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Why This Parent Support Group Wrote a Children's Book About Down Syndrome

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Most children love to read. Often they ask to read the same book over and over; they do not tire of hearing the same story repeatedly. They point out new details they notice, things that are similar to their lives, and often make connections between the story they are reading and themselves or their community. Unfortunately, many children’s books do not adequately represent the diversity of the world we live in, and specifically do not address disabilities. That is something a small group of parent advocates is endeavoring to change with their new book, “Meet Will and Jake, Best Buds Forever.”

The parents, all of whom have children with Down syndrome under the age of 5, met through the efforts of Community Living Kincardine and District’s Infant and Child Development Coordinator, Jenny Raspberry. Raspberry notes that within a 12-month period, four children with Down syndrome were born in their rural community. Sensing the need to provide an opportunity to connect and share their journey, Raspberry formed the group “Homies With an Extra Chromie.” At one of the monthly meetings, a storybook about Down syndrome was shared. The group was less than impressed with the outdated and inaccurate information, and so began a two-year journey to create their own, better story to share the realities of growing up with Down syndrome in a format that kids can relate to.

While working on the book, the group also visited local schools to chat with students about Down syndrome, inclusion and eliminating the R-word. These visits included chats with students and staff, which reinforced the importance of creating this book. It was clear that many adults and teachers did not necessarily know how to present the concepts of inclusion and disability to children, and asked for additional resources to help revisit the topics at a later date.

Contributing parent Colin Graham knew from the start this was a worthy endeavor. “After having our son, we wanted to grow our collection of storybooks that would allow Logan to see himself reflected in a book. Once we started on this project, we recognized how important it was to show all children the beauty in diversity. That it is OK to be different, and that you can have real, meaningful friendships with those who are different than yourself.” Reception to the book has been strong, with many book readings occurring in local schools and libraries. “Starting the conversation and keeping it open is a key part of acceptance and inclusion, and we hope this is what the book will continue to do,” Graham said.

“Meet Will and Jake” is a story that captures the differences and similarities between two friends, one of whom has Down syndrome. It emphasizes that it is OK for people to like different things, and to be good at different things. It explains what Down syndrome is in terms that kids can understand — and it also addresses how bullying is never acceptable. It aims to fill a gap in a child’s library, and to be used as a tool to help the next generation be more accepting and inclusive. Above all else, it aims to prove that we are all more alike than different.

“Meet Will and Jake, Best Buds Forever” is now available from online retailers worldwide, including Amazon, and has sold over 700 copies so far.

Learn more about the book at Community Living Kincardine and District’s website.

Originally published: August 9, 2020
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