Author: Raymond Antrobus
Illustrator: Polly Dunbar
Release date: 4th February 2021 Publisher: Walker Books
Dad Bear stops and looks directly at me.
“Your friend was saying hello. Why did you ignore him?”
“I didn’t.” I didn’t.
Is that really what he’s asking me?
Then Dad Bear asks again, “CAN BEARS SKI?”
For me, this book is full of heart, emotion and a plot which will encourage us all to be more deaf aware.
I stumbled across this book by chance when I commented on a Tweet on Twitter. I was sharing my frustration about the lack of representation deaf children have in stories – particularly stories for younger children. I have a 3 year old, profoundly deaf, cochlear wearing superhero and I wanted to share with him stories where he could see himself. A lovely tweeter told me about, ‘Can Bears Ski?’ and I instantly pre-ordered a copy and sent the link to all of my family and friends with children. For me, it is important that they understand what Theo’s ‘magic ears’ do and it helps them see their value – in the same way we do.
When the book arrived, I was super excited but I wasn’t quite prepared for the emotional reaction I would have when reading it alone for the first time. For a moment, I was back in audiology , cradling my precious newborn and hearing the words, “He’s deaf”, for the first time. It was a shock and though it sounds silly now, I was upset that he may never hear me read a story to him!
I loved how the sounds of movement were shared in this story and how Young Bear was ‘aware’ and ‘alert’ to these movements. It is quite surreal when you learn to communicate with a deaf child as you have to re-learn things we take for granted such as being at eye level to speak and even learning some sign language.
I found parts of the story, such as when dad asks Young Bear if he is ignoring his friend and when he is sat at the table with laughter all around him, quite difficult to read. It was almost like my worst fears on paper. It shows just how important and integral this story is for children, to help them to see and understand and become more ‘deaf aware’.
The inclusion of tier 3 vocabulary, ‘audiology’ and ‘audiologist’, helps people understand the journey Young Bear goes on whilst finding, in this case, his plastic ears (hearing aids). This also provides an opportunity for discussion. In my house, it was a way to conversate with my son about his hearing journey and a chance to share pictures and the process to cochlear implants (I could even shows him some old moulds). The conversation felt natural and the book was a great referencing tool which allowed us to go further than previous conversations about his ears.
I really enjoyed the relationship that Dad Bear and Young Bear had in this story. For me, their relationship evolved throughout and they both learned how to communicate and be part of each others worlds. Dad reading to bear at eye level and Young Bear finally learning that he could ‘ski’ felt triumphant!
I was lucky enough to attend a session with Raymond and Polly run by the NDCS (https://www.ndcs.org.uk/). In the session, both Raymond and Polly shared their hearing stories as they are both hearing aid wearers. It was nice to hear Raymond share the positives of being deaf such as being part of the deaf and hearing community and the rich experiences and stories that could be absorbed through this. I also liked how they shared that everyone has a different relationship with sound – which I hadn’t ever considered before but is so true!
How would I use this book in school?
Science: How do we hear sounds?
Music: Exploration of sounds, tempo and dynamics – response to sounds – noticing sounds or vibrations of movements
Wider world: Visit the local library – what do you notice? Why do you think Young Bear might have enjoyed visits to the library?
Sign language: An opportunity to introduce BSL or Makaton
Teacher notes available from Walker books and CLPE:
Draw along with Polly Dunbar in partnership with Moon Lane Bookshop:
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