Ian is a beautifully animated short film, directed by Abel Goldfarb, it has been created to promote inclusion; reduce bullying and help children understand disability. Based on a true story, this a great video to play in the classroom to discuss differences and the values of kindness and empathy.
Ian is desperate to enjoy the local playground, but his physical difficulties are made worse by other barriers: the other children don’t understand why he seems different, and keep away from him; some of them laugh at him or are simply too busy to stop and play.
World Book Day- and teaching the value of kindness
It’s that time of year again when we encourage children to share their love of reading in the classroom by dressing up as their favourite book character. I was thrilled to receive a photograph of Archie, dressed as Max with his copy of edition two in hand to share with his classmates. It is great to see that the story is continuing to be shared in schools across the UK and wider afield.
The core messaging of edition two focuses on the theme of ‘Kindness’ a value that cannot be ignored in the importance of raising children to be accepting of differences and being inclusive of one another.
I was thrilled to see a recent short film entitled ‘Ian’ find its voice at the Cannes Film Festival. Ian went on to win an award for Best Animation and Best Short film.
Inspired by a real life boy named Ian, it poignantly tells the story of a disabled child bullied in the playground who finds his place and shows how children with disabilities can and should be included. A powerful message to help teach kindness.
This year I will be developing a resource to expand the messaging of teaching kindness, there is so much documented about mental health and in particular the impact bullying can have on children in their formative years. There has been criticism of a deficit based approach to mental wellbeing and the need for a positive learning approach to be fostered in schools.
“Schools all around the country regularly run ‘anti-bullying’ initiatives we would call this a deficit based approach because the focus is on the deficit i.e. The outcome of negative relationships with everyone. What if it wasn’t just for a week, what if building positive relationships and understanding and leveraging diversity was just part of what they learnt at school” (MyHappymind)
With this in mind, and with the right resources, schools across the country can help teach kindness and inclusion across the board. Strong and Mighty Max Edition Two, seeks to help facilitate classroom learning. This is not purely focused on children with disabilities but much wider in terms of practical ways to show kindness and be kind in the playground.
I am excited to be partnering with primary schools within the Diocese of Coventry and Warwickshire to implement ideas for learning and teaching kindness in the classroom. I will be presenting the book to over seventy headteachers at a briefing in May. My hope is that by 13 November 2019 (world kindness day) over 50 primary schools within the diocese will have a copy of the book Strong and Mighty Max, edition two in their school library and will have engaged in learning activities around the value of kindness and inclusion.
The theme of engagement for schools will be #choosekindnot just for a day but as a life choice. Children will be exploring the value of #choosekind in the playground; classroom; and within the context of their peers, family and wider community. The aim is to help teach children to be better citizens, to think of others and be empathetic to their peers and hopefully in the end to aspire to kindness as a life choice and not just for one day in the school calendar.
A World Kindness day education resource will be available to download from the learn section of this website for the start of the Autumn term 2019. Watch this space for further updates.
Register Interest in World Kindness Day Resource below:
Strong and Mighty Max Edition Two- BBC Coventry & Warwickshire
BBC Coventry & Warwickshire produced a short video for their Facebook page to explain Strong and Mighty Max, edition two in just over 60 Seconds. To watch the video, click here.
Books like this will change the world
As a person with dwarfism myself, I have long since believed that one of the best ways to change the world-to make it a better place-is to provide young children with a positive introduction to dwarfism, disability, and difference, to help them understand that we are all just different threads in the rich fabric of humanity. This book does exactly that. I wish there were more like it. I have a copy on my shelf-along with all my other books about dwarfism and difference-ready for my own children to read, one day.
Eugene- 17 October 2018
BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire
Kristina Gray is interviewed on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire about Edition Two of Strong and Mighty Max
Positive message of acceptance. Bravo!
