I struggle to remember what I knew about Down syndrome before my daughter Frankie was born. I know it wasn’t much and I know it was centered around words like “failure” and “slowness” and “exclusion.” The last three years have been such a crash course and as I look back I wonder why I had made such assumptions.
These are words that are deeply rooted in antiquated notions and yet they persist. They are unfair and hurtful. And they are simply not true.
As Frankie grows I am constantly amazed by her abilities and her capacity for learning. As she proves those stereotypes wrong over and over again, the war against these perceptions becomes even more important and more urgent. Luckily, every once in a while we are given a really unique opportunity to prove our point perfectly.
Being included in Rad Girl Revolution – a book of strong, young girls photographed as professionals in fields that are typically male dominated – sends a message that ALL girls can be successful in their chosen job. In the book you will see Frankie pictured as an artist, which is totally achievable, as disability does not preclude talent.
You will see her among her peers, disproving the idea that girls with Down syndrome do not have the same aspirations typical kids do and cannot work hard to achieve their dreams.
You will see her appear as a functioning member of a society, dispelling the myth that people with Down syndrome are a burden to their communities and that they cannot “give back.”
You will be challenged to look beyond her disability to see her as successful, inspiring and included. At first glance, she may stand out among the other girls in Rad Girl Revolution because you may make assumptions about her abilities based on her diagnosis, but I can attest, she is more alike than different. She may have Down syndrome, but she has ceilings to shatter, too.
I am proud to share with you the press release from the creator of the book:
Three-year old Frankie, who has Down syndrome, modeled as an artist for Rad Girl Revolution, an upcoming children’s book that empowers young girls. Created by two New York City moms, “Rad Girl Revolution” fills a gap in the girl empowerment book market. “Although there are many inspiring children’s books about women trailblazers in history, we wanted a book that allows girls to picture themselves becoming the inspiring women of the future!” said Sharita Manickam, author of “Rad Girl Revolution”.
Frankie’s mother, Farah Lyner said, “When you have a typically developing child, you have hopes and dreams for them and start off from a place where anything is possible. When you have a child with a disability, you are often told of all of things your child will never do from the very beginning, instead of what she can do.
I found it was up to me as her parent to find out what was possible for her. I am constantly learning and almost every day I come across a profession, or a potential future for her that makes me think “Yes” or “maybe”. This project gives us a platform to show a child with a disability in a viable profession and will hopefully challenge the preconceptions of its readers and make them say “Why not?’’
RAD stands for Rise Above Doubt and Reach Any Dream. The book will feature 30 inspiring storybook-style photos of real little girls in fields typically under-represented by women, along with a rhyming verse describing each career. Other occupations in the book include Scientist, Judge, Astronaut, Doctor, Pilot, Journalist, Director, Chef, Author, CEO, Engineer, and President.
“We felt it was important to use photographs for our project. We are showing young girls career opportunities they may not otherwise know exist, and we believe photos of real girls help further drive home the reality. We don’t want our message getting muddled in the fantasy of typical picture book illustrations,” explained Jen Bruno, photo-illustrator for “Rad Girl Revolution”. “We made it a point to cast diverse models because we want every little girl who picks up our book to see themselves represented in the pages.”
“We are encouraged by the increased momentum toward gender equality, and feel that putting these images and rhymes in front of today’s youth can help better level the playing field from the start,” stated Manickam.
The book will be published in November and can be pre-ordered now at http://www.radgirlrevolution.com