Review: “Hailey’s Dream” by Jennifer Kuhns

I love using children’s books in therapy!  Nothing else allows me to work on articulation, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and so many more speech/language goals all at once.  I am particularly drawn to stories that lead to thoughtful discussion.  “Hailey’s Dream” by Jennifer Kuhns, illustrated by Patty Burgi Sneed, generated quite a bit of discussion recently among my elementary students because it is a “grass is always greener” story with a twist.  The story starts, “Hailey Burke was a little girl in a wheelchair.”  Her friends thought she was lucky because she got to ride everywhere.  Hailey, on the other hand, envied her friends’ ability to run and jump and climb. She became so sad that she vowed to go to sleep and never get up again.  In a dream sequence, Hailey is transformed into a mermaid and meets a girl, boy, and dog who also have fish tails instead of legs.  They introduce her to the wonders of living under the sea.  While Hailey enjoys her new-found mobility, she quickly becomes bored with the limited range of activities that are possible in that world.  She longs to return her former life of family, friends, school, hobbies, chores, and shopping….even if returning to that life means returning to her wheelchair.  She realizes that “it is more important to be me in a wheelchair than me in a fish tail.”  When Hailey wakes up, she realizes that being unable to walk does not prevent her from having a rich, full life.

Like Hailey, Jennifer Kuhns, is in a wheelchair and she, too, has a rich, full life as an author, painter, and poet.  My students were very impressed with this fact, as they realized that the story of “Hailey’s Dream” reflected feelings that Jennifer probably had when she was growing up.  This led to discussions of how we self-identify our strengths and weaknesses (although others who know us may have a different view),  what are our priorities in life, and insight into disabled vs. differently abled.  I would recommend this book to SLPs, teachers, parents, and youth group leaders for reading and discussing with elementary school children.  For more information about “Hailey’s Dream” and other books by Jennifer Kuhns, please visit www.jenniferkuhns.net.

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