Saturday, December 12, 2020

"Red and the Wolf" Encourages Kids To See Disability Differently, With Positive Representation

Positive representation of disability in literature is something that still needs working on, especially when it comes to children's books. 

The more we normalize positive representation of disability - and the emphasis here is on positive, as well as on representation for disability in general - the more it helps all children accept difference as natural and develop an understanding that encourages inclusivity for many kinds of difference, including those with disabilities. It also helps those who are disabled not only feel seen as normal, included, and represented, but encourages thinking in which disability doesn't have to limit you. 

That's powerful stuff.

The new book, Red and the Wolf is one of these books, and the project was envisioned - literally - by the charity RNIB (in the UK) to put a spotlight on the lack of positive role models with disability in children's literature and to show how that can be changed.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) has put a spin on the classic story of Little Red Riding Hood, by reimagining its central character as a visually impaired little girl who walks with a cane and has a skill for martial arts. The charity hopes that the book, entitled Red and the Wolf, will counter the lack of disabled role-models in children’s books.
Follow Red on her journey to Granny's house and see how she uses her martial arts and mystery-solving skills to overcome the challenges she faces.

The book is aimed at young children, aged 3-7, with the aim of normalizing the representation of disability while making it clear that having a disability doesn't have to limit you, but it's a good case study for re-thinking how we're telling classic tales today. Just like many fairy tale heroes and heroines through the ages, Red Riding Hood has adapted as society needed her to, while remaining recognizable. There's definitely room for many more versions of fairy tales that represent disability in a positive way.
RNIB head of innovation and development, Caroline Beard, said: “Some of our earliest perceptions of the world are shaped by the books we read as children. It is essential that children see disability as natural from an early age, gain an understanding of difference, and can help all children, including those with disabilities, feel included in society.


“We launched Red and the Wolf to refresh a classic story and turn it into something that celebrates difference. We hope that many children will enjoy reading about Red and how she overcomes the barriers she faces.”

..“Obviously, this story is not going to show what the daily reality is for any one child with sight loss, but we can make it something that's ok to talk about.”
We sincerely hope the author, Deborah Fajerman, who was brought on board by the RNIB for Red and the Wolf, will consider adapting other tales for representation, as will other authors. People - and kids especially - of all kinds, need disabled role models too. Red and the Wolf is a big step in the right direction in normalizing this, and we are here for it! 

The book also comes with an audio version for both accessibility and to encourage kids to read along, or to themselves. You can find the book to purchase HERE.

Note: pictures are by children's illustrator Tilly Rand-Bell. Her work is just lovely so be sure to check out her website.

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