Maya’s Voice

Written and illustrated by Wen-Wen Chang
28 pages  •  Published 2013 (Wen-Wen Chang)
Book cover
Recommended Age Range: Preschool through 1st grade.
Publisher's Summary: Maya is a bright-eyed, inquisitive little girl who loves to share her sweet voice. But when she starts school, she loses the confidence to use her voice and goes about her school day in silence. With time, patience, understanding, and love from all those around her, Maya discovers her sweet voice.
Book cover

Dr. Annie's Takeaways

Recommended for: This book helps to destigmatize Selective Mutism (SM) and to provide hope that it won’t last forever. Could be a good read for caregivers and their child with SM, or to read to a classroom to help other students understand and accept a child who isn’t speaking yet (but maybe leave out the page where a classmate pinches Maya because they know she won’t tell the teacher). This book is best for a child who won’t be turned off by Maya’s traditionally feminine interests (pink, princesses, playing house) and the description of her voice as “sweet.”
Would a child like it? A young child who relates to Maya will likely connect with and ultimately feel reassured by this book.
Evidence-Based Practices: Psychoeducation
Tone: Sweet, reassuring
Story Quality: It’s a simple story that speaks best to young children. It’s not particularly poetic, and the story is quite straightforward, but this might be comforting, in some ways, to a kid feeling overwhelmed by SM.
Illustrations: Cute cartoons drawn in marker with backgrounds that are black-and-white photos. The book has an old photo album aesthetic to it.
Representation: Maya is a girl who likes the color red-pink, princesses, “girl monsters,” dolls, and playing house. Her voice is referred to as “sweet” and “cute.” She appears to be biracial–she has light brown skin and curly black hair that is sometimes in pigtails and sometimes in braids. She has a mom with light colored skin and dark hair, and a dad with brown skin and black hair. Her classmates are White, Brown, and Black. Her teacher is a White woman.
Psychological Practices: This story helps a child with Selective Mutism (SM) realize they’re not alone, and it presents the idea that eventually the child’s voice will return. There aren’t any concrete strategies presented, but for a child who is struggling with SM, this book could provide hope.
Concerns: The book’s message seems to be that once everyone at school learned to accept and respect Maya’s “quiet ways,” she felt comfortable enough to start whispering and eventually speaking in class. For some children, it may be the case that when the pressure to speak is removed and they adjust to a new environment, they’re able to start speaking on their own. But for many others, a more intentional approach may be needed (e.g., see Lola’s/Leo’s Words Disappeared .

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