that time I’ve seen very little change in the way we present disability in our society.

Teachers and Childcare Professionals understand the need and importance for positive images of disability, so my books have been very well received and widely used by them.

Unfortunately, I think we still have a long way to go to educate our wider society that books like mine are for ALL children. When I talk to people about my books they often assume that they are for disabled children until I explain the benefits for all children.

Yes, disabled children need to see characters like themselves in story books, to give them a sense of belonging, make them feel valued and build their confidence and self -esteem.

 

 

My message is that ALL children need to see disabled characters in story books and on television because disability is part of everyday life so it should be included in our media.

There are more disabled characters in books and on television than there were 15 years ago but still not enough. I believe every child should own books which include some disabled characters, this will be a small but important step towards improving attitudes to disabled people who face daily struggles from abuse.

Some parents may not have considered being more inclusive when they buy toys, books etc. so we need to raise awareness by having more choice in mainstream shops. How often have you seen disabled characters when buying dolls, puppets, games, jigsaws?

 

We need to raise awareness and ask – How inclusive is your bookshelf?

If children see more disability and they receive a consistent message of respect and acceptance for the differences we have, they’ll see past the disability and understand that we are all unique individuals.

Over 8,000 ‘Hattie and friends’ books are now being used to promote positive images of disability all over the UK. This is fantastic but I’d like to see more being bought by parents.

 

 

It can be difficult to answer children’s questions about disability so parents may avoid inclusive resources for that reason. We need to educate parents and help them to overcome any insecurities they may have. I’ve written some notes in the back of my book to help, support, and encourage parents to openly discuss any questions raised.

 

‘’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.’’

 

The Channel 4 programme, ‘The Last Leg’ is a great example of presenting disability in a humorous way that is accessible to all adults. Initially this programme aired during the 2012 Paralympics and was so popular it became a regular show to discuss the news of the week. Their ‘Is it OK?’ segment encourages the public to ask questions without fear of judgement. This is a great way to educate!

 

During the Paralympic Games we all support Team GB with respect for every athlete’s dedication and determination. It’s a time when sport really unifies the nation and we’re all on the same side. Disability is exciting and cool!

Every time I feel excited that this is the push that’s needed to make inclusion go mainstream. Unfortunately, a few weeks later the spotlight is turned off again.

Progress is disappointingly slow!

 

So, what will the future bring?

I truly hope there will be a massive increase in inclusive resources in people’s homes, more disabled people visible in television programmes and films. Not just as a ‘box ticking exercise’ but really breaking down barriers and changing attitudes towards disability in our society.

 

I’d love to hear your comments.

 

Lesley Berrington

www.hattieandfriends.co.uk

 

E-mail: lesley@hattieandfriends.co.uk

Twitter: @Hattiesfriends

Facebook and Instagram: @Hattieandfriendsauthor