World Down Syndrome Day was marked on the 21st March. This date was chosen because (21/3) represents the 3 copies of chromosome 21 which is unique to people with Down Syndrome. Along with Harmony Day and World Poetry Day, on this date there are too many worthwhile events for a school to deal with all on one day. Although we did not do anything specific at school to commemorate it there are many good books worth reading to children that will raise their awareness of Down Syndrome and the value of inclusion of children with Down Syndrome to a school community.
My favourite picture book is When Smudge Came, a picture book by Canadian author Nan Gregory and illustrated by Ron Lightburn. This is the story of Cindy, who finds a puppy and desperately wants to keep it. The fact that Cindy has Down Syndrome is revealed through the pictures and not explicitly stated in the text. The story is told from her viewpoint, something else that is not common, and it is her voice we hear, clipped, direct and focussed on one thing, keeping the puppy. Usually stories about disability are told from the viewpoint of a sibling or friend. As the reader your empathy is focussed too, right on Cindy and her needs and abilities.
Other books in my library are the three little chapter books in the Jets series, which are about Jessy, a girl with Down Syndrome and her family which are written by Rachel Anderson who is an English author who has written many books featuring characters with special needs. The three are:
• Jessy Runs Away
• Jessy and the Bridesmaid's Dress and
• Best Friends
Another series of short novels which feature a family with a Down Syndrome child, Bobby, is the Bobby and Charlton stories by English author, Sophie Smiley. There are six stories about this football (soccer) mad family whose mum hands out yellow cards and an added bonus is that they are all illustrated by Michael Foreman. Number 2 Man of the Match is a particularly good introduction for child readers who need to see that children with Down Syndrome have similar needs and desires as them.