Storytelling school

Student organization empowers pediatric patients and families through storytelling

Through colorful children’s storybooks, Pages for Pediatrics draws inclusiveness for young patients.

Founded in the spring of 2021, Pages for Pediatrics is a UCLA student-run organization that aims to write and illustrate original children’s storybooks focused on pediatric disease and disability, said President and Founder Rujuta Sathe. . The club uses child-friendly terminology and attractive design, she said, to describe the realities of pediatric patients with certain conditions. Sathe said their goal is to bring hope and comfort to children and their families who may experience anxiety and loneliness in a hospital setting.

“What we really want to do with our books is advocate for the representation of people with disabilities within the pediatric community,” Sathe said. “We want to normalize patient adversity and empower pediatric patients.”

A visual learner growing up, the rising fourth-year molecular, cellular and developmental biology student said she found the simple nature of children’s stories to be a helpful way for her to learn and understand her surroundings. Sathe said the children’s books she read helped her find her voice. She therefore wanted to raise awareness of pediatric disabilities by creating her own children’s books, given the lack of such content.

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To be more comprehensive about a patient’s experience, Sathe said the writing and editing team does not base its stories on a single patient. Instead, they look at multiple testimonials from patients, support organizations and family members. With the amount of research and writing, it can take at least an academic term to write a manuscript for a book, said Isha Maniyar, co-chair of the writing and editing committee.

A rising fourth-year student in molecular, cellular and developmental biology, Maniyar said his team sends full manuscripts to experts in a specific pediatric condition the book focuses on to ensure their story respectfully represents the community. . For example, before Pages for Pediatrics completed its second book “The Giraffe That Stood Tall” in June, they consulted with Little People of America, a nonprofit organization that acts as a support system and resource for people with dwarfism and their families.

“(Organizations are) there to look at our story to make sure it accurately represents disability, but also making sure we’re inclusive and using the right terminology to address it, because it can be a very sensitive to writing about pediatric conditions,” said Sathé.

Since their stories focus on dismantling the stigma surrounding pediatric illnesses and disabilities, their books primarily revolve around community-specific emotions and experiences, said Joshua Binder, Co-Chair of the Editorial and Publishing Board. and a fourth-year neuroscience student. . He said the team spends weeks researching the ins and outs of a certain condition, from symptoms to its effect on a patient’s social interactions.

The team also recognizes that the books are aimed at younger audiences, said Valentin Nguyen, a fourth-year design media arts student and former chair of creative design.. To make the art child-friendly, Nguyen said they try to make their illustrations as colorful as possible while avoiding the use of dark colors. Nguyen said that in addition to the book’s content, his team is also responsible for designing the front and back covers as well as the book’s copyright language.

In partnership with self-publishing company BookBaby, Pages for Pediatrics produced a total of 45 copies of its first book and 66 copies of its second book, Sathe said. Depending on the subject of the book, Sathe said she would contact an institution specializing in the disease and disability in question to distribute the book to patients. For example, she approached orthopedic centers at different hospitals to donate their first book “Tommy and the Twig” because it was about patients living with prosthetics, she said.

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In terms of book funding, Sathe said they rely heavily on fundraisers so hospitals can receive their books for free. Pages for Pediatrics has donated to various hospitals, but they typically donate to UCLA Health, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital and UC San Francisco Health, she said.

To continue supporting pediatric patients and their families, Binder said the club has another initiative called “Pamphlets for Parents,” which provides a list of resources, information and testimonials for certain pediatric conditions. He said the pamphlet is available via a QR code located on the back of their storybooks – this strategy ensures the pamphlet is accessible to parents who need the information most.

“Parents also deserve the best because they do their best to give their children the best possible support,” Binder said. “So why not do some heavy research to try and find the most established, effective and useful resources and bring them directly to parents?”

As the organization continues its efforts to promote inclusivity for pediatric patients, Sathe said she hopes their books will not only empower patients, but also other children who could potentially become their peers and playmates. Expanding their reach, she said the organization also aims to distribute her books to schools to help inform and educate people about disability awareness in children.

“By teaching children to better understand these conditions as they grow up, we ultimately help future generations and future societies…better accept this topic,” Sathe said.