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Why Representation Is Essential In Children’s Books

We like talking about big goals.

Dream big is a core theme in Be Your Best Self. Setting your sights high and pursuing something bigger than you allows you to push yourself further than you ever thought possible.

I’ve always had big ambitions for my future. My mind was a playground of possibility, where I explored different ideas and passions and I grew up believing that I could do anything I wanted to do, be anyone I wanted to be. The future was full of hope and opportunity, and I couldn’t wait to make my mark.

But despite this drive and determination I faced a challenge that forced me to reassess my life goals.

My disability.

I have something called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS for short. Thanks to faulty wiring in my nervous system I am in chronic pain all the time.

It started with a burning sensation in my feet when I was eleven years old. It didn’t take long for it to become a permanent companion, burrowing itself into every facet of my life and affecting everything I did. Walking became unbearable and on some days impossible. My existence revolved around hospital appointment after hospital appointment, where medical practitioners hadn’t a clue what was wrong with me for five long years.

And with it came an overwhelming sense of fear and isolation.

It felt like I was stuck in the middle of an epic tug of war. There were these big ambitions wanting to push me forward and these major hang ups that had developed around my self-worth trying to hold me back.

In a world which prizes perfection I was terrified that my aspirations would be pushed out of reach. That other people wouldn’t be able to see past my crutches and wheelchair to the value that lay underneath.

Was my success story over before it had even started?

What made this a million times worse was that people like me weren’t represented in the world around me. Very few high achieving, successful disabled people made it onto the pages of books or were pictured in illustrations. I couldn’t find them in TV, in magazines or other forms of mass media. Instead people with disabilities were embroiled in stories around ethical dilemmas, pitied, or misunderstood.

And these messages have huge implications.

Underrepresentation and misrepresentation of disability have a profound effect on how we value and identify it. These messages – or lack of them – changed the way I saw myself and those big ambitions I held for my future.

I was different, and different is sometimes a very lonely place to be.

When Nathan and I wrote Be Your Best Self, our vision was to create something that helped young people to realise their dreams and reach their fullest potential, even in the face of life’s adversities.

And we wanted it to be representative.

This wasn’t to tick a box or to be seen as doing the right thing, but because becoming the best version of yourself is something that we can all achieve.

It's something that we all deserve to achieve.

Everybody’s dreams are valid. Everybody has the capacity to achieve great things – and we want to help children of all backgrounds and abilities build strong foundations for successful futures.

And it is so important that the illustrations reflect this.

If you can see it you can be it.

We are super proud that our illustrations show a true representation of disability and ethnicity, as well as not conforming to gender stereotypes that are habitually normalised. Nobody is born successful, but it is something we can all learn to achieve with the right support, guidance and skillset.

It is critical that children’s books (as well as other mediums) portray disability as a normal part of life rather than a token or something to be pitied or inspired by. All of our illustrations have been carefully designed to highlight the points we write about - and some of the characters just happen to have a disability.

The human race offers the most amazing spectrum of personalities, talents, strengths, and abilities. These are the things that make us who we are and it is essential that all children feel included, accepted and able to resonate with important messages. We want to provide creative role models that all people can identify with as well as shaping perceptions of others.


Be Your Best Self is coming soon!

Written by Danielle Brown MBE and Nathan Kai, this exciting new book for children is a recipe for success, happiness and esteem. It’s a comprehensive framework that encourages children to raise their aspirations and turn exciting dreams into a reality. It’s a thought provoking career tool, a vital people skills asset, a modern day confidence builder, an engaging life-hack, and it empowers children to make the most of – and create– opportunities to lead bright and successful futures. Opportunities that EVERY parent would want for their child.

Positive and practical, Be Your Best Self empowers children to be happy, be confident and become the best versions of themselves.

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