Teaching inclusion and teaching it very early in childhood is very important because it builds essential life skills. But it is not easy to teach inclusion.
Why is it so difficult to be inclusive?
Because what is different is always frightening
We are always wary of what is not familiar – what we have not seen too much of before. We are worried that it may be dangerous – it may do us harm.
What can we do to make inclusion easier?
As early as possible children must listen to stories and read books about people who are “different” – living ordinary lives and doing everyday things with other people.
Just like children start believing in the abilities and goodness of Santa Claus – enough stories repeated enough times can help children understand the abilities of the differently abled while empathizing with their challenges.
Also read Lessons In Inclusion And Diversity For Children On Christmas
Because “what is in it for me?” is a tough question to answer
Most people understand inclusion as being good for the minorities – for the differently abled – for the challenged. They see being inclusive as a favour to those whom they are including. They do not see themselves gaining anything from the effort of being inclusive.
What can we do to make inclusion easier?
Read children books that highlight the superpowers of the differently abled. Encourage children to read books that show them what they can learn from those who are challenged.
What will my child gain from being inclusive?
Being able to communicate is an essential life skill. And it is the most important skill that we need in our workplaces. Whether you are managing a team or selling a product – you need to communicate effectively.
When children are exposed to children who are differently abled early in life they find a way to communicate with them very easily. They are not limited by the language or ability of the person.
The skill to identify different abilities
Children with their intense desire to play and their desperation to have friends – figure out a role for everyone – whatever their challenges.
This is a very valuable quality to develop – because assigning people roles they are suited to – is one of the key workplace skills for success as a leader.
The ability to make better decisions based on fairness and equality
Success comes to those who make good decisions. Decisions that are good – not just for themselves – but for the world at large. And living in an inclusive environment early on in life teaches children how to make decisions that are fair to everyone.
Also read 30 Best Cooperative Games And Activities For Toddlers and Preschoolers
The space to acknowledge and improve on their own challenges and drawbacks
Everyone has some challenges. It is easier for children to feel comfortable acknowledging their challenges and striving to overcome them in inclusive environments rather than in environments where over achieving is the norm
Better self-esteem and confidence
The easiest way to feel good about yourself is – to help someone else using the skills you have and she/he doesn’t. An inclusive environment is the best place to help another person and build self-esteem and confidence.
Also read How to build your child’s self-esteem
Are there books that children inclusion through stories?
Yes – sensitive and wise adults who realize the wonderful things that inclusion can do for all children – are now writing books to gradually introduce an inclusive world.
I recently had the pleasure of reading such a book.
The book is called “Look Out Look Within” and in the words of the author and the publisher – is an attempt to make the world a place where diversity is celebrated.
The book is authored by Vandana Naidu, beautifully illustrated by Neha Talesara and published by White Print – India’s first English Lifestyle Magazine in Braille and Tactabet founded by Upasana Makati
About “Look Out Look Within”
Look Out Look Within is a story about two little girls who live a busy happy lives. Their names are Mia and Anya. They are friends who are alike in every way but one. Mia is visually challenged and Anya is not.
The book gives us a peek into the lives of these two little girls. It tells us how the girls dream big and do lots of interesting things to make their dreams for the future come true – while also living in the moment and having lots of fun.
What your child can learn from reading “Look Out Look Within”?
What are differently abled children like?
Do children who are physically challenged like Mia sit around glumly all day? Are they always sad? Are they difficult to be around? Are they difficult to talk to?
No. They are none of the above. Visually challenged Mia is a happy cheerful child who works hard and also loves to play.
She learns the same things that Anya learns – she just needs to be taught differently.
Also read Do you compare your child with others? Stop immediately !
The story lets us into the dreams of the little girls and shows us how Mia’s dreams are just as big as Anya’s.
Most of us are afraid to dream. Mia’s dream is our inspiration to dream big and work hard to make our dreams come true.
Focus on your strengths – not on your weaknesses
Throughout the story Mia comes across as a child who considers her other sense organs her superpowers.
Not once does she focus on her inability to see.
Too many times we are focused on what we don’t have instead of what we have. Look Out Look Within is inspiration for children to look at themselves without self-pity. And find their super powers.
Learn to communicate
Not everyone will speak your language. Not everyone will see the world the way you do. But if you try you can communicate your ideas and discover the other person’s ideas.
And when you have more ideas you can live more creatively and have lots of fun.
Too often we give up on trying to communicate. We get angry because others do not see situations the way we do. We are disappointed when others cannot understand what we are saying because they haven’t experienced what we have.
It is worthwhile to learn from Anya – how to communicate with someone who cannot see the world the way we do and yet have them understand everything we want them to.
Learn perseverance and determination
Mia is challenged. But she doesn’t give up.
Throughout the story – she matches Anya step for step – activity for activity and smile for smile.
She doesn’t give up. She learns with interest and she applies what she has learnt with enthusiasm.
A definite message to children reading this story is “If she can – why can’t I?
Why we need more books like “Look Out Look Within”
Empathy is the currency of the future
Anyone who wants to succeed in life will have to understand and empathize with the difficulties of a certain section of people. Only then will they be able to build products and design services that will become successful and economically viable.
Communication is the most important life skill for the future
Books like this can prompt more and more parents to fill their children’s lives with children who have diverse abilities and children from diverse origins. This will automatically improve everyone’s communication skills.
It will help children live more mindfully
When a child has to communicate what he is seeing to a child who cannot see – she/he will have to pay more attention to what she/he is seeing and immerse her/himself deeper into the experience. Reading a book like this with your child can help you to encourage your child to slow down and be more mindful by just asking her/him a question like – “How do you think you would describe the tree outside our house to your friend who can’t see it.”
It will help children feel grateful and happy
A story like this read to a child is an easy way to show the child how much we take for granted every day. And how privileged and grateful we must feel for what we have.
Gratitude has been proven to be the most effective way to divert the mind from negativity towards positivity and thereby happiness.
This book is a wonderful effort by White Print to help us become a more inclusive society. Do encourage your kids to read it.
And do share their takeaways