It is so important to read and discuss books that highlight students with disabilities. Not only does it help students become more knowledgeable and understanding about specific needs and challenges, but it also helps kids to become more inclusive, too.
All students can relate to these books in some way, supporting the overarching idea that celebrating our differences is often what brings us together.
Here are some books to highlight kids with disabilities:
My Sister, Alicia May by Nancy Tupper Ling – This beautifully illustrated book shares the story of Rachel and her sister, Alicia May, who has Down syndrome. This honest story highlights how similar we all are. The author writes, “In some ways, my sister is like any six-year-old. She likes dogs and horses. She likes to paint her toenails with polka dots, and she loves bugs.” I love the message that even if we are all different in our own ways, we are often so similar, too.
Isaac and His Amazing Asperger Superpowers! by Melanie Walsh – I love the idea of comparing someone with Aspergers’s to a superhero. This is a great book to help identify and discuss all the strengths that come along with autism! My favorite line is, “You can’t catch it. It just means my brain works a little differently.” By teaching kids that people with autism are unique and think differently, we can promote acceptance for everyone.
Jack’s Worry by Sam Zuppardi – In this story, Jack is ready to play his trumpet for the concert, but realizes he has a worry that just won’t go away. Jack struggles with his feelings of anxiety until he talks about them and gets the help he needs. My favorite part of this story is that it doesn’t show a “perfect” ending. Feelings of worry can still be there, but you can get through them!
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete – This book is written from the perspective of Callie, Charlie’s twin sister, and highlights the real challenges and positives that kids with autism have. Charlie struggles with using his words and even saying, “I love you,” but Callie notices that Charlie show his love in different ways.
Mrs. Gorski, I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgets by Barbara Esham – This story highlights David, who is working to overcome the “wiggle fidgets.” He learns strategies to help him stay focused in class and make good choices, like playing with a fidget, using a silent timer, and using attention cards. For kids who struggle with ADHD or just paying attention in class from time to time, this is a helpful read!
My Buddy by Audrey Osofsky – A boy with muscular dystrophy tells the story of how his dog, Buddy, helps him throughout his daily life. This can be a great text to highlight that fair isn’t always exactly equal. Even though not everyone can, the boy brings his dog around everywhere because it’s what he really needs to be successful.
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best– This is a story about Zulay, a strong and smart 1st grader who is also blind. Zulay and her friends are very much typical 1st graders who love to sing and laugh. When field day comes around, Zulay wants to run in a race, and with some supports, she shows everyone that she can make it happen.
If You’re So Smart, How Come You Can’t Spell Mississippi by Barbara Esham – I love this book because it highlights dyslexia in a clear and meaningful way. Katie’s dad is a smart and hardworking attorney in Chicago. He is the smartest person she’s ever know, but he can’t spell Mississippi! When Katie finds out her father has dyslexia, she goes ahead to do her own research and find out what that really means.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold – While this book doesn’t specifically target kids with disabilities, I think it’s an important one to mention because of its overt theme of inclusiveness across the board. This is a timeless picture book focused on diversity and inclusion of everyone. It’s a must-read for every classroom.
Ella Bella Just Can’t Tell Ya! by Hallie Sherman – I know I’m over 9 books here, but I just had to add this one in after grabbing it. The story is about a young girl who struggles with word retrieval challenges. She works to learn strategies to help her along the way. SO many lessons can be learned from this book, including empathy and perseverance.
I hope you love this list as much as I do! If you have other suggestions for great books to highlight learners with disabilities in a positive way, please feel free to mention in the comments.