Communication is the key to building meaningful relationships, but what happens when someone cannot speak? How can we connect with them? Listen With Your Heart, a unique children’s book released just this week in Jewish bookstores, published by Judaica Press, addresses this question with sensitivity and a powerful message.
Written by Raizy Metzger, a shlucha and mother of a special needs son, and illustrated by her sister, graphic designer and artist Esty Raskin, Listen With Your Heart takes you into the mind and heart of Ari, a young boy who cannot speak. Ari loves many things (trampolines, swimming pools, waterparks and more) and thinks many things, but the words get lost on the way from his brain to his mouth. In the story, he seeks a playmate to join him on the seesaw, but cannot say the words to express that. He is at first dejected, but on another occasion, his wise older sister explains to a new peer that listening with his heart will enable him to hear her brother Ari, although he cannot speak. The boy learns to listen to Ari and hear his request, and they become friends. As readers follow Ari and his journey, the individual experiences of a special needs child, so long hidden from others, become revealed, and the reader learns valuable lessons about how to connect with those who communicate differently. With every page brought to life by Esty Raskin’s stunning illustrations, this book is a true masterpiece of the genre.
“Listen with Your Heart” was an instant bestseller on Amazon when it was first released last year in a softcover self-published edition, selling over 2500 copies, including widespread distributions to Friendship Circle chapters and families across the country. The manuscript was then picked up by Judaica Press and is now available in your local Jewish bookstore in hardcover, large-size. Its universal message of connection and understanding, for all children, makes it a must-have addition to any family’s book collection.
The author’s personal experiences with her son inspired and informed the story. She shares: “The book is centered on a simple message, one that I could not find a book to convey, so I wrote one. My story was inspired by our son Mendel, who is now 17. I wrote it years ago when he was younger, and I realized that we needed a tool to help us explain him to others. Mendel is non-speaking; despite years of intervention from a very young age, he was never able to put together a sentence; his spoken words are limited to basic requests. His diagnosis is autism, which many believe includes severe cognitive deficits, and yet, we know that there is so much intelligence and awareness going on inside, and his lack of speech does not reflect his bright mind. Listen With Your Heart aims to give children (and adults, for we believe the book’s message is universal) a template for understanding children like my son.”
The two sisters collaborated for several years, fine tuning the text and illustrations to convey the book’s message in the best way possible. Feedback from the self published version was overwhelmingly positive, particularly from parents of special needs children and professionals in the field.
A speech therapist shared: “As an SLP (speech-language pathologist), I’ve worked exclusively with non verbal ASD children for the past 14 yeas . Listen With Your Heart is the most beautiful introduction to help others begin to understand and learn to interact and teach sensitivity. I will definitely be using this book as a method to build interactions…”
And in the words of a Crown Heights mother: “…This is my favorite book ever. I have a nonverbal four-and-a-half-year-old son with autism and I have made it my mission to make the world see my child for the amazing gift he is, beyond his diagnosis and behaviors. So thank you for writing this book. The message it shares is everything that I want anyone who meets my son and children like him to know …”
The book has also been used in various school settings, bringing the message of understanding and inclusion to the classroom. Teachers have reported amazing connections and conversations growing out of the book experience.
“It’s my deepest hope and prayer that our society’s understanding of minimally or non-speaking children begins to change,” says author Raizy Metzger. “Sometimes all it takes to hear someone who can’t speak well is a bit of understanding and the awareness that they have a voice inside that perhaps requires some other way to be heard. These children deserve to be understood; their voices must somehow be heard. I hope that our book is a start.”
Find Listen With Your Heart online on Amazon.com or wherever Jewish books are sold.
This book gave me incredible insight into the world of those who seem different, but are more like us than we imagined. It’s also a very moving book. I cannot recommend it enough. I say this as an adult!
The more sensitivity and understanding, the better place our world and community will be
What an important book! Thanks for sharing.
The first few times I read this book to my kids, I teared up. It is so beautiful and moving.
As a mother of a nonverbal child, I choke up each time I read it!