Reading resources Book of the month May 2022 At Coram Beanstalk we're all about making sure that children have access to all sorts of books and that they have the opportunity to find books which they can relate to, see themselves reflected in and connect with. That connection might be formed by a particular interest or hobby or by an affinity with a place or character - which is why it's so important that authors and their publishers produce books that children can access with ease. No child likes to be told that there are 'specific' books written for them - and obvious and overt references to specific circumstances, characteristics or events can often be off-putting! Which is why we love nothing more at Coram Beanstalk than brilliant books that all children can enjoy and learn from - but which are also hugely relatable to children who don't often manage to see characters like themselves in the books they read. This year 2nd - 8th May is Children's Book Week and Deaf Awareness Week so we thought we'd highlight some Beanstalk Brilliant Books featuring characters who may have experienced hearing loss or who wear hearing aids. About the book Song for A Whale by Lynne Kelly Iris was born deaf, but she's never let that define her; after all, it's the only life she's ever known. And until recently she wasn't even very lonely, because her grandparents are both deaf, too. But Grandpa has just died and Grandma's not the same without him. The only place Iris really feels at home anymore is in her electronics workshop where she loves taking apart antique radios. Then, during a science lesson about sound waves, Iris finds out about a whale who is unable to communicate with other whales. The lonely whale awakens something in Iris. She's determined to show him that someone in the world knows he's there. Iris works on a foolproof plan to help the whale but she soon realises that that is not enough: Iris wants to find the whale herself. One stolen credit card, two cruise ship tickets, and the adventure of a lifetime later, Iris and the whale each break through isolation to help one another be truly heard in ways that neither had ever expected. Interview with the author, Lynne Kelly It was the real-life "lonely whale" that sparked the idea for Song For a Whale. After I learned about this whale who has a song like no other, I couldn't stop thinking about him, and wondered what his life was like. Pretty soon, I decided I had to write about him. In working out who the main character would be, I thought about who'd have a strong connection to the whale. Then it occurred to me that every day I work with people who've experienced feeling isolated, even when they're not alone, because they don't share a language with those around them. In my work as a sign language interpreter, I've known countless deaf people who have experiences like Iris's, growing up as one of the few (or even the only) deaf students in school. I knew that when Iris learned about the lonely whale, she'd feel like they had a similar life in a way-- surrounded by others, yet isolated. She understands that song he's singing. Read more about Lynne's inspiration for the book in an article she wrote for The Big Issue. "How the world's loneliest whale inspired a children's tale about human connection." Equally brilliant beanstalk books with the same theme - characters with hearing loss or who wear hearing aids. Download a list of these titles as a PDF here We spoke to some of the authors of these books to find out why they chose to create characters who had hearing loss or who wear hearing aids... Samantha Baines, author of Harriet versus the Galaxy "When I got my hearing aid I had never read a book with a main character with hearing loss or hearing aids. I think it's so important that all children see themselves represented in literature So that's why I started writing Harriet!" Ross Montgomery, author of Max and the Millions People often ask me why I decided to write a Deaf protagonist in MAX AND THE MILLIONS, and the answer is quite complicated. I guess that part of the reason is personal: I had glue ear and was mildly deaf until the age of four, and I think the way the world suddenly changed when my hearing improved must have made a real mark on me. What a shock, to discover that everything you thought you knew about the world was incorrect - that sounds could be so totally different! But I think the first real seed of the idea came when I worked as a primary school teacher. I taught ICT for a few years, and had my own ICT assistant: he was deaf and wore hearing aids on both ears. We worked well together - but one day, he explained that he often struggled to understand what I'd asked him to do because of the way I was asking. What do you mean? I asked. Well - for a start, I tend to mumble. That made lip-reading me even more difficult. For another, I tended to look away mid-sentence, so he missed the end of my sentences. I'd start talking before making sure I had his attention. He said that if I needed his attention, I could politely tap him on his shoulder - something I would never have assumed he'd be happy with. All this blew my mind. My assistant had spent years struggling to do his job because I hadn't considered what he needed - and that made me realise first-hand what people mean when they describe deafness as "an invisible disability". If I had no idea about any of those tactics, then I knew there'd be lots of people who didn't know about it either. It made me realise how isolating being deaf might sometimes feel. And that made me think about something else - I couldn't think of a single book with a Deaf main characters in it. I could think of some sidekicks, or side characters... but they were often in the story for no other reason than you head to feel sorry for them. Where were the stories were deaf children got to do something fun, and adventurous, and exciting? That was how MAX AND THE MILLIONS started for me - a story about a boy who feels isolated at his school, but whose ability to quietly and carefully notice small things makes a huge difference and saves a (tiny) world. I hope that it's given children the chance to think about what being deaf in a hearing world might be like - and I also hope that somewhere, a deaf child might have looked at the front cover and felt excited to see a child with hearing aids on it. Megan Rix, author of Echo Come Home and Lizzie and Lucky Representation and inclusion of everyone is extremely important to me. Hopefully now we have the British Sign Language Act 2022 representation and inclusion of D/deaf people will also increase. I love visiting schools and talking, or signing, about my books and showing my hearing aids and doing some signing. ‘Echo Come Home’ was the first book I wrote with a deaf hero – I didn’t know sign language back then and as my hearing loss grew I was trying to manage by lip-reading. By the time I wrote about the amazing Hans in ‘The Lost War Dog’ I had lots of deaf friends and knew a lot more about deaf culture. I also met an amazing 95-year-old deaf lady who’d been a refugee on the Kindertransport in WW2 and was very inspiring. But it’s with the Lizzie and Lucky books that I feel I’m now being truly representative and inclusive. I would have loved to have books about a deaf detective when I was a child. It’s so important for children to see themselves represented in books. Nowadays I’m really excited to be able to share my signing, as although I’m now fluent I didn’t learn BSL until I was an adult. Once the BSL GCSE is up and running many more children will have the opportunity to learn to sign. I wish I’d had the chance. I was born with hearing loss and learning via a mixture of signing and speaking would have been much better.