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Children's Literature

The way disability is represented in the books we share with our students matters. We hope to share stories in which students can identify with the characters, those that avoid disability stereotypes and celebrate the various and unique ways we live in the world. Special thanks to Dr. Sara M. Acevedo's students at Miami University who provided many of the recommendations here.

Black Disabled Art History 101 by Leroy F. Moore Jr.

Ages: 10-12

Leroy F. Moore Jr., the author of Black Disabled Art History 101, simply explains that disability can be proudly claimed as an identity rather than an inability. This book will provide a variety of art and literature that will enrich your art history knowledge of under represented artists.

-Silvia Ayala Vega

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best

Ages: 4-8

Readers live vicariously through a young, African American, blind girl as she experiences first grade, as this story is told completely from her perspective.  This story will not only teach children about the experiences of a blind peer, but will also help normalize disability in the classroom in general.

-Kennedy Reeder

Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability by Shane Burcaw

Ages: 4-8

This book would be beneficial for all ages to read, as it answers basic questions about disability that often go unanswered. Covering a wide range of questions about Shane’s life, it addresses bullying and how Shane has experienced being outcast because of his disability. This can help children understand that pointing and staring can be mean and encourages them not to judge someone they don’t know.

-Carlie Dellecave

Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher 

Ages: 4-8

Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher is a short, very cute book of a child’s perspective of his mom who happens to use a wheelchair. This book tells kids that just because a person has a disability, does not make them any less of a person.  Since his mother has a wheelchair, he is able to be very imaginative and accepting.

-Gillian Stamets

My Friend Isabelle by Eliza Woloson

Ages: 8-12

My Friend Isabelle highlights a friendship of acceptance and inclusion that celebrates differences. Teachers can use this book to help students see that people who are different can be your friend.

-Kelsey Marler

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca

Ages: 4-8

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin does a great job explaining how autism can influence someone’s behavior and emotions. This message is sent through pictures and rhymes. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about 1.) how autism works, 2.) a unique learning style, or 3.) an inspiring person, Dr. Temple Grandin! (She is not inspiring because of her disability, but because of her great accomplishments).

-Maggie Niesen

Tameka's New Dress by Ronnie Sidney, II

Ages: 9-12

I would recommend this book because it demonstrates the importance of accepting children as learners just the way they are. It offers a message that those who are healing from trauma can be given the help they need and be treated with care and respect. This book highlights the notion of loving ourselves the way we are.

-Mackenzie Smith

Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis

Ages: 4-7

The main character is a little girl who uses a wheelchair. She does all the same things other kids do and feels the same emotions. This gives a positive message about disability. I would recommend this book because it exposes children to differences when they are forming their opinions and beliefs. Parents or teachers can offer guidance by answering questions and normalizing disability.

-Maggie Niesen

Mandy Sue Day by Roberta Karim

Ages: 5-10

This book challenges readers to reflect on the limits they impose on disabled people, specifically blind people. While some make assumptions of what others can and can’t do, the main character shows that she goes through her day without limiting herself in work, family life, and fun.

-Mady Wilson

Dad and Me in the Morning by Patricia Lakin

Ages: 3-6

I would recommend this book because it shows a loving story between a boy and his dad. The boy communicates without words and is able to express himself clearly. Watercolor illustrations show that beauty is never far away.

-Macy Neace

Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman

Ages: 5-8

The main character, Moses, and his friends from school are deaf, and like most children, they have a lot to say. They are able to communicate using American Sign Language (ASL). I would recommend this book because not only does it encourage young readers to dream, but also gives them perspective on different ways people express themselves. I enjoyed how the book included pictures of Moses using sign language, teaching readers more about ASL.

-Kennedy Reeder

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Ages: 8-12

I would definitely recommend this book because it allows children to understand what it is like to go through friend problems and what it is like to be Deaf. El Deafo allows the reader to understand different types of discrimination that happens to children and helps them avoid this behavior and stand up for others who experience bullying / degrading comments.