My Baby girl was born with a form of dwarfism and it became apparent very quickly that there weren’t many books or toys out there that embraced her special differences. I heard about Strong and Mighty Max and I was so excited to order a copy. It is brilliant. Full of beautiful lessons about life, written in a fun and uplifting way. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Cruzanne – 5 October 2018
October is Dwarfism Awareness Month
Many Charities have a time of the year in which they specifically promote and educate the public about a specific cause, campaign or issue to help raise positive awareness about their given concern. For families whose lives are impacted by the medical condition of dwarfism, October is the month. The Restricted Growth Association (RGA, UK Charity) and its members use this opportunity to post on social media facts about dwarfism related conditions. For example, achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, impacts approximately 1 in 25,000 babies in the UK who will be born with this condition every year. The majority of children born with the condition have no previous family history, in fact 80% of children are born to average height parents. (Some Facts About Achondroplasia )
There are many misconceptions about dwarfism, often because of the portrayal of the condition in the media. This year has been a great opportunity to educate the public with positive representations of dwarfism, and it has been a privilege to be engaged with television documentaries, regional television and radio debates.
Edition Two of Strong and Mighty Max was released at the end of July 2018 and is now available to order online. It is great also to have an ebook edition released which makes the story so much more accessible around the world. No sooner had the book been released and BBC4 aired a critically acclaimed documentary described as ‘brilliant’ by The Independent and ‘best TV’ by The Guardian. Factual Programmes such as this do a lot to challenge historical representations of people with dwarfism. My son and I were both interviewed for the programme and it gave us the opportunity to give a contemporary face to the human story.
BBC Coventry and Warwickshire produced a short video in September which showcased Strong and Mighty Max Edition Two. This has been my contribution to Dwarfism Awareness Month as this new edition seeks to educate people about differences and the importance of kindness. It also challenges people to see beyond stereotypes and has a dedicated learning section for schools which highlights positive role models. The learn section of my website compliments the learning experience that can be gained from the book and it is my hope that schools will use it as a go to place to look at the issue of disabilities and differences
Paralympic swimmer, Ellie Simmonds, is one of the role models who features in the back of edition two. It is great to know that she too is enjoying the story. It is always wonderful to receive positive feedback from children and families who are enjoying Strong and Mighty Max. Just knowing that this book is a useful tool to help explain to their peers, family members and local schools is the best positive awareness raising that I could have hoped for. Education is key to understanding differences. If children learn from a young age that people with dwarfism are just the same as them, apart from the fact that their bones grow more slowly, hopefully they will be future advocates to challenge prejudice when they see it.
It was great to be given the opportunity to share this on BBC Radio Coventry and Warwickshire. The interview below is from the Vic Minett Show which broadcast on 17/09/18
There has been a lot of positive media in the run up to dwarfism awareness month, there has also been some controversial debates that caused a national press frenzy in the UK around the topic of ‘dwarf wrestling’. American performers due to debut shows across the UK were challenged by national charity RGA and its membership who campaigned against venues showcasing what had been advertised as ‘family shows…not seen since the Victorian era’. The language used to promote the wrestling was derogatory towards people with the condition describing them as ‘midgets’ and referring to the performance as a ‘side show’ with ‘dwarf tossing’ as part of the performance. As a result of the RGA’s successful campaigning, venues in Leicester and Dorset issued statements to say they would no longer be hosting these events. Venues is Wales and Liverpool are still scheduled to go ahead in October (the irony of dwarfism awareness month) This of course caused a back lash against the charity who were deemed to be ‘offended’ and in opposition to the wrestlers rights to earn a living in whatever way they choose. This will always be a moral debate, the actions of a few versus the well-being of the many. ITV and BBC both gave prime time television debate to this discussion, I would argue Piers Morgan gave voice to the wrestlers and the status quo whereas the BBC and the Victoria Derbyshire show presented a more balanced piece. However in all of this debate there are very important opportunities for educating the general public, who perhaps would not understand the issue with such shows in the first place.
Erin Pritchard, a lecturer in disability and education at Liverpool Hope University, wrote a piece for the Independent @indyvoices. Her voice in the debate was powerful for two reasons. 1) She has restricted growth herself and 2) She works in the city that still plans to host an event in October.
“As a person with dwarfism, I feel safer now that ‘midget wrestling’ events have been cancelled”. To read her arguments in full click here.
My contribution to the debate featured on BBC Radio Wales and the Dot Davies show. To listen to the interview, click on the link below.
In Summary, to conclude this piece around dwarfism awareness month, perhaps if you read only the final few bullet points you will have been educated and learnt something new and perhaps by being informed you can make the world a kinder place.
