THE BLOG

Tackling The Lack Of Diversity In Children's Books

21/02/2017 17:27 GMT | Updated 21/02/2017 17:27 GMT
Damir Cudic via Getty Images
Group of happy multiracial school children reading books. Isolated on white background.

I believe characters in stories should be as diverse as the people who read them, but only a very small handful of children's books feature a deaf character.

There are more than 45,000 deaf children in the UK. Most are born to hearing parents and go to mainstream schools where they may be the only deaf child, so they can feel quite isolated.

I'm proud to be Chief Executive of the National Deaf Children's Society, which works tirelessly to change and challenge this situation.

That's how Daisy and Ted's Awesome Adventures came about. The book follows a deaf girl and her hearing friend as they travel through time and space, meeting everyone from monsters and magicians to dragons and dinosaurs.

Daisy's deafness sometimes poses challenges, but she always finds a creative solution - for example, using sign language on board a noisy pirate ship and asking aliens to tuck their tentacles away from their mouths when talking so that she can lip-read!

Having been deaf from the age of four, I would have loved to have something like this when I was growing up. In all the stories that I read, there was never a character quite like me.

Regrettably, I no longer fit into the 4-7 age bracket of the book's target audience, so feedback from Surrey Deaf Children's Society and Whitehall Primary School in Chingford was invaluable in this project.

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Me (left) with children from the consultation at the book launch.

Credit: Phil Barros, National Deaf Children's Society

Who better to say what makes a great book than the children you want to read it? Their thoughts and ideas helped shape the storyline and illustrations, so that even before the book was published we knew it had a stamp of approval from deaf and hearing children.

Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson made it her mission as Children's Laureate (2011-13) to promote stories for and about deaf children. When we told her about Daisy and Ted, she said: "It's great to see a fun, entertaining picture book which will help to raise awareness of deafness and inspire self-confidence in deaf children."

Like Julia, I have a lot of ambitions for Daisy and Ted's Awesome Adventures. I hope that when deaf children see a character like themselves in a book, it will help them to feel included and understood. I also hope it gets hearing children to think about what deafness might be like and different ways of communicating.

I don't think my ambitions are unrealistic. The book became an Amazon #1 best seller in its first week on sale and got really positive reviews on social media, so clearly there is demand for more disabled role models in children's stories.

As a deaf mother with two hearing daughters, I would love to have been able to read this to my girls when they were little; it would have been a great way of showing them how to communicate well with me, my partner and our deaf friends.

Storytelling is a very powerful thing, and I truly believe this book can make a real difference - but ultimately, it's a fun adventure story every child can enjoy.

You can find out more at ndcs.org.uk/daisyandted and the book is out now on Amazon. All money raised through book sales will help the National Deaf Children's Society to create a world without barriers for every deaf child.