Greenville mother-daughter duo publishes children’s book about food allergies
Books can help children understand difficult circumstances, but when Donna Webber and her 8-year-old daughter, Reagan, looked for a book to help young children understand food allergies, they ended up writing their own.
According to the Allergy and Asthma Network, about 12 million Americans have food allergies, including more than 4 million children. Reagan, a third-grade student at Southside Christian School, is one of those children. She has life-threatening allergies to nuts and dairy, as well as less severe allergies to other foods.
“After Googling and trying to find books that were cute, we never found any,” Webber said. “I helped write it, and she drew the storyboard for it. It was something fun for us to do for kids with allergies and their friends, too.”
The book, “The Allergy Adventures with Cari the Cupcake,” details Cari the Cupcake’s journey to find her friends, avoiding allergens along the way and was published in 2017 by Archway Publishing, a division of Simon & Schuster. It is simple, colorful and designed to help the youngest children understand why their friends can’t have certain foods. It can also help children with allergies avoid the stigma of feeling different.
“It’s been a big source of anxiety for her and me,” Webber said. “We wanted something cute because some of the allergy books are doom and gloom.”
Webber said she considered homeschooling Reagan because of the fear of sending her to school and potentially exposing her to foods that could be dangerous.
“We have a second book that we would like to get published about going to school,” she said. “It was a huge thing that we prayed about as a family.”
Webber describes Reagan as “an old soul.”
“She even knew at 3 that things would make her sick,” she said. “As she gets older, she’s learning more and more how severe it can be. That’s why this book was so good for both of us.”
Reagan has learned to read ingredients and take care to avoid those that can harm her.
Webber said the book can help explain food allergies to the friends of those who have them. The lessons can extend to their parents as well. She said the staff at Reagan’s school have been great in helping to manage her allergies, and it means a great deal when other parents consider them as well.
“Ask about food allergies,” Webber said. “‘What can I have here so they won’t feel excluded?’ Teach kids not to make fun of others. Be kind. Help them not to feel like an outsider.”
For children with allergies, Webber hopes they understand that it isn’t the end of world. Just like Cari, they can end up exactly where they need to be.
“It could help them to know they are not alone,” she said. “They will get through it, but they have to be cautious. You might have to go the long way around, but you’ll get there.”