-The term midget- is a highly offensive term in the dwarfism community. It has similar connotations to the ‘n’ word as felt by another minority group. The term has connotations associated with historical ‘freak shows’.
-What you see on the TV and read in books is not always true to life. People with dwarfism are real people and are not mythical beings. They are teachers, doctors, engineers, shop assistants, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, neighbours….the list can go on. They are first and foremost people who deserve to be treated with equal respect as anyone.
-Just because you see an individual with dwarfism willing to entertain you and demean themselves for financial gain this does not mean they represent the majority of people with dwarfism. The voices for the dwarfism community are the charities that have been established for decades and have been advocating for positive representation and equality for this minority group. Both the Restricted Growth Association, and the Little People of America both have spoken up against ‘midget wrestling’ events.
-Kindness matters, to quote one of my favourite authors ‘When given the choice between right or being kind, choose kind.’ R.J.Palacio
-If you haven’t read the book ‘Wonder’ or seen the movie, please do. I guarantee it will make you a better citizen to engage with issues of difference and disability.
Strong and Mighty Maxwill feature as part of the BBC4 documentary exploring the history of people with dwarfism through the arts.
In this visually evocative film, Richard Butchins will explore a hidden chapter in the history of art, revealing how the depiction of people with dwarfism in painting, sculpture and photography speaks volumes about society’s shifting attitudes towards disability.
This short film focuses on art, but it will say much about the social history of people with disability and how they were viewed, and it will bring important new voices into the debate, featuring the untold historical memoirs of court dwarfs, the rarely heard voices of artists with dwarfism and the fresh perspectives of academics today. Source: What Larks TV
This is a great video which helps to educate people about dwarfism. It challenges the myths and encourages an understanding that people born with dwarfism have the same jobs, daily routines, passions for sport and family life aspirations as everyone else.
I remember meeting Nichola who features in this video when my son was just four months old. I was always impressed by her positive outlook on life. Seeing her as a professional woman and mother who just happened to be born with achondroplasia like my son gave me such encouragement that my baby would one day be able to achieve whatever he put his heart and mind to.
Competitive sport has become part of my seven year old’s life because of the work of the Dwarf Sports Association (DSA) which has given him opportunities to compete against his peers. The reality for Samuel amongst his peers at school is that he will always be disadvantaged in a running race or sporting competition as his legs are shorter. However at the DSA annual games event in Birmingham, UK, he can do athletics and team sports and have a good chance of winning.
Samuel returned from the DSA this year with a medal for every event he competed in, this was such a boost and encouragement for him. Ellie Simmonds (GB Paralympic swimmer), and Patron of the DSA even presented him with one of his medals.
(Samuel’s medals- Gold: 20 metres running, Silver: 10 metres running, Silver: new age curling, Silver: cycling, Gold: football, Gold: hockey)
Celebrity endorsements for edition two of Strong and Mighty Max
Sporting celebrities Ellie Simmonds and Jahmani Swanson have both agreed to endorse edition two of Strong and Mighty Max.
Ellie is a British Paralympian Swimmer who was born with achondroplasia like Max. She has become famous around the world for her Paralympic success, competing in S6 swimming events. She made her debut on the world stage at the age of 13, when she competed for Great Britain in the 2008 summer Paralympics in Beijing, winning two Gold medals. Her success continued in 2012 at the London Paralympics when she won another two Golds, including setting a World Record in the 400m freestyle. The most recent Paralympics held in Rio in 2016 Ellie went on to win another Gold, this time setting a world record for the 200m medley.
Ellie continues to be a great role model for young people, and plays a vital role as patron of the Dwarf Sports Association (DSA) where she spurs young people on to achieve their dreams in competitive sport.
Jahmani Swanson, otherwise known as Mani Love, became famous for his skills and talent on the basketball court. In 2017 he signed with the Harlem Globetrotters. Born with dwarfism, like Max, he is 4-foot-5 inches tall and is arguably the shortest professional basketball player in the world.
Both Ellie and Jahmani feature as positive role models in the learning activities at the back of the book, and you can learn more about their success by watching the videos which feature in the learn section of this site.
Edition Two of Strong and Mighty Max will be available later this year from online retailers: Waterstones.com and Amazon.com. The book will also be available as an e-book which can be downloaded from amazon. To register your interest in the second edition of this children’s story, click here.