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.
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
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.
Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask about Having a Disability by Shane Burcaw
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.
Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
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.
My Friend Isabelle by Eliza Woloson
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.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julia Finley Mosca
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).
Tameka's New Dress by Ronnie Sidney, II
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.
Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis
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.
Mandy Sue Day by Roberta Karim
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.
Dad and Me in the Morning by Patricia Lakin
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.
Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman
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.
El Deafo by Cece Bell
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.
King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan
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.
Hello, My Name is Octicorn by Kevin Diller and Justin Lowe
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!!
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.
Completely Me by Justin Green
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
The People on the Corner by Leslye Orr
This book offers students the ability to see children with disabilities being represented in the book as main characters who are just normal children, like the rest of the kids. It teaches kids about the idea of inclusive play, while also teaching some of the more nuanced aspects associated with disability.
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
I recommend this book because it sheds light on what August, the main character, experiences due to his disability and may be relatable to others who are also judged by their disability. Additionally, the book teaches that we as a society need to be more accepting allies. This book is best fit for those in middle school or above due to the level of reading and material.
Lucy's Picture by Nicola Moon
This book offers a unique perspective on disability, as it explores the many facets of the main character, Lucy, as she creates a picture to give to her grandfather, who we later find out is blind. She incorporates characteristics of her grandfather in the picture, such like his love of gardening and his pet dog, portraying him as more than just his disability.
I recommend this book because it shows disability as a unique asset rather than a disadvantage while appealing to a younger demographic. Additionally, this book does not only highlight disabilities but presents a strong message against bullying that would teach children multiple valuable lessons.
You’re Welcome Universe by Whitney Gardner
This amazing read depicts Julia, a deaf teenager, not shying away from her identity and using her talents to make art, all while searching for her place in the world. Showing life from Julia’s perspective, the book shows all aspects of life, at school and at home. It challenges assumptions people have, gives insight into what it is like to have a translator, and includes some relationship drama. I recommend this book because Julia is an outstanding, outspoken, and confident character that young people can relate to in more than one way. Also, they can look up to her.
The Silence Between Us by Alison Gervais
Maya, a Deaf girl, has to move across the country and attend a hearing school. This book shows experiences that Deaf individuals can face due to society’s perceptions, battles outside and within the Deaf community. Follow Maya in her story of staying true to herself while bridging the gap that she has felt between the Deaf world and the hearing world.
Dear Little One by Jade Miller
A guide for children who experience Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), can be helpful for those who may be confused or unsure about what is happening within them. The book creates a comfortable area for the child and then explains what may have happened to the child, and why it may have happened. Acceptance is offered in the explanation that the inside people were born to help and be there to comfort the child. This book also can provide caregivers support in what to expect and how to help the child grow and become comfortable with who they are.
George by E.L. Konigsburg
What would be like living with Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID)? George is the little man that lives inside of Ben. Having George, Ben had never needed friends. But then, becoming a sixth-grader, he wanted to impress classmates and make friends. As others find out about George, we learn how others, including family members, react and treat Ben. Ben knows that George will always have his back, even when there might be people with misplaced intentions around him. This book is about finding out how to become comfortable with yourself.
Things the Eye Can’t See by Penny Joelson
Things the Eye Can’t See tells the story of Libby, who has a visual impairment. People ridicule her for having a guide dog and for using phones, cameras. The book addresses the ableist views society can hold while telling the story of a teenage girl gaining independence and fighting her comfort zone. Note: There are scenes about drug deals and murders.
Octicorn Party by Kevin Diller and Justin Lowe
Nelson Beats the Odds by Ronnie Sidney, II
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.
The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco
Uniquely Me by Trace Wilson
I recommend this book because it is about accepting who you are a person. It can be hard for a kid to understand that they are, in some ways, different from everyone around them. Uniquely Me is a great book for any kid to read because of the message and the lesson, you are perfect the way you are. This book is very similar to the message behind Completely Me by Justine Green.
The author allows the reader to embrace the main character’s day to day life by providing vivid descriptions of her day out in the city. The main character takes us on her day of commute and lets us know what she is thinking and what she imagines, without sight, since she is able to create her own vision of what she wants to see.