Why Are You Afraid To Hold My Hand?
Sheila Dhir
Sheila Dhir
age group: 
5+ yrs
Number of pages: 
value education differently abled
picture book, non-fiction

A starkly simple cover that takes nothing away from the question being raised; the one who is asking the question is boldly illustrated.

The layout of each page has a shout at the top that is all too familiar; the illustrations are direct, each page echoing the heart of physically disabled children stating honestly what they feel.
There is a pleading and this is interspersed with the asking to be accepted to be accepted with all their inabilities as they are.

Why do most children reject challenged kids as friends?

The author has used the right word in the title, yes they are afraid!!!
Till they are about seven years old the natural focus of the child is their own body and anything that anything that seems ‘not normal’ almost scares them. They really do not know how to handle it.
They do not have a natural sense on what to say or do. It is here that parents play a role in bringing awareness about the world around us and the challenges that the human body can face.
It is crucial that children know that those with challenges have a normal heart and do have the same feelings as anyone else their age. They have the same needs of friendship, affiliation and company.
They need to be accepted as they are and be included by normal kids in all their interactions, even if they have to use props to move along. After all do we not use glasses when the muscles of the eye are not in great shape? Is anyone lesser for it? Children who are differently- abled have the same minds as anyone else that age. Their emotions are the same as anyone else their age.

Acceptance is a learnt process since looking at challenges in another child could trigger anxieties connected to their own selves. Parents need to be authentic in being role models and encouraging their kids to befriend them. So may I ask parents ‘why are you afraid to open that differently abled world to your child and hold his/her hand as they walk into it, even if with some trepidation’? It is your genuine open communication that will help the child build his/her confidence in a situation that demands it. Attitudes then take shape with a genuine understanding and sense of giving.

The appropriate thing to do would be to accept the normal child’s feelings when they encounter a situation like the ones stated in the book. Then the parent needs to raise the idea that all challenged children however different they may look have the same inherent needs such as friends, sharing toys or books, a hug, being touched, a chat and most of all as the author speaks you be you and me be me.

This is an ideal book to read together- parent and child -cuddling up with a leisurely, dialoguing mood prevailing between them. It would help the child understand the world with a sense of security and hand holding. That said then, ‘why are you afraid to hold my hand’ could well read ‘I love it when you hold my hand and talk to me’!!!!

So go ahead and pick up this most reasonably priced, simply written book that will offer an opportunity to well up compassion and support and subdue the mean-ness and hurt that is normally traded merely from not knowing how to deal with a situation.

Reviewed by Padma Srinath