Read on to learn about a children’s book that teaches you and your kiddos about the special needs community.
There is a new children’s book that shines a light on the special needs community. “When Charley Met Emma is a children’s picture book that centers on the story of a little boy named Charley, meeting a little girl named Emma, who doesn’t have any hands and drives a wheelchair. At first, Charley doesn’t know what to think- I mean ‘What happened to her hands?’- and he’s not sure how to react,” says Amy Webb, mother, writer and artist. “Thankfully, Charley’s mom and Emma, herself, teach Charley that it’s ok if he has questions about people who are different and it’s ok if you’re different! It’s a great primer for young children to learn about disability, as well as helping to teach parents and caregivers how to navigate these sometimes tricky situations.”
The inspiration behind writing the book came from Webb’s personal experience with a daughter who is special needs. “We are a special needs family. The character of Emma is modeled after my middle daughter and over the years, I’ve navigated many, many interactions between my daughter and other children meeting her for the first time,” she says. “Over the course of several years, I developed a ‘formula’ of sorts for helping kids to learn about her differences, while at the same time helping them move past her differences and be able to see her as one of them- a friend. But it also dawned on me that part of the reason these interactions happened so frequently, was that so many children were completely unfamiliar with disability- they didn’t see children like my daughter in the world around them- not in their movies, TV shows or picture books.”
Webb felt that the special needs community was not being presented well in her daughter’s life in a personal way. “The purpose of the book became multi-fold- to help children and parents navigate these special needs encounters, but also to give children a jump start by providing a book that will help address their questions ahead of time and that will actually provide that representation for disability in their world that might otherwise be lacking.”
She has experience with taking her daughter to doctor and specialist appointments, wheelchairs, accessible vans and making their home accessible. “Additionally, I’ve been interviewing other special needs families and individuals with disabilities on my blog, This Little Miggy Stayed Home, for eight years,” Webb says. “So far, I’ve interviewed over 225 people and that has been an education in and of itself.”
The title of the book references the main characters of the story. “I chose the name, Emma, as I think it’s a classic and beautiful name. Charley, I actually chose because I had been reading about artist, Charley Harper, at the time and was inspired by his kindness as much as his art,” she says. “I event spent some time at Charley Harper’s house, writing and just feeling inspired. I wanted the Charley in my book to be a kind and sensitive character.”
The book helps with understanding people with special needs. “The book gives children a look at someone with a very visual disability and they have the chance to process this disability (and others) in the comfort of their own home. By ‘process,’ I mean they can stare at the character, ask questions and read about all the things Emma likes to do,” Webb says. “One of the things parents like most about this book are the great conversations they’ve had with their kids- and I love that! I love that this is being used as a tool for good conversation.”
Webb hopes that through this book, people are able to connect with the special needs community. “I hope children, in particular, will simply feel more connected to disability, that it will feel familiar and not something to be afraid of,” she says. “I hope they will see the Emma’s of the world as their equals, their peers and that being different isn’t something to pity or be sad about.”