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When Publishers Called My Children's Book About Disability 'Too Niche'

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I recently self-published a children’s picture book on disability and inclusion, partly because the offer I got from a publishing house gave too much power to them and not enough to me as the creator. And partly, and more importantly, I was getting frustrated at being told that my book was “too niche” for the mainstream market.

I have two sons, one who has a rare neurodevelopmental syndrome and one who is neurotypical. I have read to both of them every morning and night since birth. We love to read; it’s a real family activity in our house and I am constantly on the hunt for suitable books that cover disability and inclusion in an interesting and informative way. My hunt started at my local library where after asking where the books on disability were, I was told they didn’t have any but they would happily order some if I gave them some titles. I had the same conversation with my son’s nursery, and while everyone was very willing to help, I needed to find these books myself before they could be made accessible to others.

The search continued online, where I found some great books that were incredibly informative on children with disabilities. Descriptive books that explained to the world that children are all different. Books that would be great in school for opening up conversations on inclusion and would be a welcome addition to any curriculum. But I struggled to find many books that were narrative-driven, with children shown how to include their disabled friends in an interesting, fun way. A book that you could easily read every night on repeat without getting bored. A book that would hold its place on a bookshelf with the words of Julia Donaldson and Rachel Bright, rather than a book pulled out purely to broach the topic of disability. I wanted more books on disability that were mainstream rather than supposedly “niche,” so I put pen to paper and wrote my own.

My book is a labor of love and was funded by my community via crowdfunding. As each donation came in I felt more confident that this book was needed by all and more determined to bring this dream to fruition. Every pound that appeared made me more confident that books on disability are not niche, how can they be? Difference exists in the world; disability exists in the world. It is not just an area of life that you can choose to ignore. We all know that variety is the spice of life, and yet we often move away from things that are unknown and unfamiliar. Hence the need for more children’s books so that we can raise our children to be more empathetic, more open-minded and more worldly-aware than ourselves.

In an ideal world, books that have characters with disabilities would be so commonplace that their disability would be irrelevant to the narrative — but until then we need more books that focus on positive inclusion and disability awareness to bring the equilibrium up. We need to shine more light on these issues to make the world a fairer and more welcoming place for the disability community.

Disability within children’s literature has never been niche, it’s been overlooked and now we need to rectify that.

Meet Freddie, a young boy who loves to play football, has a brother called Frankie and a frame to help him walk. At school, Freddie is often excluded from games at break time; the other children don’t know how to include him and this makes him sad. Luckily, Frankie and the Supersiblings Gang visit the school to show the children what to do and the importance of inclusion.

Synopsis for Professionals: Through the eyes of Freddie, children will learn how it feels to be excluded from their peers based on a physical disability and how they can ask for help for appropriate ways to include their disabled friends.

Freddie and the High Flying Kick” can be found on Amazon.

Originally published: June 8, 2021
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