The importance of visible difference in children’s books – as told by writer and Inclusive Minds ambassador, Hilary.
I didn’t have any experience of visible difference before my daughter was born. I know that it’s impossible to predict what issues she may face in life.
My 3 year-old daughter has complex bilateral talipes (club foot). I’m a parent ambassador for Inclusive Minds as my daughter is currently too young to share her own experiences. She has balance issues and is expected to wear her braces in the long term. Her physical condition is under control, but I’m very concerned about preparing her for the emotional side of her visible difference as she grows.
I didn’t have any experience of visible difference before my daughter was born. I know that it’s impossible to predict what issues she may face in life, but I’m driven to support her as much as I can, so that I can help her navigate life in the most positive way possible. I’ve searched for children’s books that present visible difference in a sensitive, normal and realistic way but found comparatively little.
I would like to see illustrations in all books (to whatever extent) portraying much more in the way of diversity. More stories that address diversity realistically are so important. In my experience, books that clearly address difference in some way end with the central character being accepted by all their peers just as they are. We need stories that acknowledge that the world isn’t necessarily 100% accepting of difference all of the time, setting out coping strategies and encouraging self-acceptance.
I have written a children’s story for ages 6-8 addressing visible difference anthropomorphically. Its focus is on self-acceptance and carries advice around coping with various issues such as stares, whispers and questions, being less good at something, discovering an individual talent and using it; and finally sharing the wisdom and acceptance learnt. Sharing this story with Inclusive Minds and receiving wonderful advice is how I came to know about the collective and joined its Inclusion Ambassadors Network.
It would be great to see the network expand as the bigger it is, the more accurately children’s literature will present diversity. And the better known it is the more the children’s book publishing world will (and should) recognise and address the need.
Details on becoming an Inclusion Ambassador for Inclusive Minds can be found at www.inclusiveminds.com. Please consider what you could bring to the network – sharing experiences is the first step towards helping anyone with visible differences now and in the future. Only by doing that, can the world in which our children grow up become a more understanding place to be.