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We Can Do It

An Interview with Author Laura Dwight

Read book review of We Can Do It!Laura Dwight has been photographing children for over 15 years. Children with special needs are often included or fetured in her projects and books.

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Interview by Allison Martin

What inspired you to create "We Can Do It"? 

Laura Dwight: Some years ago, I started taking infant and child development pictures for psychology textbooks. I was struck by how unflattering and unrepresentative the shots of children with Down Syndrome (DS) were that were in textbooks already. I began following the development of several infants with Down syndrome and submitting those pictures to my agency and to textbooks. Concurrently, I had the opportunity to shoot several board books for babies, and was able to include several children with DS. I realized as I met and photographed children with disabilities (primarily through an early intervention preschool) that children with disabilities are children first and children with disabilities somewhere farther down the line. Unfortunately, the world sees the disability first, and often never gets around to seeing the child or person.

After the initial commitment from the publisher was withdrawn, I continued to photograph the book over the next three years. While shooting the board book series Where's the Puppy?, Where's the Kitten, Where's the Baby, and What Happens Next? I approached the publisher with a sample of the completed book, which a designer friend and I had put together. The book came out at the same time as the board book series, in 1992. We Can Do It sold out of its first printing, and then languished as the publisher went out of business but refused to return the rights to me. Finally, two years ago, Star Bright Books picked up the rights from the publisher and We Can Do It returned to print, along with a Spanish version, Nosotros si podemos hacerlo!

Who do you think would find "We Can Do It" useful?

Laura Dwight: I think We Can Do It should be in every elementary school library, every preschool library, and every public library, because I think there is a real need to expose children to people with disabilities as a natural part of life right from the start. Accepting and understanding differences is easier if your curiosity has been satisfied. Children are interested in other children with disabilities, and they need good information about them.

Could you share with us some of your current projects?

Laura Dwight: Presently I am at work on three books: Brothers and Sisters, a photographic portrait of 6 families in which one or more of the siblings has a disability. The age range is similar to We Can Do It, ages 3-8.  The second book is called Be Quiet, Marina!. The author is Kirsten DeBear. The book profiles the friendship between two preschoolers who initially have difficulty with each other because one is quiet and shy and the other is exhuberent and boisterous. One child has cerebral palsy and the other Down syndrome, but the focus is on their friendship. The third project is manual alphabet board books in English and Spanish. The working tittle is An Alphabet of Handsigns. The publisher of all of these books is Star Bright Books, a publisher that has a strong commitment to books that show children with special needs.

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