The pair said it was incredibly important that disabilities like deafness are featured in children’s books.
They have joined together to launch the National Deaf Children’s Society competition, open to the 18,000 deaf children in the UK aged 7-11, for a story including a deaf character.
Julia Donaldson, who is hard of hearing herself, has written a book featuring lip-reading called Freddie and the Fairy and when she was Children’s Laureate worked with a group of deaf children on What the Jackdaw Saw, a book about sign language.
The children’s author said, ‘I loved working on that story, and now I’m delighted to be involved in this writing competition. I can’t wait to see the stories that deaf children across the country come up with.’
Rachel Shenton won an Oscar for best live action short film in 2018 The Silent Child, which tells the story of a four-year-old girl who struggles to communicate until she learns sign language.
‘Making The Silent Child, and from my work in the deaf community, I’ve met so many amazing deaf children up and down the country. I’ve learnt just how important it is for these children to see themselves in the programmes and movies they watch and in the books they read. Never seeing themselves can be so demoralising, and make their experiences seem invisible.
‘For World Book Day, which is such an exciting time for kids across the country to think about the stories they love, we need to remind everyone involved in the industry of how important disability inclusion is. From children’s authors to book publishers, featuring disabled characters and the experiences they go through couldn’t be more important.’
Helen Cable, who leads the charity’s work with children and families, said, ‘A key part of growing up is staying up past bedtime, getting lost in imaginary worlds that incredible authors have conjured up. But the characters in stories should be as diverse as the children who read them.
‘Never seeing deafness represented, never seeing it normalised, having it forgotten about or made irrelevant all has a profound effect on a deaf child growing up. We’re going to change that.’
- The competition closes on 30 April. More information at www.ndcs.org.uk/bookcompetition