REPRESENTATION Deaf Awareness Week


The month of May is dedicated to the celebration of hearing. In the UK we have Deaf Awareness Week, (May 6-12), each year which focuses on making life more deaf-friendly for children and young people. Representation Features Editor, Eva Wong Nava, takes a look at what this week is all about through books that feature deaf children.


As hearing people we get to marvel at the sounds that surround us or cringe at the noises in our environment. Bird song wakes us up in the morning. We can hear the whoosh wind makes. We listen as the leaves susurrate in the breeze. We hear the annoying drrr-drrr-drrr of our neighbour’s renovations. Onomatopoeia, the mimicry of sounds, is used a lot in writing for children. As hearing folks we know bees buzz, water gurgles, corn pops. But what happens if you have a child who is hard of hearing or fully deaf — what sounds and noises do they experience?

I have a friend in Indonesia who has son who is deaf from birth. He listens through feeling the beats around him. As a baby he would put his hand on his mother’s chest just so he can feel her heart beating. He’s not the only one who feels these percussive beats. Somewhere else in the world a little girl did the same. She is Evelyn Glennie who, profoundly deaf by the time she was 12, used her body to listen to beats, and has become a world famous percussionist. Listen: How Evelyn Glennie, A Deaf Girl Changed Percussion by Sharon Stocker and illustrated by Devon Holzwarth (Puffin, 2022) is a heartwarming and courageous story to read to your child during Deaf Awareness Week.


You can listen to Dame Evelyn Glennie’s music here.


Dame Evelyn Glennie’s story reminded me of Helen Keller’s. I was intrigued by Keller’s story as a child and often wondered how life would be if the world was silent. Today we wear noise-cancelling headsets so we can silence the world around us whereas deaf children have to wear hearing aids in order to hear.


Cece Bell’s middle-grade graphic novel El Deafo, (Amulet Books, 2014), chronicles her hearing loss and subsequent experiences of wearing the Phonic Ear, a hearing aid that enables her to hear everything — and sometimes things she didn’t want to hear. It’s a story about empowerment, trying to fit in and harnessing what you have to help you find self-acceptance and love, told graphically and humorously too.


If you’re looking for a series that features a deaf character then Lizzie & Lucky: The Mystery of the Disappearing Rabbit, (Puffin, 2023), will charm you. The illustrations are by Tim Budgen. Written by Megan Rix, who is partially deaf, the book shows young readers what sign language is and how Lizzie signs to communicate, normalising the use of signing for young readers. This is the third book in the series so you might want to start with Lizzie & Lucky: The Mystery of the Missing Puppies. I love how this is a mystery series which will grip all young readers between 5 to 8 years and one that centres on a deaf child protagonist.


I love books that include children who don’t have all their senses and how they navigate the world with one missing sense. We teach our children “the five senses” at home and at school. In our inclusive schools today our children also get to go to school with children who may be deaf and wearing hearing aids or blind and reading with their fingers, tracing the dots that Braille makes. It is only natural to include deaf and blind children in our books.

I am fascinated by these brave young children and I wanted other children who navigate the world with their senses intact to see and hear about children who don’t. Sahara’s Special Senses, (Armour Publishing, 2020), a book I wrote in collaboration with illustrator and founder of ArtsPositive Debasmita Dasgupta, is about a little girl who is blind and she learns to use her other senses to help her cook, becoming a renowned child chef. Our mission in writing this book was to raise awareness of Christine Hà the first blind contestant and winner of MasterChef. Hà was awarded the Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award in 2014 from the American Foundation for the Blind.

As children’s authors, our role is to inspire and motivate young readers to become better versions of themselves. This month, I’ll be celebrating deaf people all around the world and raising awareness of deafness to make everyday life more deaf-friendly for children and young people.

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo;
all other images courtesy of the authors


Eva Wong Nava is a children’s book author who believes that every child needs to be represented in books and media. She uses all her five senses to write stories and is grateful that she is able to do this. Find Eva on X and Instagram @evawongnava and email her at


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact

Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Contact

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