Author's Story of Hearing Loss Strikes Chord with Marjory Stoneman Douglas Students
Author Kerry Cerra {courtesy}

By Faran Fagen

Some teens empathized with her battle against hearing loss, some acquired career advice, and some simply got swept away in a new book.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students recently crowded around a PowerPoint at the core of the media center to hear children’s book author Kerry Cerra’s story of loss turned into triumph.

“Kids love when I show them my cochlear implant, and I tell them I’m bionic,” said Kerry, wife of Coral Springs Vice Mayor Shawn Cerra. “Most people I’ve known for decades said that before they read the book, they didn’t realize the extent of my loss or that I’m fully deaf without my hearing gadgets.”

Cerra’s second book, released in 2022, is called “Hear Me.” The story is set in Florida, where teenager Rayne, a devoted surfer, realizes she can no longer ride the waves because her hearing loss affects her balance. School, friendships, and relationships with her family are impacted by her fear and anxiety over the loss of hearing and what to do about it.

Like the main character, Cerra’s family grew to understand her hearing struggles. Kerry, the media specialist at Coral Glades High School, and Shawn have supported each other’s careers throughout their marriage.

Shawn, who served as Principal of J.P. Taravella High School before he was Director of Athletics and Student Activities for Broward County Public Schools, supported Kerry for over a decade in publishing her first book, “Just a Drop of Water,” in 2014.

Kerry spent the book release day for “Hear Me” with students at the Stoneman Douglas media center, where she’d visited several times to speak about “Just a Drop of Water.”

Douglas media specialist Diana Haneski said Kerry’s battle with hearing loss and her decision to have surgery for a cochlear implant added clarity and authenticity to the book.  

“Young readers need to read about the smart and scared Rayne as she deals with this topic, so few people know about or understand,” said Haneski adding that there aren’t many books on the topic of hearing loss, and this should be in school and public libraries because it’s accurate and relevant.

Getting the book published was personal on many levels for Kerry.

“Putting any book out into the world can be hard if you’re not incredibly thick-skinned,” she said. “But putting a book out that is also super personal—even though it’s fiction—elevates that anxiety tenfold. Most of my close friends were aware of my hearing loss, but many still forgot when we were together. It made socializing something I started to avoid for years.”

She heard from longtime friends that before they read the book. They didn’t realize the extent of her loss or that she was entirely deaf without her hearing gadgets (she has one cochlear implant and wears a hearing aid in the other ear).

“I’m guessing now most people won’t forget and speak a little more carefully for me when we’re together,” she said.

She has two local author visits in March—one at Westchester Elementary School and one at Park Trails Elementary.

One thing she’s noticed in her author visits to schools is that “it seems today’s kids are much more accepting of people with disabilities than kids were back in my youth.”

She believes mainstreaming students with disabilities had a hand in that, along with a push in recent years for SEL (Social Emotional Learning) in schools.

Being a media specialist at Coral Glades and a former teacher at Douglas gives her a keen insight into what teens are into. 

“But it also makes me wonder if mainstreaming is what’s best for deaf students who often thrive better in schools designed for deaf people,” Kerry said. ”Regardless, I’m happy that disabilities, in general, aren’t such taboo anymore. There’s been a huge movement to encourage diverse representation in everything from movies to TV ads to literature.” 

Author's Story of Hearing Loss Strikes Chord with Marjory Stoneman Douglas Students
Kerry and Shawn Cerra and children. {Courtesy}

More than anything, Kerry hopes the book finds its way to a child going through a similar experience and “helps them feel less alone.”

At the Douglas visit, the students had many questions, not just about the book but about careers in writing and other professions. Haneski said “Hear Me” is promoted as middle-grade but appeals to Young Adult readers.

“It was a very inspiring author visit for our students,” Haneski said. “Kerry knows young adults, and she connects with them right away. She encourages them to consider what they love for future careers.”

Nationally, the feedback from strangers has been incredibly touching and thoughtful, said Kerry.

Author's Story of Hearing Loss Strikes Chord with Marjory Stoneman Douglas Students
Hear Me Book Cover.

“I may have teared up at a few of the notes. One person wrote to me and said they knew a kid who really needed this book, so they bought them a copy. That’s what it’s all about . . . finding that reader who needs it.”

Kerry has another middle-grade book, “Make a Little Wave,” coming out in August 2024. It’s about a girl, Sav, trying to change Florida shark fishing laws. And because the world still needs many more stories with disability representation, that character wears cochlear implants.

She also sold a non-fiction picture book to Little Brown. She can’t say much about it yet, and it won’t publish till early 2026, but she’s “over the moon” for that story.

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