Hello from New York! I have come here with my mum for World Down Syndrome Day at the United Nations Headquarters and I also dropped in on Abrams Books, the American publisher of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, to deliver this letter to Mr Michael Jacobs, their Chief Executive Officer at his office on Broadway Street. I was able to give the letter to someone who works for Mr Jacobs and I hope he will answer! You can read what I wrote here:
20 March 2019
Mr Michael Jacobs
Chief Executive Officer
195 Broadway, 9thfloor
NEW YORK USA
Dear Mr Jacobs
On 11 January 2019 I wrote an open letter to Mr Jeff Kinney and his UK publisher about his book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid,
I asked Mr Kinney to think about the ableism in some of the “jokes”, starting with the most famous sentence in the whole series. Amazon even sells magnets with this sentence.
I don’t think any book for children should use the word “moron” to describe people. That is not funny and children only like it because they know the word is being used to insult people.
On a DWK Facebook page children could even take a DWK quiz to see if they were a “wimp” or a “moron”.
But most children don’t know that “moron” has the same bad history as the “R-word”. It is used in the same way and is just as insulting for people with intellectual disability. I don’t think you would allow the R-word to be published in a children’s book, so why is the word “moron” OK?
I have waited more than two months for a response to my first letter.
Many people told me that they thought Mr Kinney would write back, but he hasn’t.
I now write to your company as the USA publisher and editor of DWK.
I believe that your company has important social responsibilities for a book that makes fun of people who are different and reinforces stereotypes of people with intellectual disability, people of different backgrounds and generally people that are different.
In a recent article you said that the “amazing sales” of the DWK series shows that the series has made reading fun for millions of children. But making reading fun doesn’t mean that what children are reading, the messages in the books, are good for them or for how they see other children.
If millions of children are being taught that it is OK to make fun of people who are different, that is not healthy.
On Thursday 21 March 2019 it is World Down Syndrome Day. The theme of WDSD19 is “Leave No One Behind”. This year’s video for WDSD19 shows what prejudice means for people with Down syndrome, and how it reduces their opportunities in life. You should watch the video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFioqxJgMXI).
I have flown from Australia to attend the World Down Syndrome Day Conference at the United Nations in New York. The conference is about how much better it is for children with Down syndrome to be in regular classrooms learning together with non-disabled children – and for non-disabled children to learn about people who are different.
Learning together, or inclusive education, helps our society to be more understanding and tolerant in the future so that people with disability will face less prejudice and get more opportunities in school, work and life.
At the end of my last letter I asked Mr Kinney if he could think of a way to give back to children who he has hurt.
I can think of a good positive way.
Why can’t a student with Down syndrome or some other intellectual disability be included in Greg’s classroom, or in Rowley’s classroom or just in their school.
Why can’t that student be cool and funny for just being themselves?
Even though one in five people have a disability, they are almost invisible from children’s books.
That would be an inclusive message that could be shared with millions of children, and their parents.
It would be great for WDSD 19 if Mr Kinney and your company would agree to try to work to include a student with intellectual disability in the DWK series or the new Rowley series. But it has to be a good character and people with intellectual disability should be asked about the best way to write about this character and not be just other people’s ideas about intellectual disability.
I also think you should put something in your next editions of Diary of a Wimpy Kid explaining that you should not put people down because of how well they do at school and that the word “moron” is an offensive word.
Please think about it.
Laura (11 years old), From Perth, Western Australia