According to the 2002 U.S. Census, more than 2.8 million Americans who wheelchair-bound. While awareness of physical disabilities is rising, there still remain plenty of questions and misunderstandings about various physical challenges and disabilities.
Part of that is compounded by the fact that many of us find it a challenge to figure out the best way to approach the topic with curious kids. Never fear, for Jennifer Kuhn is here!
Jennifer is an author, poet, and painter who also has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. She is quite familiar with the curiosity of youngsters, which is why she wrote Were You Born In That Chair? as a way to educate others on disabilities, great and small.
Jennifer lives in northern California and is continuing to enlighten others through her works of both pen and paint.
Please welcome Jennifer to the spotlight!
MCA: Welcome to the spotlight Jennifer! Can you please tell us about what motivated you to create your book?
Jennifer: My main goal is to help kids understand disabilities. I have always had a “bee in my bonnet” with regard to their attitude toward and the treatment of people with disabilities, especially those with physical disabilities and average or above average intelligence.
I did some extensive research, and when I finished, I came to understand that a negative attitude is not the normal state of being, but a learned behavior due to fear, ignorance, and a skewed point of view in a patriarchal world.
In today’s diverse world, I cannot help but contemplate the importance of children’s literature. Kids need to understand and appreciate that life is measured not always by correctness or rightness in terms of how things “are” but how things could or should be. Because kids have such levels of imagination and acceptance, literature has the potential to change perspectives and create new views.
MCA: The Mom’s Choice Awards is well grounded in children’s literature … its where we began. You are so right about the power a book can hold for a child! Now that you have an award-winning book, what are your goals for the oncoming year?
Jennifer: I am actually already on to my next project. My second book is now available.
I have also, via my publisher, had contact with a producer who is showing some interest in turning the book into a film. My biggest wish is to get Were You Born In That Chair? into schools for teachers to use as an educational tool.
MCA: Wow, that’s exciting news. We would love to see that happen! Are there ways that your Mom’s Choice Award® can help you reach that goal?
Jennifer: As I just mentioned, my goal above all others is to get Were You Born In That Chair? into the hands of kids, teachers, and parents. I want to help answer questions and aid in discussions about disabilities. So where the
Mom’s Choice Award® helps is in
2) Giving me the confidence to submit the book to Scholastic Book Fairs for review and hopefully a spot on their shelves.
3) Promotion, promotion, promotion!
Having been awarded the honor allowed me to call myself an award-winning author on my second book titled A Box Full Of Letters. This story is not so much about disabilities, but about the same friends who delve into the past. Being able to include “award-winning author” in print definitely grabs attention.
MCA: Can you share with us what you learned about yourself as a writer in creating your award-winning book?
Jennifer: Hmmm, I know I’m impatient, detail-oriented, pushy, gotta-get-the-job-done kind of person. I learned that some of that doesn’t work … sometimes.
My mother always told me that patience was a virtue. I have found and understand that to be true. Good things – no, great things – take time. My best writing comes when it’s not forced.
I have also grown to understand the importance of networking and just plain sharing. One cannot be afraid to attack something with veracity, without being pushy, of course.
MCA: We love to see our Honorees go out and get what they want! Since launching your book, what has been your most rewarding experience in promoting or sharing it with the public? Do you have a favorite memory?
Jennifer: Being able to sell the book and get it out into the hands of the public is of course very rewarding. My most rewarding experience though has to be speaking to classrooms full of children. Kids are so uninhabited and ask just exactly what they are thinking … and that is exactly what I want to happen.
My favorite memory is the day I went to speak to a fourth grade class with just enough bookmarks to hand out. I ended up speaking to three more classes at that school that day. Luckily I had enough business cards to give to the children as a substitute bookmark. They were all happy with that.
MCA: Jennifer, we are so glad you are able to share your experiences to help educate those through children’s literature. If there’s anything else we can do to help you out, please let us know!
Contact, Connect, and Network with Jennifer
The Alumni Spotlight is a periodic feature on the official Mom’s Choice Awards® blog. It is part of our ongoing effort to “shine the spotlight” on you and your award-winning, family-friendly products, services, and media.