Submitted by Karen Moyes Stallings
A unique program at one Burlington, VT school is allowing kids to engage firsthand with adults who have disabilities and talk candidly about how differences can affect a person’s life, all through reading.
The effort, known as Reading for Inclusion, is modeled after the national Reading to End Racism program, which brings individuals from different cultural backgrounds into classrooms to read books and discuss racial prejudice.
For the inclusion program, guest readers with special needs ranging from autism to cerebral palsy and spinal cord injury visited Champlain Elementary School to read to students and discuss what it’s like to have a disability. During the events, students were free to ask questions like, “why are you in a wheelchair?”
The idea behind the program, organizers say, is to help youngsters understand that just because a peer may have differences doesn’t mean that they don't deserve lindness. It was developed after school officials heard stories from parents who said that their kids with disabilities were often left out when it came time for birthday parties or even recess.
After interacting with 10 guest readers, the message of inclusion appears to be sinking in. “Just because somebody has a disability doesn’t mean they can’t play with you,” one 11-year-old student told the Burlington Free Press.