See What I Can Do

Authored by Jon Roberts
Illustrated by Hannah Rounding
Published by Graffeg Limited

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See What I Can Do aims to introduce children to difference and diversity in many forms so that they might understand why people live, act, succeed and struggle in a variety of situations. Its intention is to raise awareness of abilities, disabilities and conditions, providing helpful information and links for educators and young people.

Set in and around a school, each spread focuses on a different condition or disability, showing positive scenes of movement, play and learning. A strength is the text’s inclusion of a range of experiences.  I was impressed, for example, to see unilateral deafness mentioned, rarely depicted in children’s books. The colourful, energetic illustrations by Hannah Rounding reinforce the book’s focus on what the children can do.

Another strength of this book is the amount of text included – ideal and manageable for independent readers aged 7 or over, yet sufficiently detailed to explore different aspects and experiences. Technical words are written phonetically – there is also a helpful glossary and links to several organisations. Educators could share this text and then make useful connections to others, broadening and deepening children’s understanding of, for example, ADHD, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, visual impairment and dyslexia.

While I understand the usefulness of organising the book through a series of spreads on each condition or disability, this does, unintentionally, leave certain groups of children rather segregated. I notice that the three autistic children are shown as a separate group, with no other children around them. Perhaps a future title could find ways around this?  What might be lost in clarity may be made up for in valuable dialogue, overlaps, mixings and connections. This would be a better reflection of reality in a school setting and even more inclusive, in my view.

Books that inform and create awareness of disability and diversity are very much needed and I applaud the intention and good faith here. Jon Roberts is a passionate advocate for inclusion and acceptance, and I understand that this book is inspired by his autistic daughter and conversations with some of her friends. I sometimes felt that the dialogue in the text did not sound like the sort of thing that children would say about their lives but I may be wrong, as I do not know the processes of consultation prior to publication.  A possible solution for future books would be to seek to capture Own Voices and I would ask all publishers to take this into account.