Tech & Media
My 3 Favourite Picture Books About Deaf Or Hard Of Hearing Families
By Kara Stewart-Agostino
Apr 2, 2018
I have an obsession with children’s picture books. I can barely leave a bookstore without making a purchase and leave the library with piles of kids' titles (my overdue fines help support our library system).
And I bring home just about every picture book I can find with deaf or hard of hearing characters so that my daughter can see her experience represented in between the pages of a book.
These three books have worn pages on our bookshelves. They are stories that provide my daughter with an opportunity to see herself in a book, and my son with some insight into how his sister experiences the world.
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The Sound Of All Things (By Myron Uhlberg, Illustrated By Ted Papoulas)
Set in Coney Island in the 1930s, the story is centred around a young hearing boy and his deaf parents. The boy’s father asks him to describe all the sounds around them at the fair. Through sign language he describes the roller coaster as “heavy, like thunder," a sound that his father can "feel." But it's not always easy for the boy to think of ways to describe what he hears. When he considers that he cannot know what it is like to be deaf, he becomes determined to find a way to share with his father the sound of all things.
I love how this story encourages the reader to consider different ways of experiencing sound and how we might describe the sounds that surround us. It's such a beautiful and gentle approach to developing empathy and considering the world through someone else’s ears.
Freddie And The Fairy (By Julia Donaldson, Illustrated By Karen George)
When Freddie helps a fairy named Bessie Bell who is tangled in a tree, she offers to grant him his every wish, but tells him that she doesn’t hear very well. Freddie mumbles, covers his mouth and turns his back to the fairy while he makes his wishes. Unable to hear him properly, the fairy continues to grant the wrong wish while Freddie gets increasingly frustrated. When the Fairy Queen appears she explains that Bessie Bell wears hearing aids and will understand Freddie better if he doesn’t mumble, cover his mouth or turn his head when he’s speaking.
Like many children, my daughter loves fairies and the blue-hearing-aid-wearing fairy is a hit! I love how the picture book provides simple reminders that my daughter can use to advocate for herself while also helping others consider respectful ways to communicate with someone wearing a hearing device. You don’t need to yell or speak slowly — just speak clearly and face the person when you’re talking.
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A Screaming Kind Of Day (By Rachna Gilmore, Illustrated By Gordon Sauve)
A young girl named Scully, who wears hearing aids, just wants to play and dance in the rain. But fights with her brother and her mom’s busy schedule are keeping her stuck indoors. As her frustration and longing to be outside builds, it becomes a screaming kind of day for Scully.
The special thing about this picture book is that it's not really about being hard of hearing or wearing hearing aids. It's a snapshot of a day that could be taken of any family — Scully fights with her brother, her mom gets mad at her, she screams as loudly as possible and enjoys a peaceful moment under the stars with her family. She just does it all while wearing hearing aids. Although Scully’s hearing aids don’t look much like the hearing aids of today, she is a relatable and representative character. I wish I could fill my shelves with books like this one.