What inspired you to write ThoughtFull and this sweet story about Ahanu and Joshua?
ThoughtFull is inspired by Native American friends and my nephew, Josiah, who has Down syndrome. I believe every human has unique God-given gifts although some are more easily recognized than others. I wanted to explore a story where Ahanu, a differently-abled child, leads and is learned from. And because children don’t always know how to respond when they see bullying, I felt it was important to show how Joshua learns to champion Ahanu, and the importance of being full of kind thoughts toward others. Their friendship is precious and shows the power of being proximate to others who are different than us.
Why is it so important that young children understand the need to be thoughtful, particularly to those with special needs (or those who are “differently-abled”)?
Children are naturally curious about obvious differences, and some special needs are not easily recognized. They need tools that teach them how to interact and handle differences so that bias about normalcy is not reinforced. Our schools, churches, and communities should be safe and inviting places for those who are differently-abled, because we recognize our equal value to God. He is full of precious thoughts about each of us (Psalm 139:17), and that should affect how we view and treat others.
How can parents use this book to spark conversations with their kids about friendship, disabilities, and the value we each have as God’s children?
The Parent Connection is a useful starting point for open-ended questions to further conversation. Adults should teach kids polite and engaging ways to interact when they are proximate to people with disability. While avoiding rhetoric that pities, seek to uplift children in your school, church, play groups that have disabilities; or see the need to widen your family circle to share community with precious ones and their families that are often avoided.
What has been the response to the book and message of your first book, ColorFull? How do you hope it continues to make an impact?
I continue to meet children and hear stories of how brown kids especially are excited to see characters that look like them! I’ve signed many books for baby shower gifts and for “future grandbabies.” This energizes me that God will use ColorFull to sow seeds in the hearts of our littlest ones! There is a sense of relief that being colorblind can be replaced by a ColorFull celebration of our racial beauty.
What do you hope parents and their kids take from this story?
I hope special needs children know they are seen and they matter! ThoughtFull reminds us that God saw each person before birth, and He made no mistakes. I hope children see that learning about disability helps them be an inclusive friend. And I pray that they will grow in being full of kind thoughts, because that benefits us all.