Lifestyle

Help your child understand diversity with these amazing inclusive stories

Hattie and Friends features disabled characters to normalise disabilities

People like to toot the horn of inclusivity, but how many of us actually find ways to implement it into our daily lives?

Perhaps you’re open-minded, speak up for others, or recognise your biases.

One woman believes the power of truly embracing inclusion is for children to learn about diversity from a young age with the help of their bookshelves.

Enter Hattie and Friends centre stage!

The fabulous kids’ series includes a character who is blind, a boy confined to a wheelchair, as well a girl who walks with crutches, all to promote a positive image of disability.

[Credit: Lesley Berrington / Instagram]

Not only does author Lesley Berrington hope to show our future generations that people can look different, she also strives to teach acceptance, respect and understanding.

The nursery teacher turned writer believes that the best way to do this is to present an eclectic array of characters with disabilities yet not focus on the disability within the story, to show that people are not defined by their bodies but their personality traits instead.

Speaking exclusively to Uspire, Lesley revealed her motivation behind starting the book series and why she feels they should be on every child’s bookshelf.

Lesley said: “I was inspired to create my inclusive story books after an Ofsted inspection at one of my nurseries where we were asked to reflect diversity in our resources.

“Around the same time, I attended a training course about the Disability Discrimination Act and talked to other nursery managers about the lack of resources featuring disability.”

[Credit: Lesley Berrington]

Lesley continued: “It became clear there was a growing demand for inclusive resources, yet very few available.

“It was important for me to show positive images of disability, with familiar themes and educational content. And so, Hattie was born in 2006.”

Lesley hopes the series will help both able-bodied children understand disabilities, and also disabled children who rarely see themselves in storybooks.

By seeing themselves represented and reflected back to them on the page, Lesley says Hattie and Friends can improve their sense of belonging, while also build confidence and self-esteem.

[Credit: Lesley Berrington]

Lesley sees first-hand the impact her characters have on kids during her primary school visits, when she talks to the class about being an author and the process of creating books.

She explained: “It feels great to inspire young children to want to be an author, illustrator or designer in the future.

“Inclusion is just a part of my visit; I also like to inspire creative thinking in children.

“I hope my books help children to accept differences they see in themselves and others. I would like us to stop putting people in boxes and accept each person as a unique individual.”

[Credit: Lesley Berrington]

Over the last year, the global pandemic has seen Lesley confined to Hattie HQ at home, where she has been hatching plans for new projects.

She concluded: “I’m researching ideas and I’d love to see Hattie and Friends as an animation on TV.

“I love collaborating with other educators too, so anyone out there please get in touch.”

Looks like Peppa Pig might be relegated to second favourite if Lesley lands her series!

For more info, click here: Hattie and Friends.

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