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Jaya's Magic Wheelchair, a new children's book by Charlottetown author Marlene Bryenton, is inspired by her granddaughter Jaya who attends Hazelgrove Elementary. The book teaches about empathy and inclusion for other students with disabilities. (Illustration by Leanne Bowlan)
From Prince Edward Island to Hazelgrove Elementary, there’s
an amazing connection that’s coming to life in a new book being gifted to Surrey
Marlene Bryenton of Charlottetown, P.E.I. has penned a
children’s storybook titled Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair, inspired by her
11-year-old granddaughter Jaya Garner, who attends Hazelgrove Elementary. The
book is about empathy and inclusion, as well as awareness of people with
disabilities and the benefits of physiotherapy.
“Jaya has a genetic disorder and she’s unable to speak,”
said Bryenton. “She is able to walk with assistance, and she’s getting better
and better at that all the time. I’ve observed a lot of the things that she’s
actually able to do, which really quite surprised me.”
The book features Jaya, her younger sister Brynn, her nanny
Lorena, and Sparkle, her talking wheelchair that acts as Jaya’s voice.
“Sparkle helps Jaya explore the world by taking her to all
these places,” said Bryenton. “To the library, to her baseball, to the
waterpark, to riding therapy horses and so on.”
Throughout the story, the book teaches children to be aware
of disabled parking spots, elevators and wheelchair ramps, designed for people
with physical disabilities. Bryenton said she hopes this awareness will
increase children’s understanding for other students who are different and
promote getting children with disabilities involved in activities.
Thanks to sponsorship from the B.C. Physiotherapy
Association, 100 copies of Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair will be distributed
to Hazelgrove Elementary students. Bryenton is also working with the Jays Care
Foundation, affiliated with the Toronto Blue Jays, and hopes to have enough
copies to distribute to every child in Kindergarten and Grade 2 at Hazelgrove -- approximately 160 students. She is also looking for an additional group to
sponsor supplying more copies to Jaya’s school.
“Jaya is a tremendous student and an inspiration to her
Hazelgrove classmates,” said Hazelgrove Elementary Principal Paul Marsden. “We
are excited to share her story through this book as a way to teach students
about the importance of empathy and understanding for others.”
Bryenton said by giving students their own copy of the book,
she hopes it will be read over and over and spark family conversations about
people with disabilities.
“There’s an opportunity for dialogue between parents and
children, and the child will be able to ask questions about children in
wheelchairs and better understand what the story is about,” she said. “They’ll
understand that students in wheelchairs are still able to do lots of things,
just like Jaya.”
Copies of Jaya’s Magic Wheelchair will be available
for purchase online soon at marlenebryenton.com