Friday, March 12, 2010

Deaf Characters in Children's Literature-Kami and the Yaks

My amazing friend Jenny, who has had quite an amazing journey herself and inspires me everyday, gave Christian Kami and the Yaks by Andrea Stenn a couple of years ago. Before Jenny became a Mommy of 2 adorable girls, she was my beach house mate/Dewey Beach Buddy/ and oh, award winning elementary school teacher. She found this book, and for so many reasons, it is one of MY favorite children's books.

Kami is a deaf Sherpa boy, who braves a snow storm to search for his family's yaks. When Kami finds the Yaks herded around a baby calf whose leg is wedged between rocks, he whistles for help. His whistles go unanswered, he slides down the mountain covered in ice to get his father and brother. Through signs, he tells his father and brother, and the family rescues the calf. It is a wonderful story full of inspiration. While Kami's deafness is an important part of the story, Andrea Stenn focuses the tone of the story on Kami's strengths.

The watercolor illustrations are beautiful and powerful. The story is on the longer side for young preschoolers, but holds Christian's attention (age 3) well. It's opened up many concepts for us. One part of the story describes how Kami can't hear his whistle but feels it buzzing. Christian asked "Why can't he hear it if he has a CI like me". It was a challenge, but it was the first time I explained to Christian that not all deaf friends wear CIs or hearing aids. After a couple of readings, I think he "got it". I think the story also teaches empathy, and we even looked on a map to find out where Kami lived. I highly recommend this's concepts are a bit advanced for children under 3, but they still would enjoy the illustrations.

1 comment:

leah said...

Thanks for the recommendation! I'll pick it up- Matt will enjoy it now, and Nolan will in a year or two (we paraphrase books that are a bit too complicated or long for Nolan, but he'll be three in August and should be able to handle slightly longer stories by then).