Stories and books are a vital part of childhood development and learning. Reading can help children of all abilities to learn about feelings, communication, and the world in which they live. The characters of a favourite book can often feel like old friends you have known for a lifetime, especially if you can relate to their situation or experiences.
Disability can be a confusing and isolating experience for children, and even more so if their friends can't understand and empathise with them. Stories that feature disability are a powerful way for children to see a reflection of themselves in characters they adore. They also offer an opportunity for young readers to learn that they can live fantastic adventures of their own.
These tales can be used as a resource for the peers of children with disabilities to explain disability to them on their own level. This type of education and understanding helps to end the stigma associated with disabilities and to build an empathetic link between children of all abilities through which to make friends and foster self-confidence.
Here are eight meaningful and educational tales about disability for children.
Someone Special Just Like You
by Tricia Brown
Someone Special Just Like You is a text and photograph book which illustrates that the differences between children with disabilities and their friends are not at all important. According to Brown, the book only significant things in life are those which all children have in common: a love of life, of play, and of being accepted for who they are.
Our Teacher’s in a Wheelchair
by Mary Ellen Powers
Powers’ story, Our Teacher’s in a Wheelchair opens a window into the life of partially paralysed teacher Brian Hanson through which young readers can discover the fulfilling life he leads. This account of Brian’s day-to-day life is a powerful piece of encouragement for children who use a wheelchair.
I See Things Differently: A First Look at Autism
by Pat Thomas
As part of the 'A First Look At…' series, I See Things Differently is a beautifully illustrated book written to help children strengthen their understanding of autism. With a simple and easy to follow storyline, this book is the perfect guide for the peers of children with autism in learning how to best support their friend.
by Rebecca Elliott
Clemmie spends a lot of time in hospital because of her disability, but she and her brother Toby have fun together no matter where they are. Sometimes is a reassuring and fun story for children who face regular doctor appointments and hospital visits, and it shows that childhood can still be a magical adventure in the face of disability.
Dan and Diesel
by Charlotte Hudson
Dan and his guide dog Diesel are always together, side by side. With Diesel’s help, the pair can conquer the world and go anywhere they like. Dan and Diesel explores the important role assistance animals play for adults and children with disabilities. It is a wonderful conversation starter for teaching children about working animals and how to treat them, or for introducing a new assistance animal to the family.
We’re All Wonders
by R.J. Palacio
We're All Wonders is the illustrated children's book adaptation of R.J. Palacio's best-selling novel, Wonder. Readers may recognise the title from Stephen Chbosky's film based on the original novel starring Jacob Tremblay. After its release, Wonder inspired the Choose Kind movement which challenges people to perform random acts of kindness for each other.
Palacio shows children life through Auggie Pullman's lens, and how it is to feel the same as every other child when the world treats you as though you are different. Although Auggie's story features Treacher Collins syndrome, his experience of discrimination and the desire to be accepted for who he is rings true for children with disabilities across the globe. Young readers will draw comfort and positivity from Auggie's coping tactics and his ability to make the world see him for who he is.
That’s What Wings Are For
by Patrick Guest
Bluey is the only dragon at his school who is different. His wings are not strong, he can’t breathe fire, and he doesn’t have big scales to protect his body. The other dragons exclude him from their adventures because he isn’t the same as they are, but Bluey goes on an epic quest of his own and uncovers all the abilities and strengths that make him wonderful.
Bluey’s story teaches children that uniqueness is a gift and that there is something special about everyone. That’s What Wings Are For is author Patrick Guest’s tribute to children with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy who, just like Bluey, are strong and brilliant in many, many ways.
Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School
by Eva Shang and Melissa Shang
Middle school student Mia Lee is a wheelchair user, filmmaker and on a mission to be the next Video Production Club president. Mia is a beacon of strength and inspiration for children who use wheelchairs and mobility aids. Through confidence and determination she achieves her dreams and everything else she sets her mind on. Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School illustrates the endless possibilities of leading a fulfilling, fun, and happy life with a disability.
Through storybooks and compelling characters, young readers embark on a journey of self-discovery and skill building. Tales that feature disability empower children with disabilities to not only learn about themselves, but also to see that their dreams are never out of reach.