When I was raising my family, I couldn’t find children’s books that addressed the issue of disability in smart, eye-opening ways. There were books on just about every other subject a child could be interested in, but none I felt would open the door for a conversation about disability in language that kids understand and with photos or illustrations that take fear out of the concept. Today’s parents are much luckier. The publishing houses offer many wonderful books about disability for children from toddler on up, which describe the disability experience as it should be: a normal part of the human experience.
I found this wonderful list on the Rocky Mountain ADA Center website and checked to make sure they’re available. While the focus of most of these books is on children with a disability, they are still perfect vehicles for starting the conversation we parents yearn to have.
If you’ve discovered good children’s books other than those that follow, please share!
- Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher. A boy’s wonderful mama takes him zooming everywhere with her, because her wheelchair is a zooming machine. The author based Mama Zooms on the life of her sister, “a wheelchair mom (and a practicing veterinarian).”
- Don’t Call Me Special: A First Look at Disability by Pat Thomas. Written by a psychotherapist, this full-color picture book explores questions about disability in a “kid-friendly” way. This book is intended for preschool through early elementary grades, and tells children what a disability is and how people learn to deal with them.
- Zoom! by Robert Munsch. Written by one of North America’s best-selling children’s authors, this book details the adventures of strong-willed and quick-thinking Lauretta. When Lauretta tries out a 92-speed, silver and gold, dirt-bike wheelchair, she gets a speeding ticket but also helps out her brother.
- Featherless/Desplumado by Juan Felipe Herrera. This is a story of a boy who gets his wings. Although Tomasito’s spina bifida keeps him in a wheelchair, where he often feels as confined as his flightless and featherless pet bird, he discovers that he can feel free when he is on the soccer field.
- My Brand New Leg by Sharon Rae North. This book introduces children to amputation and prosthetics and teaches how “different” doesn’t mean limited. In the story, a young girl with a prosthetic leg shows a new friend all of the activities that she can still do with a prosthesis, such as running, riding a bike and hiking.
- Someone Special: Just Like You by Tricia Brown. This book is non-fiction, illustrated with photographs that show preschool-aged children with disabilities in their everyday life – playing and learning. It shows that children are definitely more alike than they are different.
- Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross. This book features short rhyming phrases to tell things that Susan, the young red-haired girl, can do – common, everyday things with which all children can identify. The last illustration of the story shows Susan in a wheelchair, but by that time, young readers can see that Susan is just like them in so many ways.
- Two Tracks in the Snow by Louella Bryant. This book is centered on Ari, a young boy who has spina bifida, and uses a monoski, has been skiing for years. He is able to help 6-year-old Will, a new snowboarder, learn to manage the snowboard. They come down the mountain together making two tracks in the snow.