A robust classroom library should include children's books about disabilities or being different from what is considered "normal." Reading can open up students' eyes to a whole new world of other experiences, and it can help students who feel misunderstood to find something relatable for them.
To help you build your diverse classroom library (or your Amazon wishlist) of children's books about special needs, here are some suggestions for books about kids with disabilities, books about learning disabilities, and books to teach children about disabilities.
#CelebrateDifferent with These Children's Books About Disabilities
The Wild Book by Margarita Engle
- Grades: 5-7
- Reading Level: Lexile Reading Level 1050L
In The Wild Book, our protagonist, Fefa, struggles with words. She has word blindness—what we know as dyslexia—and the doctor says she will never read or write. Every time she tries, the letters jumble and spill off the page, leaping away like bullfrogs. But then, her mother has an idea that helps Fefa let her words sprout and grow stronger by filling a blank, unlined book.
Students will be inspired by Fefa's learning process and how she uses her so-called disability to save her family in the story's climax. And as an added bonus, the beautiful language Engle uses throughout will help others understand what life is like for their peers with dyslexia.
A Sporting Chance: How Ludwig Guttmann Created the Paralympic Games by Lori Alexander
- Grade(s): 2-5
Ludwig Guttmann dedicated his life to helping patients labeled "incurables" and fought for the rights of paraplegics to live a full life. As a doctor, he proved that physical movement is key to healing—which led him to create the first Paralympic Games. The book features moving text and lively illustrations, covering the life of Ludwig and stories of athletes from the Paralympic Games.
Even the most reluctant of young readers will be drawn to the subject matter (sports!) and everyone will find something inspirational from these stories of Paralympians.
Normal: One Kid's Extraordinary Journey by Magdalena Newman and her son, Nathaniel Newman
- Grade(s): 5-12
Add this one to you TBR pile now! Available in January 2020, this uplifting (and funny!) memoir includes black-and-white comic illustrations, as a mother and her son tell the story of his growing up with TC Syndrome. The book covers everything from facing 67 surgeries before the age of 15, to making friends, moving across the country, and persevering through hardships.
Don't just take our word for it on this, R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder, calls Normal, "a story that will make young readers reevaluate the word 'normal'—not only as it applies to others, but to themselves."
After all, who is to say what's "normal?"
The Secret School by Avi
- Grade(s): 2-5
- Reading Level: Lexile Reading Level 540L; Guided Reading Level T
Not every book on this list is about a character with disabilities. It can be just as beneficial for students to show them real world examples of successful people who live with disabilities.
Did you know that the acclaimed author Avi has dyslexia? But despite being dyslexic, he has written dozens of books and won the Newbery Medal, which honors "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children."
Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery and foreword by Temple Grandin
- Grade(s): 5-7
- Reading Level: Lexile Reading Level 960L
When Temple Grandin was born, her parents knew that she was different. Years later she was diagnosed with autism. While Temple’s doctor recommended a hospital, her mother believed in her. Temple went to school instead. Today, Dr. Temple Grandin is a scientist and professor of animal science; her work revolutionized the livestock industry. As an advocate for autism, Temple uses her experience as an example of the unique contributions that autistic people can make.
This compelling biography opens the door to a broader understanding of autism and what it can mean to be labelled "different."
Senior Director Community Engagement, HMH; Host of HMH Learning Moments: Teachers in America Podcast