Author's books feature characters with disabilities

May 8, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Like most mothers, Sarah Yates wanted her daughter to be able to read stories that include characters like her with physical disabilities. Using her skills and knowledge, Yates penned her first children book 20 years ago and continues as her daughter gets older.

"I started the first one when she was very little and she started going to school and the kids would say, 'Why can't you be still?' because she would have a hand that would go 'Whoop' and hit somebody so I wrote a book called 'Can't You Be Still' because she can't," the Canadian author Yates said.

Yates' daughter Gemma was born with cerebral palsy.

"They told us she was quadriplegia so couldn't move her arms or her legs. She has wild arms," Yates said. "As things went on we realized she could use this foot so we taught her to use her foot, she draws with her foot. She uses her computer with her foot."

Yates travels the country promoting her books with a puppet show.

"My puppet show came from the children's book because when my daughter couldn't use her hands she would have bears and how could she hold a bear? So I sewed elastic on the back and put it on her hand or on her knee so she could move it and tell her own stories to herself," Yates said.

She came to Pathways in Glenview, Ill., with her new book "Lucky Lou Gets Games" -- this one is written for older children and like all her other characters, the main one has a disability.

"It's about a girl who wants to be who she is, and she and her family move into a new neighborhood," Yates said. "She has a cousin who takes her to a baseball game and he's always wanted to be baseball player. He wants to teach her how to play baseball but in the neighborhood they don't want the disabled people."

Watching Yates' puppet show are children with and without disabilities. Patty O'Machel is a fan of Yates' book. Her 6-year-old daughter Shea has a physical disability.

"Shea loves them because there's a little girl in a walker She gets in a pool, her wheels get stuck in the grass and that's something my daughter experiences all the time, so it's wonderful that they can associate with a character but it's also good to have character's who are hero's who are strong women and girls who can do anything," O'Machel said.

"When my daughter was born, I would read to her and all the heroines in the stories ran and jumped and shouted and she couldn't. And I thought she's got to a have literary role model, so I wrote her stories and told her stories where she could be the heroine," Yates said.

Yates' daughter Gemma is now 22-years-old and a student at a University in Canada.

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