Glastonbury resident Brooke Aiello has authored a children's book aimed at promoting tolerance and celebrating differences.
What began as a poem has turned into the first in a series of books for children (of any age) about how to acknowledge diversity and combat bullying.
Aiello's background is in communications and she has also previously worked at The Great Escape, which was formerly in Glastonbury.
She said that about two years ago, she wrote a poem about what it was like growing up with anxiety. Driving to work one day, she thought about writing a book about kids with anxiety. The idea snowballed from there, to include other issues, and Tolerance Tykes was launched on Nov. 16, which happened to be International Day for Tolerance.
"I can't stand to see people be mean to other people," Aiello said. "I've always been taught that no matter what your abilities are, that you have something to share. I just want everyone to feel special."
The book, appropriate for any age level, features 10 characters — each one a student in "Miss Brooke's" classroom. Chrissy, for example, is transgender. Hope has anxiety. Another student, Morgan, has cancer, and William is adopted. Other issues tackled include Autism, deafness, blindness, Down Syndrome, and speech impediments.
She said she drew on her own experiences for Hope, and based some of the characters on friends she has known. Aiello also sought out people with other differences to become more familiar with their experiences.
"A couple are people I know," Aiello said. "I know 'William' and his family. Morgan is my best friend, so I just told her story about having cancer. The other kids are based on stories I hear from teachers and from people who are going through these things."
Each child has a poem that explains their life, and a lesson plan follows that explains each student's point of view. Examples are given of how to treat a person like each student, and how best to support him or her.
"My plan is to incorporate it into schools, and see how far it can go," Aiello said, adding that some members of nearby Boards of Educations have already expressed interest, and her goal is to approach every town in the state. "I'm going to send a letter and a copy of the book to every Board of Ed. in Connecticut. Second through fourth grade is where you want to start, because that's when kids are developing into their own person, and before they get into cliques."
The anti-bullying message, she said, is hopefully inherent, adding that part of bullying is internal for the one being bullied, and the hope is that the book will also help children accept themselves.
"I think, for me, it was bullying of myself. I'd have anxiety before going to school, because I thought other people felt the same way about me as how I [negatively] felt about myself," she said. "That's the other thing — kids don't have self-confidence. I wish I had built that earlier on."
Aiello also illustrated and published the book herself, using CreateSpace. Since it is print-on-demand, she can also customize a copy for a specific person or group.
Aiello has already done book signings, at The Old Cider Mill (which will have it on the shelf next season) and at the Glen Lochen Mall. She has also appeared on Channel 8's CT Style. More local signings are in the works. People have already had strong positive reactions to the book.
"Everyone seems to be loving it — even adults who don't have children," she said. "I think it's such a needed thing at this time in our society. I think it's one thing that kids can look at to help stop the divide among people and bring everyone together."
A second planned book in the series will feature children with ADHD, diabetes, food allergies, and cultural differences — among others.
For more information, visit www.tolerancetykes.com.