According to the March of Dimes, about 12,000 babies with hearing loss are born in the U.S. each year, making it one of the most common birth defects. Kids can also lose their hearing due to childhood illnesses. Wendy Kupfer's new picture book, Let's Hear It For Almigal (Handfinger Press, April), is the story of a happy little girl who feels unlucky because she can't hear everything she wants to hear. Endearing, lighthearted and informative, the book can be enjoyed by children with and without hearing loss. It comes just in time for Better Hearing and Speech Month in May.
As the mother of a child born with "severe to profound" hearing loss, Kupfer was inspired to write Let's Hear It for Almigal when she became frustrated with the lack of characters wearing hearing aids or cochlear implants in children's books. "I was working with the University of Miami Cochlear Implant Center, visiting with families with deaf or hard-of-hearing babies and toddlers," she says. "I felt so strongly about the need for these children to see hearing aids and implants in the media, both to boost their self-esteem and to educate their friends."
In the book, Almigal feels lucky most of the time. She has lots of friends, and each one is different. But she's unhappy when she can't hear a baby's giggle, or robins chirping, or the music in ballet class. Worst of all, she can't hear Mommy and Daddy say "I love you" when they tuck her into bed. Young readers will identify with Almigal and her friends, who are portrayed in lively, colorful art by award-winning illustrator Tammie Lyon. And they'll rejoice with her when a solution is found for her problem.
Several of the incidents in the book are based on Kupfer's real-life experiences. Her daughter Ali (like Almigal) never wanted to miss anything. She hated to remove her hearing aids at bedtime and, like Almigal, kept them in a special heart-shaped box. Ali really did jump into a swimming pool once without removing her hearing aids, and Kupfer really did "save the day" with a hairdryer.
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By showing Ali's life as a confident little girl, the book provides a terrific resource for teachers, parents, and caregivers, and an entertaining, fun starting point for conversations about people with disabilities.
"Parents need to have expectations for their children, even those with special needs," says Kupfer. "There are lots of bumps along the way, as with all children. But with lots of love and support from family and close friends, you can get through it."
Children's book author and mother Wendy Kupfer, a former financial services executive, has worked closely with Thomas Balkany, MD, Chair of the University of Miami (FL) Department of Otolaryngology, and one of the leading cochlear implant surgeons in the country. She lives in South Florida.
Tammie Lyon has illustrated children's books, posters, magazines, CD's, games, greeting cards and clothing. Her books have won the Retailers Choice Award and been chosen as Bank Street College of Education's Best Books of the Year. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.