The story of Winnie The Witch is a fun way for children to learn about colour. But it's also a great way to learn about the social model of disability.
In this reading of Valerie Thomas's story:
Winnie represents society.
The house represents the environment.
Wilbur represents disabled people or people who are different.
The birds represent other people's attitudes.
Seeing disability as a problem
Winnie finds Wilbur a problem because she cannot see his black fur in her black house. He gets in the way.
We say: Society treats disabled people as a problem.
'Fixing' disabled people
Winnie makes Wilbur green so she can see him in her black house. She does not ask if he wants to be green, because she thinks she knows best.
We say: Society tries to change or 'fix' disabled people, even when they are not ill or in pain.
What is normal?
Wilbur is still a problem to Winnie. She makes a bigger change to Wilbur. This makes him very unhappy because he wants to be himself. The birds laugh at Wilbur.
We say: Disabled people do not want to be changed to fit in to 'normal' society. They want to be themselves. They want to be equal and contribute to society. The wrong change creates social attitudes that disrespect disabled people. The right change can make sure everyone is equal and respected.
Winnie decides to change her house and keep Wilbur as he is. They can both live happily in the colourful house.
We say: Changes in society remove barriers for everybody. It's better to change our environment and attitudes rather than try to change people with impairments or differences!
Winnie The Witch by Valerie Thomas (Oxford University Press, 1987)