Special Needs Children's Book - Why We Are
The origins of the children's book that brings special needs and inclusion to the bedtime story routine.
In 2011, I did what many moms do on a Saturday afternoon. I headed out to my local Barnes & Noble, looking for books to add to my daughter's collection. We were getting into picture books, and it was pretty important to me to find books that not only had a great story and message, but also had characters that looked like my daughter. Being Afro-Latina I knew we'd be up for a challenge. Having special needs - well, the deck was stacked. However, we did find some books that had characters with special needs, but I was quickly disappointed. Children's book after children's book that I picked up had sub-characters that had special needs, OR the lead character had special needs, but the book was all about the character's disability - NOT THE CHARACTER.
I couldn't believe it. Didn't people realize that children with special needs are CHILDREN first? My kid certainly was, and I'm pretty sure that my friends that had children with special needs saw their kids as children first. It didn't make any sense to me that an entire demographic - children with special needs - was being wholly ignored in the children's literature arena. So, I decided to do something about it, and ClaraBelle Blue was born.
Meet ClaraBelle Blue is the first children's book of The ClaraBelle Series, and offers visibility for an otherwise invisible group, and an introduction to the concept of inclusion in 24 beautifully illustrated pages. Much like you did when you were little, ClaraBelle likes to play pranks on her mom. Does your daughter or son like to play jump rope? So does ClaraBelle! And who didn’t love (and maybe still does love) Duck Duck Goose? ClaraBelle is a pro. You see, at RocketChair Productions KIDS – capital K-I-D-S take center stage. That means ALL kids. Not just kids with special needs, and not just neurotypical kids - but ALL KIDS. Kids can relate to ClaraBelle Blue because they recognize that she is a KID, just like them.
And this is how we introduce inclusion.
You see, something magical happens when neurotypical and physically able children read Meet ClaraBelle Blue. Suddenly, special needs seem less scary. They realize that they CAN play with the kid in their class who wheels through school, because ClaraBelle uses a wheelchair, and she's a kid, just like they are, so surely that kid wants to play. Now bridges are built, compassion is employed.
When Moms and Dads tuck their children into bed at night after reading Meet ClaraBelle Blue, a meaningful, kid friendly conversation takes place about what it means to have special needs, and all of a sudden little Suzy is planning a play date for her and the kid down the street with Down Syndrome. It would be his first. Teachers lead project based learning activities around the ways students can be more inclusive, and how that can change the world. They employ critical thinking skills, and problem solving skills, all because one children’s book dared to show them they could.
And why is this important? Why should you care?
Because these same children who read Meet ClaraBelle Blue today are going to grow up and become adults. They’ll be our caretakers, our politicians, our police officers, the teachers of our grandchildren and great grandchildren. These children will be the ones who grow up and change the world. And they’ll do it because we told them they could. At RocketChair Productions We’ve created the safe space for them to do it in, and by introducing the concepts of visibility and inclusion, we’ve given them the tools to do it.
We are well aware that we are creating the change we wish to see in the world simply by empowering children. We are creating our legacy. I suppose you could say we are creating YOUR legacy, too. We take this work very seriously, because we understand that 150 million children in the world can no longer wait to be seen and included, nor should they have to. Inclusion can't wait.
Inclusion is NOW.