Katherine Magnoli, who knows something about people with disabilities and bullying in schools, is using her talent as a writer to try to make a difference.
Magnoli is confined to a wheelchair due to a birth defect known as spina bifida and has seen how being disabled can make people isolated from others, especially in schools. Bringing people together and improving understanding is part of the reason she has written a series of children’s books called “The Adventures of KatGirl.” There are hand puppets that go with the books.
“I have four published books about a superhero in a wheelchair and she helps kids who are being bullied,” Magnoli said. “The hand puppets help when you’re dealing with the little kids, to have a visual aid other than the book. I also use it when I visit schools with older kids, to have them write their own KatGirl stories. I would say the book’s reading level is anywhere between the first and second grade, but the story itself is for any age.”
Born in White Plains, New York, Magnoli is a resident of Sunny Isles Beach but has made appearances through Miami-Dade County and attends the Miami Dade College School of Education Bachelor’s Program where she majors in Exceptional Student Education. Now 31, she got the idea for KatGirl when she was 25.
“What inspired me to write it is that I noticed kids had a really big interest in disabilities,” Magnoli said. “And wheelchairs in general. They always want to stop me and ask me what happened, so I came up with this idea of KatGirl, to help them learn about disabilities, and have it be in a fun way with the superhero aspect.”
She is not only an author, she also does speaking engagements at schools for career day presentations and anti-bullying topics. She says that she can’t remember a time when she didn’t enjoy writing. She’s been reading stories and thinking up characters since childhood.
“Some of my earliest memories are of being a little kid and sitting on the floor of my living room, playing with my dad’s typewriter and writing stories,” Magnoli said. “Writing has always been something I’ve loved to do.”
Karyn Cunningham, who is not only a Palmetto Bay councilmember but is also vice president of the Melissa Institute for Violence Prevention and Treatment, an anti-bullying organization, is impressed with Magnoli’s efforts.
“Kat Magnoli is truly an everyday superhero,” Cunningham aid speaking at an area event. “She redefines courage and gives the abled and specially abled a role model to look up to. She is helping to pave the way for children — and adults — to not only be more compassionate, but also to challenge themselves and push their own limits.
“We all struggle with our own insecurities and that can often lead us to be inconsiderate or unkind. Kat’s KatGirl books are teaching children awareness of bullying issues and how children can address them,” Cunningham added. “We need more KatGirl’s in our community.”
Magnoli’s books, which are illustrated by Scott D’Antuono, are available through online booksellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and area bookstores such as Books & Books. Anyone wishing personally autographed copies can order them through the website realspecialeducation.com.
What’s ahead for Magnoli? She has a clear view of what she wants to do in the future.
“I really do want to continue writing KatGirl stories, because I see that they do have a positive impact on kids, which is very important,”
Magnoli said. “But I also have ideas for other books, like maybe a mystery series of chapter books for kids.”