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Maine mom and daughter team up, teach children about disability rights in new book

Maryann Cocca-Leffler teamed up with her daughter, Janine Leffler, who has cerebral palsy, to write a children's book about the fight for disability rights.

PORTLAND, Maine — Necessity, it's said, is the mother of invention. It was true for a mother from Maine who looked for books her daughter could relate to.

Maryann Cocca-Leffler's daughter, Janine Leffler, was born with cerebral palsy. As a young mother, Maryann searched for books that her daughter could relate to, ones in which characters with disabilities were portrayed in a positive light. When she came up empty-handed, the author and illustrator began to write books for her daughter and a wider audience. 

The mother and daughter have now written their first book together, "We Want To Go To School: The Fight for Disability Rights."

The idea for the book came when Maryann stumbled upon the 1971 case of Mills vs. Board of Education, in which seven families in Washington, D.C. demanded their children with disabilities be allowed access to public education.

It was a landmark case that represented more than 18,000 students in the D.C. area and more than 8 million students nationwide who had been denied access to an education because of their disabilities. 

"This was a very eye-opening experience for me. I did not hear this case before we started working on this book together, and it was amazing to me that the kids with disabilities were so isolated from their peers," Janine Leffler said. 

The mother and daughter said it's essential to teach children about rights for all people and hope that their book will be shared in schools and read in classrooms across Maine and the country. 

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