With Christmas just around the corner, we all have a wonderful opportunity to diversify our kids’ libraries by gifting disability inclusive children’s books!
I often get asked which inclusive children’s books I most recommend, and, while this list is certainly not exhaustive, it is a good place to start! Here are 12 children’s books celebrating diversity of ability to add to your shelves this Christmas!
For introducing the concept of differences...
Before talking specifically about disabilities, it can be helpful to introduce the concept of differences! Kids should have a basic understanding that all people are different! We have different hair colors and eye colors, different interests and personalities, and different talents.
Two books I recommend for introducing differences are Different Like Me by Xochitl Dixon and Good To Be Me by Jessica Parham!
Different Like Me introduces differences through a biblical lens. It teaches that God made us each wonderfully different and includes a guide in the back to help parents have a biblical discussion about differences with their children.
Good To Be Me teaches that differences are a good thing. The illustrations show children with a wide range of diagnoses and provide ample opportunity for children to ask questions about differences.
For introducing disabilities...
Once kids understand that everyone is different, I think it’s helpful to introduce how one way people might be different is by having a disability. To help kids understand this concept, I think books that talk about several different types of disabilities can be helpful. For this, I recommend No Such Thing As Normal by Megan DeJarnett and my book, Image Bearer, by Ellie Sanazaro.
No Such Thing As Normal is written by a self-advocate who grew up using a wheelchair. It introduces kids to disabilities including vision loss, hearing loss, cleft palate, autism, and Down syndrome. It teaches kids that there is no such thing as normal.
Image Bearer introduces disabilities through a biblical lens. It specifically introduces kids to autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, hearing loss, Down syndrome, vision loss, dwarfism, osteogenesis imperfecta, and a few other disabilities/diagnoses. All of the illustrations are inspired by real kids.
For introducing adaptive equipment...
Once kids understand that there are lots of different disabilities people might have, it can be helpful to introduce the many types of equipment children might see people using at the grocery store or playground. I think the two best books for introducing adaptive equipment are Hiya Moriah by Victoria Nelson and Let’s Go Play by Shelby McCarthy.
Hiya Moriah teaches about one little girl, Moriah, who has CHARGE syndrome. She uses equipment such as a g-tube, hearing aids, a wheelchair, and a ventilator. Hiya Moriah introduces kids to all of this equipment and shows how Moriah uses it in her day-to-day life.
Let's Go Play introduces kids to lots of different kids who they might meet on the playground. Each is using a different piece of adaptive equipment like AAC, a trach, or orthotics and teaches kids how it helps them.
For introducing disability etiquette...
Books can be a helpful resource for teaching our children disability etiquette. Three books that do this beautifully are When Charley Met Emma and Awesomely Emma by Amy Webb and What Happened to You? by James Catchpole.
When Charley Met Emma tells about two children meeting for the first time at the playground. At first, Charley is afraid to play with Emma because she has limb differences. But he learns that she likes to play just like him, she just might do it in a different way.
Awesomely Emma is the sequel to When Charley Met Emma. It tells about Emma and Charley going on a field trip. It addresses the topic of accessibility as Emma is not able to enter the building with her class because the entrance is not wheelchair accessible. It also teaches kids about bodily autonomy and that you should not touch someone's wheelchair without permission.
What Happened to You? is a playful book that demonstrates how people with disabilities like to be spoken to and treated by others. The boy in this book has one leg and wishes the other kids at the playground would just play with him instead of constantly asking what happened to his leg, a question he does not want to answer.
For understanding differences...
Books can also help children grow in empathy and understanding of what life might be like for those with disabilities. Three books I think do this in different ways are Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes by Lindsey Rowe Parker, Gary’s Gigantic Dream by Dr. Nicole Julia, and Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus.
Wiggles, Stomps, and Squeezes tells about what life is like for a child who experiences sensory differences. It does an excellent job explaining how the environment of a child with sensory differences might be experienced differently and what things might help them calm down when they are feeling overwhelmed.
Gary's Gigantic Dream is a book about a giraffe getting fitted for his first wheelchair. This book helps children understand that having a wheelchair is not a sad thing. Instead, it is a happy thing that opens up lots of new opportunities for children who have them.
Can Bears Ski? is a beautifully told story of a bear who has hearing loss. It describes what life is like when one cannot fully hear those around them and the difference hearing devices can make in one's life.
So there you have it, my top 12 children’s books that celebrate those with disabilities! What other books would you add to the list? There are so many good ones!