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 Using the Books of
Franz-Joseph Huainigg

Introduction

These activities are suitable for KS2 and they can be adapted depending upon the age group.

Franz-Joseph Huainigg Books Activities, RtW2, Jan18

 

The Books

In OIW’s first ‘Reading the Way’ (RtW) project we explored four books by Franz-Joseph Huainigg from an anthology entitled Gemeinsam sind wir grosse Klasse/Together we’re Fantastic; each story explored a different disability - a wheelchair user, a child with Down syndrome, a deaf child and a blind child.

For ‘RtW2’ the children from St Elizabeth’s Primary School focussed on two titles for their school project - My Wheelchair is my Legs and We Talk with our Hands.


The Author

Dr Franz-Joseph Huainigg was born in Austria and has been disabled since he was an infant. He is a children’s book author and was a Member of the Austrian Parliament from 2002-2017. He has written widely for children as well as a city guide entitled ‘Accessible Vienna’, an autobiography and poetry.

“Since I’m disabled and using a wheelchair myself, especially children tend to be very curious and are often wondering what's wrong with me. They ask what my issue is and why I move the way I do. Often, their parents get very uncomfortable and tell them something like, ‘That's not a question to be asked’. Personally, I think that's the wrong answer because disability keeps being treated as a taboo by these ‘don’t ask and don’t look at him’-reactions. Changing behaviour is a difficult task to do, hence we need to start teaching our children the right way from the earliest age onwards. Therefore, with the help of my books, I’m trying to encourage children to keep asking and, equally, to offer adults a different perspective and a little insight into the lives of people with disability.”

This series of books by Franz-Joseph Huainigg are ideal for getting children to explore different aspects of disability.  Much of the content is based on his own personal experience. 

Although not published in English, OIW commissioned an English translation by Gillian Lathey which is available in pdf format below to use as part of this activity.  Despite the books not being in English there is still plenty to explore through the visual narrative as well as the additional benefit of working with books written in another language.

RtW2 English Translation My Wheelchair is my Legs


RtW2 English Translation We Talk with our Hands

 

 

Activities

By reading the English text and looking at the illustrations children can explore the different themes in both My Wheelchair is my Legs and We Talk with our Hands.

  • Encourage the children to explore what they think about the books – what they like, what works, what doesn’t, and WHY.

  • How do they feel about some of the messages in the books? 
     
  • Discuss the use of language – explore the way the book has been translated.  The term ‘special’ used by Sigi in My Wheelchair is my Legs – what do they think of term?  Is it positive or negative?  Could it mean different things to different people?  What are the connotations?

  • How would they feel if they were Margrit or Sigi?

  • Do they like the artwork and what does it tell them?

  • Could the book(s) be enhanced?

  • Create a new story based on what the children have learnt from these book. 

  • What do they think might happen next?

  • Look at the man who stares at Margrit.  Why does he stare?  What could society do to make this less frequent? (The incident will inform young readers that prejudice towards disabled people may express itself in silent, quasi-passive forms and may be answered in kind).

  • Create a new picture

  • Create a new chapter

  • Talk about what attitudes seem to be like in different countries?  What are special schools like in Germany?

For more information See ‘Reading the Way 2’ Report Case Study 2 and Inclusive Books in Brief from our original RtW research in 2015.

Suggested Books:

The Three Huainigg titles are part of an Anthology.

Gemeinsam sind wir grosse Klasse
Franz-Joseph Huainigg (text), Verena Ballhaus (ills.) Annette Betz (imprint of Ueberreuter) Germany 2014 Language: German

My Wheelchair is my Legs (Meine Füsse sind der Rollstuhl), 2003

Margit is determined to go shopping to the supermarket on her own, but it is the first time she has had to navigate her wheelchair alone through the streets and she encounters some challenges along the way.

We Talk with our Hands
(Wir sprechen mit den Händen), 2005

Lisa is deaf. She has learnt to use sign language, but no one else in her environment signs. This book tells the story of her encounter with Paul, a boy whose parents are deaf and has learned to sign. 

Further Ideas of Books that could be used for this Activity

Together we’re Fantastic
(Gemeinsam sind wir Klasse!), 2007

OIW considered Together we’re Fantastic (featuring a child with Down syndrome) to be a book with plenty of substance and some powerful messages about the importance of inclusion. 

Annette Betz (imprint of Ueberreuter Verlag)  publish a series of picture books in the same series by Huainigg and other authors that include, Asthma, Alzheimer’s Autism, Heart Attack, Parkinson’s and Visual Impairment as well as topics such as adoption, separation of parents, sibling quarrels, and death of a grandparent. 

 

Lola the Wolf (Lola la Loba)
Almudena Taboada (text), Ulises Wensell (ills.)  Ediciones Grupo SM, Spain, 2011
Language: Spanish

Lola lives on a mountain of brown earth and amongst trees that smell of licorice. Lola likes mint candy and tells stories that make the other animals laugh. Lola cannot walk following an accident during a stormy day when a branch fell on her back.

Marian the Tortoise (La Tortuga Marian)
Almudena Taboada (text) Ana López Escrivá (ills.) Ediciones Grupo SM, Spain, 2013
Language: Spanish

Marian the tortoise gets up early, washes her face and gets dressed very slowly. She is always late for school and doesn’t recognise the numbers on the blackboard.  Marian would love to be quicker and also be able to read but she does love to draw. Her classmates help her with her school work and get together to buy her a wonderful birthday present.

Sofia, the Swallow (Sofía la golondrina)
Almudena T
aboada (text) Ana López Escrivá (ills.) Ediciones Grupo SM, Spain, 2006
Language: Spanish

 

Sofia the Swallow has not been able to see since she was born, but she has learned to do lots of things by herself, without help. This is because   her mother and Braileto the owl have taught her how to predict the weather, to sing and, most importantly of all, to orientate herself when flying.

Spanish publisher Ediciones Grupo SM also produce a series of picture books in their ‘Tales to Feel’ collection entitled ‘I’m Not Different’. Other titles in the series include titles about autism, children with obesity and hyperactivity.
 

For these activities we have chosen books used in the RtW projects. Wherever possible we have checked their availability to purchase.  Some titles mentioned are not available through the Amazon link from our website (all the above books are listed under their original title if not in English) and can be purchased directly from the international publisher.

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