"You Know, You Should Write A Book."
I have never written a blog before (or a book before).
At the time of writing this, I don't really have a plan. I hope to use this space to share information, thoughts, and I don't know what else with you.
As of now, I don't have any specific plans or schedules for this blog - I will just write when I feel like it. No pressure, low key, and hopefully informational & helpful. I will update my subscribers when a new post is up, so if you want to be notified, feel free to sign up on my homepage. But otherwise, I hope you enjoy my sporadic posting and hope you find something you can either relate to or learn from to implement in your own life.
I guess a good place to start is to introduce myself.
My name is Rebecca Rubin Seligson. I currently live in Modi'in, Israel and moved here from New York in 2014. I live here with my husband, son - E (7.5 yrs) and daughter - N (3.5). I give you just their initials in my effort to respect their privacy (thanks for your understanding). I have a BA in Early Childhood Education from Yeshiva University and an MA from Teachers College, Columbia University to be a Literacy Specialist.
So why do I do what I do? How did I get into writing children's books?
Let's back up a bit. When I first moved to Israel (no kids), I had just finished up my degrees and was looking for a job. When you come to Israel and you speak English and you are a teacher, you are generally defaulted to teaching English. I bet you're asking, "Well isn't that what a Literacy Specialist does?" Yes and no. A literacy specialist helps build and create curriculum to teach reading and writing. For older kids, yes, you focus more on the grammar aspect. But for younger kids, you focus mostly on the basics of storytelling, writing, and reading. Kids are more in a world of discovery and learning and less focused on the rigidity of the rules of grammar - which I honestly, personally can't stand.
OK back on track here - I was teaching English as a Second Language to students grades 1-9. I was not enjoying it- much. It was exhausting (I had odd hours & lots of travel time) & the pay was pennies.
And then E was born. Due to complications during his delivery, a month spent in the NICU and lots of infant time spent in physical therapy, I did not go back to teaching.
When he turned 1, he started going to a rehabilitative daycare.
We had our first parent-teacher-therapist-support staff meeting. At this meeting, they asked us, "What are your expectations for E?" and we answered, "None." They looked at us like we had suddenly sprouted another head or two. We went on to explain that as parents, we are here to support him in whatever way we can. We are here to celebrate his successes and progress, whatever those may be. We are not interested in "limiting" him by our own expectations - whatever strides he makes, we are here to support and celebrate. Whatever doors he wants to open, that's up to him.
As we were leaving that meeting, his social worker came up to me and said, "You know, you should write a book." I shrugged. OK sure, I bet every parent hears that.
The following year, we had the same meeting with the same support staff but different teacher. The same conversation ensued. The teacher then came up to me and said the same thing - "You know you should write a book." Ok, maybe.
And then parents, numerous family members and friends said to me, "You know, you should write a book."
You know, maybe I should.
I think when everyone was saying this, it seemed like they were thinking I should write a book discussing the world of disability parenting. But I felt like I couldn't for a few reasons. The first being that I felt like who was I to become the authority on disability parenting that I could write a book? I was still learning (contrary to the appearance we evidently gave off). The second reason - I had to respect E's privacy.
This is his life, his story, his successes & struggles. If he wants to tell his story (or not), that's his choice to make, not mine. I could talk about my own personal experiences, but those are inextricably tied to his and putting it all out there for the world to read, that is not fair to him.
(Just want to say here that every family does and share what they think is right for their own family and everyone gets to make their own decisions regarding to what to share with the world and I respect everyone's personal choice - this is mine.)
I decided to think about my own expertise - if I'm not qualified to write a parenting book, what AM I qualified to write?
A children's book.
Part of my work as a literacy specialist was analyzing children's books and learning about what makes quality kidlit. I prided myself on the high-quality books that were in my house. However, none of them depicted a child (or adult) in a wheelchair.
My son had zero representation of himself in any books in my house. That's a problem.
That had to change.
This is how I am going to change the world for E (no biggie, right).
I am going to make the world a more inclusive place for him by putting out kidlit that had disability representation.
Here is what I wanted to write:
I wanted to write a story that when a child was picking out a book to read before bed with their parents, I wanted them to pick my book. That meant it needed to be a familiar, fun, & engaging story.
I did not want it to be an educational text that directly taught about disabilities. I wanted the illustrations to depict children with disabilities, but I wanted the questions and the learning to come directly from the children reading it. By kids asking the questions themselves, they take ownership of their learning and organic discussions are fostered.
This is how I want kids to learn about disabilities - in the comfort of their homes or schools, asking questions that are meaningful to them, in a safe and judgmental-free environment.
Instead of seeing my child in a wheelchair on the street and looking quizzically and pitifully at him, I want them to see him and think, "Oh I know what that is! That's a wheelchair, just like in that book we read!" and then start having an actual conversation with him, instead of ABOUT him, in front of him.
By providing children with a meaningful exposure to disabilities and providing a space for discussions and questions, meeting people with disabilities in real life won't be a "thing."
It will just be.
(Photo credit: Lisa Rich Photography)