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8 Awesome Children's Books About Disability

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If you’re doing holiday shopping for your kids, nieces and nephews, or any child in your life, look no further. Kids (and really, all of us) have plenty of “stuff” these days. As the parent of a child with an orthopedic condition that causes chronic leg pain, I am always on the lookout for books featuring disabled characters. Representation matters! I love to gift our favorite books to friends and family to help increase the diversity in their home libraries. Here is a roundup of some of our favorites:

My favorite book for toddlers and young children: “Daniel’s New Friend” by Becky Friedman

If you know a toddler or preschooler, you know they love Daniel Tiger. I’ve gifted this book nearly a dozen times, and it’s always a hit. It shows familiar faces, along with a new friend who wears leg braces and uses arm crutches. The book is a great conversation starter for littles.

Best for ages 5 and up: “Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You” by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor

I read this book to my child’s kindergarten class. Their teacher and librarian were so impressed with it they purchased it to add to their elementary school library! This book covers a range of visible and invisible disabilities and health conditions, including wheelchair users, blindness, deafness, autism, Down syndrome, diabetes, asthma, food allergies, stuttering, ADHD, and more. There is a lot of text on each page, hence why it may be better for elementary-aged kids. But if you are reading to a younger audience, you can always read shorter portions of it.

Beautiful and empowering series: “When Charley Met Emma” and “Awesomely Emma” by Amy Webb

These two books, about navigating comments from other children when you have a visible disability, feature a young girl with limb differences who uses a wheelchair, along with a friend who is learning that being different is OK. Both books have beautiful illustrations including people of all races. In “When Charley Met Emma” there are people communicating with sign language, along with a child using a walker and another with a nasal cannula and oxygen tank.

“Awesomely Emma” includes empowering refrains such as “No bodies are wrong, all bodies are right. We’re all different colors, sizes, and heights. My body works differently – I love being me! Because being me is an awesome thing to be.” Best for preschoolers and elementary students.

Written by an author with a disability, with a strong sense of self and humor: “What Happened to You?” by James Catchpole

This book features a young child with one leg on the playground, who grows tired of comments about it and getting the “what happened to you” question. It’s a good reminder that while children are naturally curious, you don’t owe anyone any explanations about yourself. With minimal text on each page, this book is perfect for preschoolers and kindergarteners.

Informative and entertaining nonfiction: “All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans With Disabilities Changed Everything” by Annette Bay Pimentel

My son’s teacher read this book to his class in first grade, which is told from the perspective of real-life disability advocate Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins, who has cerebral palsy. It details Jennifer’s early struggles to receive an education, as well as with other disabled advocates fighting to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), culminating in her participation in the “Capitol Crawl” in 1990.

Some other lovely children’s books about health issues:

  • Surgery on Sunday” about a child preparing to have surgery and “Migraine and Mia” about living with chronic migraine, by Kat Harrison
  • Rainbows & Storms” by Nisha Gutierrez-Jaime, a tribute to her daughter who lives with congenital heart disease
  • Some Days” by Julie A. Stamm, about having a parent with chronic illness

Do you have any other books to add? Let us know in the comments.

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Getty image by FatCamera.

Originally published: November 23, 2021
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