Updated: Apr 14
Whether you’re a parent of a child with or without a disability, it’s important that children are exposed to all kinds of diversity so they can grow into compassionate and empathetic adults. By reading books featuring characters with different experiences, a child can expand their perspectives by reading books featuring characters with different experiences. They realize that despite physical differences, we all have goals, hopes, and dreams. Some of these concepts can be difficult to explain, particularly for young children. And for children with disabilities, books that feature characters with similar experiences allow children to see themselves reflected in the world around them. We’ve listed our 5 favorite children’s books that feature characters with disabilities and teach about the importance of disability inclusion in a way that is easy for children to understand.
1. What Happened to You by James Catchpole
Theme: Unwanted attention toward disabilities Grade: K-1 What Happened to You is about a boy named Joe who is eager to play his favorite game at the playground. However, he gets interrupted with questions and guesses by other children about his leg. Although Joe responds with a humorous attitude, the overwhelming attention upsets him and makes him wonder why the other children want to know about his leg. The children eventually realize they don’t need to know what happened to Joe’s leg and join him in playing the game. This is a fun book with an incredibly deep message. It will help children understand what it’s like to be singled out because of a disability. It will also empower disabled children and help them realize they don't owe anyone an explanation if they don’t want to give one.
2. We Move Together by Kelly Fritsch and Anne McGuire
Theme: Accessibility in shared spaces Grade: 1-3 We Move Together follows a mixed-ability group of children exploring their community and encountering everyday obstacles. It shows the unique ways that people move around and how we can work together to make spaces accessible for everyone. Through beautiful illustrations, this book will encourage children to think about the importance of inclusivity and accessibility, paving the way for meaningful conversations about important topics.
3. Benji, the Bad Day, and Me by Sally J. Pla
Theme: Learning to cope with bad days Grade Level: 1-2 Benji, the Bad Day, and Me is a touching story about two siblings who are both having bad days. Benji, Sammy’s brother who has autism, has a way of coping with his difficult day, but Sammy doesn’t. When Sammy starts to feel that nobody notices or cares about his struggles, Benji comes up with a wonderful idea to comfort him. This book is a great representation of kids on the autism spectrum, leading to a meaningful conversation on many topics.
4. Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari
Theme: Finding solutions Grade K-2 Hello Goodbye Dog is a sweet book that tells the story of a girl named Zara and her beloved dog Moose. Every morning when Zara heads off to school, Moose hates saying goodbye and decides to run away in an effort to join her, only to head back home since dogs aren’t allowed. Eventually, Moose’s family comes up with a great solution to keep them together - to train Moose to become a therapy dog so that he can accompany Zara. Although the protagonist is in a wheelchair, her disability is not the point of the story. It’s a great book to normalize being disabled to children.
5. King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan
Theme: Following your dreams Grade 1-4 King for a Day follows Malik, a wheelchair-bound boy who takes to the rooftops of Lahore, Pakistan, to participate in the Basant spring kite festival. Despite the odds, Malik is determined to be the city's greatest kite fighter, and his journey of triumph is one that will inspire you. By reading this story, children can be reminded that anyone can take part in fun activities, regardless of any physical differences they may have. Moreover, it can also be an inspiring tale for kids with disabilities, as it showcases how they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.
This list includes only a handful of the many great children’s books with disability representation. For more recommendations, visit your local library and ask if their children’s section offers any books with characters with disabilities. Did we miss your favorite book? You can contact us through our website or social media accounts to share your recommended children's books.