Author Zach Wood wants people to judge him for his personality, not his cerebral palsy, wheelchair or handicap van he rides around in, thus one reason he started writing children’s books featuring characters with disabilities. His first two published works, Carlos Goes to Preschool and Carlos Rides the School Bus follow Carlos, a character Wood based off himself. Recently The Mobility Resource sat down to talk to Zach Wood, via Skype, about Wood’s children’s books and other ambitions.
“I want to encourage kids to experience new places and people, to step out of their comfort zones,” explained Zach Wood when asked what he hopes to accomplish with his books. Wood does this in Carlos Goes to Preschool and Carlos Rides the School Bus by first establishing the similarities between kids with disabilities and able-bodied children. Like his peers, Carlos needs to get dressed in the morning and eat breakfast. Acknowledging these commonalities helps readers see Carlos, not his wheelchair.
Wood recalled a touching moment from his childhood when his cerebral palsy played second fiddle to his personality. “My friend had a birthday party. When I arrived his mother was surprised to see I use a wheelchair. He talked about me to her but never mentioned my wheelchair, just my personality.”
The initial shock one might encounter when coming across a person using a wheelchair serves as a challenging barrier to overcome for a more inclusive society. Yet the reaction proves understandable given the average person doesn’t regularly interact with somebody using a wheelchair. Books like Zach Wood’s begin to knock down these barriers for kids, parents, and teachers alike.
Consider this classic scenario. You go to the mall with your child when she spots somebody in a wheelchair. She points at the person and asks you, “What’s wrong with that guy Mommy?” If the young child reads Carlos Goes to Preschool or Carlos Rides the School Bus, her reaction probably changes to something along the lines, “Look Mom, somebody like Carlos!”
Illustrator Kathryn Frey deserves to share credit with Zach Wood for the positive influence Wood’s books will carry. After all, when able-bodied individuals imagine a van or school bus they probably conjure up images of standard vehicles. Instead Frey allows readers to visualize the handicap van, handicap accessible school bus, and wheelchair lift Carlos uses when traveling.
Carlos Goes to Preschool and Carlos Rides the School Bus mark only the beginning to Zach Wood’s publishing career. At www.carlosworld.com you will find a long “Upcoming Titles” list. During our discussion Wood also revealed he currently remains at work on a new series named The Disability Gang. The first book in the series will star a blind girl named Abby enjoying an adventure on a farm. Wood noted he’s doing diligent research to ensure the Abby book accurately portrays life with a visual impairment.
Besides writing children’s books to help raise disability awareness, Zach Wood collects slightly used wheelchairs and other assistive technologies and donates them to St. Andrews Clinic in Nogales, AZ. He hopes to eventually start a foundation which will enable him to collect and donate assistive technologies on a larger level.
*Carlos Goes to Preschool and Carlos Rides the School Bus can be purchased at various bookstores around Loveland, Fort Collins, and Estes Park, CO as well as nationally at www.carlosworld.com.