-Maggie Niesen

King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan

Ages: 6-9

King for a Day, by Rukhsana Khan,  is about a boy who uses a wheelchair as he celebrates and participates in the Pakistani and Indian festival of Basant. It would be a great book to read in a lesson about various cultures and their traditions. Unlike many stories that include disability, this book does not portray disability as something one must overcome, but rather something that is a normal part of life.

-Sam Belkowitz

Hello, My Name is Octicorn by Kevin Diller and Justin Lowe

Ages: 4-8

I would recommend Octicorn for every classroom K-3. Easy and fun to read, there are elements such as cupcakes, friends, and activities. It teaches that being different is okay and is A GOOD THING because you can offer so many good things! It is specifically written in a first person narrative, addresses being different, feeling like an outsider and experiencing  loneliness in a way that younger kids can understand!! 

-Sarah Baker

This book is second in the series. I 100% recommend it. If you have to pick one in the series I would pick this one. This book is about Octi who wants to plan a pool party; however, he worries no one will show up. He goes around asking his friends who are all different from one another if they will come and they all say yes with one condition. Octi is so happy until he realizes that many of the guests’ stipulations are mutually exclusive and he thinks there’s no way to satisfy them all. Then, he has a great idea.

-Sarah Baker

Completely Me by Justin Green

Ages: 4-7

I recommend this book because of the messages of acceptance, that you are perfect the way you are. The main character tires of everyone telling her how she can fix her missing ear.  When she says that she is perfect the way she is, everyone else around stops seeing her as someone with a missing ear, but someone who is perfect.

- Allison Riley

All the Way to the Top: How One Girl's Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel

Ages: 4-8

I would recommend this book for those learning about the ADA. It is written about Jennifer Keelan who was born with cerebral palsy and fights for her rights by participating in a demonstration called “the Capitol Crawl.” The message is that although you might be small, your voice is mighty!

-Sarah Baker

In this memoir, a renowned cat conservationist who stutters shares his journey of becoming a fluent stutterer. He explains how his teachers viewed him as “broken” so he had to learn to adapt in the classrooms and focus on what he can do without stuttering. He is passionate about animals and finds it easiest to speak fluently when he is speaking with them. He learns to find his voice by speaking up for animals that are being hunted. This book also has an audio reader on the inside of the book which is great for children who are beginning to read words, have visual impairments, or have learning disabilities.

-Sarah Baker

A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz

Ages: 4-7

Emmanuel's dream: the true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. by Laurie Ann Thompson

Ages: 4-8

This book encourages inclusion and acceptance of those different from yourself. Emmanuel was born with one strong leg and one weak leg. His mother insists on him attending school even though no other disabled children attend the school. He builds strength by hopping to school on one leg and decides to ride a bike across Ghana. He spreads his powerful message: disability is not inability. 

-Sarah Baker

I recommend this book because it demonstrates the impact an educator can have in someone’s life when they use asset-based pedagogy to support their students. Based on the author’s own experience, Thank you, Mr. Falker illustrates that not all students meet the same educational goals at the same time, even if they want to, and that if educators meet students' needs, students can persevere.

-Adan Escobedo

Octicorn Party  by Kevin Diller and Justin Lowe

Ages: 4-8

I love how this book does not use labels in the text. The book uses photographs to show Misty’s daily adventures with her dad to find her stuffed chimpanzee. It is noticeable through the photographs that Misty has Downs Syndrome. Published in 1988, some of the language is dated in the “About Down syndrome” page.

-Claire O’Dell

Where's Chimpy? by Berniece Rabe

Ages: 4-8

Thank you, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco

Ages: 5-8

Nelson Beats the Odds by Ronnie Sidney, II

Ages: 8-12

This is a story about an individual that persists through various forms of educational classification and discrimination and achieves his goal of graduating college. I recommend the graphic story because it does not specify any particular disability, avoids ableism, and instead exposes a myriad of ways black students are perceived in school. The story provides statistics alongside Nelson’s experience to show that these occurrences are commonplace and that the reader may persist like Nelson did.

-Adan Escobedo

©2020 by Teacher Leaders for Inclusion. Graphic artist Nancy Cardenas.