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BLOG: How inclusive is your bookshelf?

When I was a nursery owner I was asked about diversity in our resources during an Ofsted Inspection. When I looked for story books featuring disability I was disappointed to find there were very few available. The ones I did find were old fashioned and often discussed the disability or made it a ‘super power’. This wasn’t what I was looking for, I wanted the books to show positive images of disability as part of everyday life.

Disability is part of life and should be reflected in children’s story books.

If we provide books reflecting the differences we have we’re teaching acceptance, respect and understanding for those differences. Children easily accept differences; their curiosity may raise questions and they develop attitudes from the answers they receive.

Of course, this isn’t just about disability. It’s important to consider all nine protected characteristics, under the Equality Act 2010. This makes it unlawful to treat someone differently (discriminate against them) because of; age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage & civil partnership, pregnancy & maternity, race, religion or belief and sex.

We must show, through our attitudes and actions, that we value everyone equally.

Why I created, ’Hattie and friends’

The comments at our Ofsted Inspection had made me aware of the need for diversity in the books we used.

Around that time, I was attending a training course about the new Disability Discrimination Act. We talked about toys and books reflecting realistic and positive images of disability. It was obvious, from the Trainer and the other Nursery Managers, that there was a lack of these resources and a big demand. I started to think about creating story books myself.

I was also taking part in a Business Development Programme during that year. Business owners from a variety of businesses were taking part & they loved my idea, when I discussed it with them. Paul, the Managing Director of a local Print & Design Company told me he could help to turn my ideas into reality. I decided on the familiar theme of ‘Days Out’ & began writing my 1st book! 

The main character was inspired by my daughter, Harriet, who was 5 years old at the time. She’d had her hair cut into a short brown bob, ready for ‘big school’ and she loved pink & purple.

Paul introduced me to Karen, a local illustrator. I was delighted when she was able to bring my character ideas to life so beautifully. They looked exactly how I saw them in my mind.

I was really starting to think, ‘this is meant to be’, so I worked with Karen and Paul and Hattie was born!

I took a lot of time creating each character to make sure that 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.

I didn’t want them to be available just to tick a box, I wanted them to really help to break down barriers, be educational and fun!

I’m NNEB qualified and have worked with young children for many years so I was aware of what they enjoyed in stories and which learning opportunities should be included. Days out with my daughter gave me lots of ideas for the stories and I even included funny phrases that she said. When I visit schools it’s lovely to see the children enjoying the stories so much. I think this is because of the familiar content and cute characters.

The first title, ‘A Day at the Zoo’, was available around 6 months later. I wrote, and published, 3 more titles over the following 3 years; ‘A Day at the Farm’, ‘A Day at the Seaside’ and ‘A Day at the Park’.  I had 2,000 of each title printed which was taking a big risk!

Now my books are used in hundreds of schools, nurseries and childminding settings to promote a positive image of disability. All the first editions have been sold and new editions are now available with an improved, even more inclusive layout and design.

I’d love to hear what you think about them!

For more information about the books please visit: www.hattieandfriends.co.uk
Books are £6.99 each.

Access 20% off and FREE P+P as a PACEY member

Just e-mail your order to: lesley@hattieandfriends.co.uk and quote: PACEY Member
If you want to see what I’m up to you can Follow me on Twitter: @Hattiesfriends

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