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Stories For Every Classroom: Canadian Fiction Portraying Characters With Disabilities

posted on 14 Jun 2016

Stories For Every Classroom:  Canadian Fiction Portraying Characters With Disabilities by Beverley Brenna

If you are not a Canadian reader, don’t be put off this fabulous resource by what seems to be its geographical specificity. This is a book that should be an invaluable resource for all teachers in any country because what it tackles are universal issues : why children’s books have been so tardy in presenting real depictions of the lives of disabled young people; how, all too often what has been available has been stuck in regressive stereotypes; and, how it is possible to break out of this mind-set and produce good progressive examples of books that speak to the real life experiences and aspirations of children with disabilities.

Each chapter tackles a different aspect of the debate – from definitions of disability right through to recommendations for what books can be used and where. The arguments are never overly academic or too dense – a real tribute to the author who keeps her writing thoroughly engaging without compromising on depth. Each chapter also has an illustrated and annotated bibliography to go with it and this is a great innovation because it not only breaks up the text and adds a bit of colour and vim but it also demonstrates that it’s possible to move from the theoretical to the actual. Each chapter also ends with two or three key questions for discussion or individual contemplation – meaning it’s a resource that could be built into a more structured, longer term training programme.

The book itself carries the following description which I can’t really beat – so here it is:

Academic study of children’s literature has explored various aspects of diversity; however, little research has examined Canadian books that portray characters with disabilities. This relevant and timely text addresses the significant dearth of research by exploring the treatment of disability in Canadian literature for young people. Engaging and highly accessible, this text will assist teachers, teacher educators, and teacher candidates in finding and using books about characters where disability is a part of their characterization, supporting the development of curricula that reflect critical literacy and social justice issues.

Stories for Every Classroom explores the historical patterns and trends, theoretical frameworks, and critical literacy methods used to understand and teach children’s literature and its portrayal of characters with disabilities. It provides educators with curriculum ideas and enriches the body of resources shared with children in K–12 settings for the purposes of developing imagination, empathy, and understanding of self and others. Featuring author portraits, comprehensive annotated bibliographies of contemporary Canadian children’s books that depict characters with disabilities, and read-on bibliographies that provide connections with other books in the field, this unique text will be an invaluable resource for educators.

If you are interested in the issues of inclusion and the role books can play in creating an inclusive classroom, you’ll also want to understand how and why disability has been so marginalised for so long. I fear far too few trainee teachers in the UK will encounter this book and that is unfortunate because Beverley Brenna has a lot to tell them and all of it is valuable.

 

Terry Potter

June 2016