Arkey (6) sits in a wheelchair and shines in the toy book at bol.com

“Arkey, Arkey!” The young model was visibly happy when he saw himself in the toy book on bol.com. On the first page of the Gadgets and Electronics chapter, he can be seen swinging between the music boxes.

It suits him perfectly, says Lilian. “He likes music. It makes him happy. During the filming, he was taken care of very well. His favorite music was played.” As Arkey moved in his wheelchair to the song Gangnam Style, he was photographed.

The happy little boy has had difficult years and he is still confronted every day by what happened to him in 2018. Arkey was playing in the yard of a house in Curaçao where he lived with his family. A motorist backed up, didn’t see the boy and ran over him.

“The car ran over his head,” says Lilian. “He became paralyzed on his left side and has all kinds of problems as a result of the brain damage he sustained. He can’t function in any way like a healthy 6-year-old boy. It’s also difficult to speak.”

‘More and more normal’

“I walk down the street with Arkey every day. A lot of people look at him, and a lot of kids too.” This is precisely why Lilian thinks it is very good and important that her son is included in the toy book. “The more people see this, the more normal it will be.”

on the cover

Jedediah Arthur (10) and Romy Heere (11) got a place on the cover of the toy book. Jedediah has the skin disease vitiligo, which causes him to have white pigment spots on his arm. Romy has Down syndrome. Both have done modeling work before.

“This is the most beautiful book to be in,” says Joyce, Romy’s mother. “Every photo shows Romy with a big smile. We are very happy that people are aware of the positive image of children with disabilities. They are also part of it.”

That was exactly what they had in mind at the webshop when they created The Great Toy Book, says Laurent Lubbers. He is the Design & Creation manager and together with his team he has created the catalogue. The entire book is made by bol.com itself, including pictures of the children. It takes a year to develop the special year-end guide.

“We want to do it a little better each time, and this year we went one step further,” says Lubbers. “Every child is special and every child has a story. We want all children to identify with what they see in the book.”

Throughout the book are pictures of children of different origins and children with disabilities. And the toys that are advertised also have diversity. “There are Barbies with prosthetic legs or in wheelchairs, and there are Playmobil dolls with different skin tones. Manufacturers are also more and more aware of diversity.”

“Great,” says Arkey’s mother. “To tackle racism and discrimination, you have to start with children. They have to be taught from an early age that it doesn’t matter what you look like. That representation in toys or, for example, in movies is really good.”

Lilian has already received many nice reactions to her son’s modeling work. This was also noticed at school, Arkey’s master put the picture from the toy book on the beamer in the class.

And yes, Lilian understands that. Arkey may be in a wheelchair, ‘but he’s also just really good-looking’.

Prejudice starts at a young age

Research shows that children develop prejudices and stereotypes at a very early age. “Then you’re already talking about young children,” explains Hanneke Felten, senior researcher in anti-discrimination at Movisie.

“They prefer to play with children who are similar to themselves. They consciously and unconsciously receive prejudices and stereotypes from their environment.”

According to Felten, this can be ‘certainly’ reduced by, for example, showing diversity in a positive way. Or play with children who are smaller than you.

“So what you see in books and movies or what toys you play with is also important. Because children tend to imitate what they see, so prejudices arise and that’s how you get rid of them.”

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