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I've realised that I'm a bit useless at blogging regularly, so I'm going to try and make my blogs quick and regular, rather than long and months apart
 
A quick thought on pirates. Children love pirates. Books on pirates, films about pirates, dressing up as pirates, games about pirates, school topics about pirates... The trouble is, many pirate themed artifacts unwittingly reinforce negative stereotypes. Normally I campaign for more images of disabled people in books, but I do the opposite when it comes to pirates.

I'm going to focus on books, because that's my specialist area, but what I'm going to say is relevant to anything pirate-related. Think of a pirate and what do you picture? Eye patches, wooden legs and hooks are an illustrator's shortcut for a pirate, and, whilst books alone don't generally portray a negative view of disability - the pirates are friendly and the children will want to be part of the action - it's the long term associations that are the problem. 

In real life, pirates are negative characters (think of the news stories about Somalian pirates abducting people). Children who hear stories about real-life pirates will most probably picture them in the way they are represented in their books - with eye patches, wooden legs and with a hook for a hand. Combining the negative news story and the image of a disabled pirate means that children may associate disability with evil.

My campaign against disabled pirates in books may have been somewhat hampered by their inclusion in the Paralympics closing ceremony. Sir Phillip Craven ended his speech with the following anecdote: "A few days ago [a five year old] George was reading a book 'Treasure' with his mum, Emma. The first page showed a man with an eye patch, a hook for a hand, a parrot on his shoulder and a wooden leg. Emma asked George who the man was, expecting him to say 'a pirate'. But he said 'Well, he only has one leg, he must be an athlete.'

I think the reason that pirates specifically were given as an example in the closing ceremony is because they are the most common form of disability representation so most obvious to use. Of course, for the next few months, children may see pirates as athletes, but that won't last. And this example just goes to show it's even more important to have positive representation in books. 

So, let's keep producing fabulous books about pirates, but don't make them disabled. There are many other ways to show that a character is a pirate. And let's include positive images of disabled people in all our books (ask me for advice if you're not sure how). Disability needs to be represented as part of the norm. Let's ensure that legacy of the Paralympics is continued.