A young readers novel that shows deaf and hard of hearing kids are multi-dimensional.

If you are looking for a holiday gift for your reading age child about 6-11, consider the American Girl doll book, for Joss Kendrick.

Joss is the 2020 the American Girl doll of the year who wears a hearing aid. From the story it appears she has no hearing levels in one ear, but uses a hearing aid in the other ear where she has access to some hearing levels. The American Girl doll package comes with a full story of the girl. At first I didn’t think much about there being a book with the doll. But having gone through it with my 7 year old this year, I have to say, this is a great story for deaf/hard of hearing (DHH) kids who navigate a mainstream environment. 

One struggle I have with a lot of books about DHH children, is that it often talks about a diagnosis or adjusting to life with hearing devices. These stories are great, but the story centers around hearing loss, and often not the multi-dimensional child.

Joss is different. The story centers around Joss. A 10 year old pre-teen who loves to surf. She feels she’s more of a surfer than a cheerleader but is pushed to try out for the cheer team. The story focuses on her love for surfing, her emotions growing up with siblings, peer pressure, and hearing loss. Hearing aids are integrated into the story nicely.

For example – when Joss tries out for cheer, there are examples of self-advocacy as she hands her microphone, which allows sound to go directly to her hearing aid, to the coach. There’s mentions of how she positions herself in a room to have better access to what’s going on. There are friends who help her learn her dance routine and counts to the beat, not taking away from the storyline of “she’s not sure if she even wants to be a cheerleader”. There are discussions of people asking “what’s that in your ear”. There’s also integration of Joss’ use of ASL, mostly with her family although it appears her friends know some words too.

When I was reading this book with my 7 year old, I loved these mentions in a way that don’t take away from the storyline of a girl who loves to surf and yet is growing up and discovering new things. I felt it was great for my daughter as she’s started gymnastics and is meeting people and handing her microphone over and explaining what’s in her ear, all the while all she really cares about is getting her first pullover on single bar. She loves the single and uneven bars. It was nice to read a story that had representation of her hearing loss, without making everything about her hearing loss.

Lastly, with some of the intricate mentions around deafness in this book, I looked up the children’s author Erin Falligant. While she’s not deaf herself, I was happy to read that in writing this book, she had an advisory board that included a professional female deaf surfer, educational audiologist, and deaf advisor Sharon Pajka, Ph.D from Gallaudet University who talked about looking at the world from a visual standpoint. 

If you aren’t looking to invest in a doll but rather a book, it’s available on Amazon.

Please note that all Amazon links are affiliate links.

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