Looking for Someone Like Me: Representation in Picture Books

This resource is great for:
Realising that many people do not see themselves as characters in picture books, questioning why that might be and considering how to do something about it.

Summary:
A series of activities created by Pat Graham, the mother of an adult daughter with severe learning disabilities.


Introduction:

Pat Graham is the mother of Lauren, her adult daughter who has a severe learning disability but who nevertheless loves all types of picture books.  People like Lauren rarely see anyone like them portrayed in picture books so Pat has been on a mission to find picture books for and about people with learning disabilities.

Read Pat’s thoughts on her research here.

The Book Festival has been working with Pat, along with other individuals involved with PAMIS, ARC Scotland and the National Involvement Network to help make the Book Festival as accessible as possible to all, including stocking books in our bookshops which featured disabled characters.


Activities

Part One

Together, Pat and Lauren have written a poem called ‘Is There Room For Me?’, imagining Lauren’s adventures as Picture Book Girl whose superpower is to be able to enter the world of her favourite picture books.

Read the poem and try to identify as many picture books as you can. Here’s a clue: there are 50 picture books mentioned but don’t be tempted to cheat until you’ve found out how many you recognise.

Is There Room For Me?
by Lauren Graham

 My name is Lauren and I can’t read, write or chat
But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate art
And just like my great hero, that boy Charlie Cook
You can always find me with a favourite book

If I were a superhero, who could I be
There can be only one super power for me
Wonder woman’s too dull, I’ll be Picture Book Girl
An amazing idea; let’s give it a twirl

I shall be an artist with a magic paintbrush
I’ll crayon the Black Forest all flowery and lush
I’ll chase mean queens, witches and wolves out of the woods
Then picnic with Rapunzel and Red Riding Hood

I shall eat the most scrumdiddlyumptious of food
I’ll scoff mango with Handa and hunny with Pooh
I’ll invite caterpillars and tigers to tea
Although Gruffalo crumble might not be for me
I’ll save Hansel and Gretel and eat up their crumbs
And still have room for a giant peach pear and plums

In real life it’s such a shame that I can’t travel far
So I love picture books in Scots vernacular
Tales of hoolets and mowdies and a muckle mad moose
Teegers, dugs and clockleddies; tods, doos and stinky coos
I’ll ha’e shortbreid for ma tea in a ricklie log hoose
Wi’, crivvens, jings, help ma boab, oor Wullie and the Broons

I’ll have swashboggling adventures with Esio Trot
Discover the magic wood with Mrs Pepperpot
Zoom to the antipodes, which might be quite scary
But how cool to have ice cream at Donaldson’s Dairy
I’ll visit Grandma’s House. She keeps stars in her jars
And in her back garden there’s a fox called Gaspard

I’ll be feisty and fearless. I’ll take any dare
I’ll help the wee mouse get that bear off his chair
Mr Creep the Crook and chums had better beware

Then I’ll scare that Grotlyn right up into the air

I’ll travel back in time to the long, long ago
To find those Cornish fields where the poppies now grow
And whisper in the ears of the Heligan boys
That their wonderful gardens still bring so much joy

On the night before Christmas when everything’s still
I’ll fly off with the snowman up to the North Pole
I can help Father Christmas deliver the toys
Then whoosh to the moon to catch a star for the boy

With my super powers, I can do really good deeds
Mum says could I give Mrs Large 10 minutes peace
I’ll heal the poisonous wart on the Gruffalo’s nose
Then catch the queen’s hat and babysit Annie Rose

I’ll fly to great places. Today will be my day
The whole world is waiting so don’t get in my way!
I’ll search for adventures and go where wild things are
And on my way back home, see planet earth from afar

I’ll take my sister with me. She knows just how I feel
Her power is to make dragons and birds become real
Fantastic creatures are cut from paper in her world
She’s the fabulous, incredible Paper-Cut Girl

As my time as Picture Book Girl draws to a close
It seems no one with vision received my memos
So publishers and bookshops and trade fairs and writers

Librarians, book festivals, and illustrators
If I ask quite politely and don’t make too much fuss
Could we have lots more books like Mr Blake’s Five of Us

In all picture books, the story comes to an end
It may be a fantasy, but let’s just pretend
With one swish of my cape and a loud whoop of glee
I’ll make room in a book, for a girl just like me.

You can find an annotated version of the poem that identifies where each picture book is hidden here.

You can also find a key telling you the names of all of the hidden picture books here.

Part Two

Pat talks about the book Leo and the Lightning Dragons.  In the back of the book Gill White, the author, describes how to make a sensory story.

Multi-sensory stories are an imaginative way to communicate with people with a severe learning disability, but younger children will enjoy them too.

Think about a picture book that you love and imagine how you might go about turning it into a sensory story.  Is there anyone you know who would enjoy your story and who you would like to tell it to?

Part Three

Pat has kept a list of all the books that she has found that contain under-represented characters, including those with PMLD.

Either individually or in groups, have a think about the following questions:

  • What are your favourite picture books? Are there any characters with disabilities in those books?
  • Do you think that there could have been characters with disabilities in those books? If so, what parts might they have played? If not, why not?
  • How would you feel if there were no characters in your favourite books who looked and behaved like you?
  • It has been found that there are very few people from a BAME background in picture books, but Pat spotted BAME characters in more than half of her books with disabled characters. Why do you think that might be?

Next time you are in a library or bookshop, do what Pat does, and try to find disabled or BAME characters in the books on display. If you find any disabled characters, we would love to know about them!


Further information:

For information about learning disability have a look at the PAMIS and ARC Scotland websites:
http://pamis.org.uk
https://arcscotland.org.uk

If you would like to know more about sensory storytelling, take a look at this link on the PAMIS website:
http://pamis.org.uk/services/multi-sensory-storytelling

For more information about Rebecca Elliott’s Toby and Clemmie books, visit Rebecca’s website:
https://www.rebeccaelliott.com/

For information about Leo and the Lightning Dragons, check out Leo’s website:
http://www.leoandthelightningdragons.com

To find out why Steve Antony created Amazing, take a look at this article on the BookTrust website.  (If you search on ‘disabled’ on the Booktrust website you’ll also find lots of other information and views):
https://www.booktrust.org.uk/news-and-features/features/2019/february/steve-antony-why-ive-made-the-picture-book-they-said-wouldnt-sell

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