Many children would prefer not to be different from their peers. They are afraid that their uniqueness will cause them to become ostracized. Some educators and schools recognize this issue and promote individual differences. Patricia L. Mervine capitalizes on this theme by writing the picture book, How Katie Got a Voice (and a cool nickname). In the book, she showcases a school that reinforces diversity. Every member of this school community is provided a nickname that celebrates a special characteristic.
Patricia does a great job introducing an assortment of personalities. The clever nicknames make some characters more memorable. As readers are learning about the students, educators, principal and staff, a young girl with severe disabilities is introduced as the “new kid” in the class. Using her expertise as a speech/language pathologist, Patricia describes Katie’s limitations. She is confined to a wheelchair and is unable to talk or even feed herself. Katie’s classmates are bewildered and her teacher is not sure what to do.
The teacher arranges for Katie to spend time with the school’s speech/language pathologist. The kids in the class feel that these visits are pointless. With the help of an augmentative communication device, Katie is eventually taught how to communicate with her classmates and school personnel. Her classmates are thrilled that she can take part in some classroom activities. The narrator of the story gives Katie the nickname- CommuniKate. The underlining message of inclusiveness is heartwarming.
After the story, Patricia emphasizes the importance of accepting people’s differences. She lists 13 ways to show respect for people who have disabilities. Many of her tips provide insight into different forms of disability.
Some parents and educators may be reluctant to introduce children to the ramifications of being severely disabled. Just like other controversial topics, this one should be left up to the adult’s discretion. Nevertheless, it should not be forgotten that education goes a long way toward preventing discrimination and biases. Gaining an understanding of how children are different will lessen the likelihood of exclusion.
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, June 28 will be eligible for a book giveaway. The randomly selected winner will be sent an autographed copy of How Katie Got a Voice.