As Childcare Professionals we are aware of the need to be inclusive within our settings. In 2005 I owned 3 Day Nurseries and 2 Kids’ Clubs in Lincoln. An Ofsted Inspection made me think more about the resources we were using in my Day Nurseries, particularly those featuring disability.
After more research and finding it difficult to find suitable story books to use in my Nurseries, ‘Hattie and friends’ was born! My inclusive story books are now used by hundreds of Nurseries, Childminders and Primary Schools to promote a positive image of disability.
How many of your story books feature disability? How is the disability shown? Is the character with a disability portrayed as a super-hero?
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 differences and accepting everyone, therefore the character’s disability should be entirely incidental, in my opinion.
Some story books about disability describe the condition to help people to understand. I think there is a place for these books but this isn’t the purpose of ‘Hattie and friends’.
All the characters in my stories are young children who enjoy a day out with their family and friends. They have their own personalities, and they appear as happy, friendly, everyday children. I hope that all children can identify with my cheeky little characters and enjoy the familiar theme and content of my stories.
I don’t want my characters to have magic powers or appear different or ‘special’.
When I created my characters I have also considered gender, ethnicity, skin / hair colour, their parents, background, financial background etc. to be as inclusive and relevant to as many children as possible.
I have also ensured that there are plenty of learning opportunities in the content of my stories. They include: shape, colour, weather, texture, sound, travel, animals, time etc., making them ideal for all EYFS settings.
The important message is that all children can be friends and have fun, abilities are not important. All young children easily accept differences, their curiosity will raise questions, and they then develop attitudes from the answers they receive. We must show, through our attitudes and actions, that we value all children equally.
If young children see positive images of disability and receive a consistent message of tolerance and acceptance I believe this would lead to many benefits to society. Unfortunately people with disabilities have daily struggles with disrespectful attitudes towards them and their disability. I believe these attitudes have been developed over many years and one way we can improve this is to address how we present disability to our children.
I often visit Primary School classes to talk about my books and I’m always pleased when the children don’t even notice the disability aspect in my books. I intentionally leave this issue for the end of my presentation then ask the children if they can see anything different about my characters. They often can’t see any difference which is exactly the point!
My first title ‘A Day at the Zoo’ was published in 2006, there a now 4 titles in the series and Posters are also available.
Over the last decade I have noticed more story books featuring disability but they are still difficult to find and certainly not the norm. It’s hard to believe that authors and illustrators are still not including disabled characters in their stories in 2018.
I always welcome feedback about Hattie and friends, you can contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information about my books please visit: www.hattieandfriends.co.uk