Check out these new, empathy-inspiring books about disabilities for kids. Picture books with disabled characters, authors & more!
Looking for some new, inspiring books about disabilities for kids? These newer or recently published picture books about people with disabilities, developmental disorders, handicaps and more are sure to bring about great conversations and inspire empathy and understanding for those who are different. After all, we’re all different, but kids don’t always recognize why or what they should when they meet someone who is different in a way they aren’t always familiar with. These children’s books with disabled characters and authors are must reads for every classroom.
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I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott
I wake up each morning with the sounds of words all around me.
And I can’t say them all . . .
Talk about drawing kids in from the very beginning! Poet and author Jordan Scott writes this moving autobiography about his struggles with stuttering. He does so in a very accessible, yet empathy-invoking way that draws in all eyes. Speaking of drawing in all eyes, illustrations by Sydney Smith bring added meaning to the metaphors sprinkled throughout the book. This book is about the power of seeing ourselves in someone or something else. Knowing that what we are is beautiful. We may struggle, but like a river, we will not be stopped.
My students who normally shy away from all things poetry spent a week discussing this book and probably could have spent at least one more discussing the deep emotions present in the book. The Author’s Note also interested my students immensely as they tried to imagine the author attempting to read the book. Many wanted me to try to find him to do an author visit to meet the man who struggled so much to vocalize his words yet wrote in such a moving way.
This book also easily made my list of the best children’s books of poetry!
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Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.
Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor
Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.
In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.
Six Dots by Jen Bryant
Louis Braille was just five years old when he lost his sight. He was a clever boy, determined to live like everyone else, and what he wanted more than anything was to be able to read. Even at the school for the blind in Paris, there were no books for him. So he invented his own alphabet—a whole new system for writing that could be read by touch. A system so ingenious that it is still used by the blind community today.
An author’s note and additional resources at the end of the book complement the simple story and offer more information for parents and teachers.
Helen’s Big World by Doreen Rappaport
This picture book biography is an excellent and accessible introduction for young readers to learn about one of the world’s most influential luminaries: Helen Keller. With her signature style of prose laced with stirring quotes, Doreen Rappaport brings to life Helen Keller’s poignant narrative. Acclaimed illustrator Matt Tavares beautifully captures the dynamism and verve of Helen Keller’s life and legacy, making Helen’s Big World an unforgettable portrait of a woman whose vision for innovation and progress changed America―and the world―forever.
Rescue and Jessica by Jessica Kensky
Rescue thought he’d grow up to be a Seeing Eye dog — it’s the family business, after all. When he gets the news that he’s better suited to being a service dog, he’s worried that he’s not up to the task. Then he meets Jessica, a girl whose life is turning out differently than the way she’d imagined it, too. Now Jessica needs Rescue by her side to help her accomplish everyday tasks. And it turns out that Rescue can help Jessica see after all: a way forward, together, one step at a time. An endnote from the authors tells more about the training and extraordinary abilities of service dogs, particularly their real-life best friend and black lab, Rescue.
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca
If you’ve ever felt different, if you’ve ever been low, if you don’t quite fit in, there’s a name you should know… Meet Dr. Temple Grandin―one of the world’s quirkiest science heroes!
When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe!
Joan Procter Dragon Doctor by Patricia Valdez
Back in the days of long skirts and afternoon teas, young Joan Procter entertained the most unusual party guests: slithery and scaly ones, who turned over teacups and crawled past the crumpets…. While other girls played with dolls, Joan preferred the company of reptiles. She carried her favorite lizard with her everywhere–she even brought a crocodile to school!
When Joan grew older, she became the Curator of Reptiles at the British Museum. She went on to design the Reptile House at the London Zoo, including a home for the rumored-to-be-vicious komodo dragons. There, just like when she was a little girl, Joan hosted children’s tea parties–with her komodo dragon as the guest of honor. Despite an illness that confined her to a wheelchair, she proved that nothing would stop her from doing what she loved.
This is also one of my favorite children’s books for Women’s History Month!
Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
Patricia Polacco is now one of America’s most loved children’s book creators, but once upon a time, she was a little girl named Trisha starting school. Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was jumble. It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha’s dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability. Patricia Polacco will never forget him, and neither will we.
This inspiring story is available in a deluxe slipcased edition, complete with a personal letter to readers from Patricia Polacco herself. Thank You, Mr. Falker will make a beautiful gift for the special child who needs encouragement&150or any special teacher who has made a difference in the child’s life.
We Are All Wonders by R. J. Palacio
The unforgettable bestseller Wonder, now a major motion picture, has inspired a nationwide movement to Choose Kind. Now parents and educators can introduce the importance of choosing kind to younger readers with this gorgeous picture book, featuring Auggie and Daisy on an original adventure, written and illustrated by R. J. Palacio.
Countless fans have asked R. J. Palacio to write a book for younger readers. With We’re All Wonders, she makes her picture-book debut as both author and artist, with a spare, powerful text and striking, richly imagined illustrations. Palacio shows readers what it’s like to live in Auggie’s world—a world in which he feels like any other kid, but he’s not always seen that way.
We’re All Wonders may be Auggie’s story, but it taps into every child’s longing to belong, and to be seen for who they truly are. It’s the perfect way for families and educators to talk about empathy and kindness with young children.
Best Books About Disabilities For Kids
What are some of your favorite picture books about disabilities for kids? Are there any must read books with disabled characters that I left out? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it!
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