Seeing yourself portrayed in books, movies, and TV shows can mean a lot to little kids.
That’s why Dr. Jessica Hoefler launched Piper’s Key in 2020.
The Summit County-based nonprofit organization offers inclusive books to children with disabilities, showing up.
Children in wheelchairs, using hearing aids and ventilators, with mild to severe autism.
“I really wanted them to be able to open a book, look at it, say, ‘It’s me! they look like me and get excited about not just literacy and reading, but also having that confidence that being different is OK,” Hoefler said.
Piper’s Key is named after the daughter they lost, Piper Grace, who suffered from spinal muscular atrophy type 0 and died after only 27 days on earth.
“Really, I wanted a way to still be able to parent her,” Hoefler said. “As a bereaved mother, I wanted to be able to say her name every day without this heavy grief.”
And Piper’s legacy is lasting.
In less than two years since launching Piper’s Key, they’ve given away over 5,000 books across the United States and Canada.
The goal is to empower children and their families.
Hoefler drops off books with a full arm at Akron Children’s Hospital for doctors and nurses to distribute, and sends books through the mail whenever she receives an email request.
“So if someone emails me and says, ‘hey, do you have a book on this disability or does anyone use this tool?’ I will find one,” Hoefler said.
And if she can’t find one, well, she often finds an author to write one, like Megan Higgins.
Her 5-year-old daughter, Isabella, suffers from a neuromuscular disease.
“When she was 18 months old, I knew she was going to need leg braces,” Higgins said. “So at that time I was looking for a book because children learn about the world best through books.”
When she couldn’t find one that suited her, Higgins decided to write a book of her own – featuring her daughter, her adorable dimples, and her splints.
“Her book is called Super Special Magic Shoes and that’s what we’ve always called her splints. Her magic shoes, her super girl shoes, that was a fun thing,” Higgins said.
The majority of books featuring disabled children are written by the parents, the children themselves or by specialists; the major publishing houses rarely produce or distribute them.
“And that’s because parents like us realize what needs to be out there,” Higgins said. “So we know what we would like to see for our children.”
If you would like to request a book, you can email Piper’s Key by clicking here.
If you wish to make a donation to the association, click here.