I’m always on the look-out for great children’s books, and especially those with a story that celebrate uniqueness and difference. Our kids can gain such appreciation of other people from reading, and I’ve already shared our favorite children’s books about being difference and being yourself.
But I realized that although beautiful stories about uniqueness and even visual difference, none of the ones we had read specifically addressed any type of actual physical or mental disability. Aside from actually living with it firsthand, there is no better way to introduce and open conversations about a topic than to read books about it.
So here and there on our trips to the library, I’ve been picking up books specifically focused on different disabilities. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Zoom! by Robert Munsch. Hands down, my kids’ most requested read recently, from the author of Love You Forever. He takes the topic of a wheelchair and makes it fun and engaging and relatable to young children.
2. We’ll Paint the Octopus Red by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen. A little girl is so excited to have a sibling and talks with her dad about all of the things she will do with her new brother or sister. When her brother is born with Down syndrome, she realizes that she’ll still be able to do all of the things she originally wanted to do, even if her brother just needs a little extra help.
3. Keep Your Ear on the Ball by Genevieve Petrillo. Connor particularly loved this book. A boy who is blind comes to a new school, and all of the kids try to help him before realizing that he wants to be independent as he can – and that he actually can do most things by himself even though he can’t see. Kickball is a whole different story though… so the class bands together to figure out a way to “help” him in kickball while still letting him do it himself.
4. Let’s Talk about It: Extraordinary Friends by Fred Rogers. This is just an ideal book for teaching children about differences and disabilities in a way that is interesting, relatable, and not intimidating. That Mr. Rogers really knows his stuff.
5. Don’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas. I’m not a huge fan of the title, but I really like this book, and I think it explains parts of disability in ways that are really easy to understand for kids – such as that some people simply need equipment to help them do their best, from glasses to wheelchairs. I also love the sentiment it expresses: “when we assume things about people, it might hurt their feelings or make them feel left out.” Great lessons in this book!
6. In Jesse’s Shoes by Beverly Lewis. This book is more appropriate for older children, and especially those who may have a personal experience with autism or mental disability. The book is told from the perspective of a girl with a special needs brother who is first embarrassed by her brother’s differences. Then she literally walks in his shoes and allows him to show her his world – and she realizes how wonderful he is and takes the opportunity to teach her peers about how wonderful differences can be.
7. My Friend Isabelle . This is a very simple story with a lovely message – that our differences don’t have to keep us from being friends. The book is told from the perspective of a child whose friend Isabelle has Down syndrome (although that’s not specifically stated in the book.) He details how much he loves to play with his friend Isabelle and although he runs fast and she runs slow, among other differences, he describes how much he likes having her as a friend.
Have you read any good children’s books about disability? What do I need to add to my list? I’m sure there are many more out there that I’d love to check out, so send any suggestions my way!