Andrea Kurth

@lovejbo | contributor
I’m a special education teacher that wanted to see my students represented in books that were about the story not the disability, so I wrote one.
Andrea Kurth

Zac’s Mighty Wheels Features Boy With Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy

I’ve been a special education teacher for 21 years, developing a passion for disabilities by growing up with my brother who has cri-du-chat syndrome. For 14 years, I taught students with moderate cognitive impairments and loved when I came across a book with disabilities I could share, but always wished the stories weren’t just about the disability. I also wanted to read them stories that could hold their attention but weren’t babyish, since I was teaching high school-age students. When I became a homebound teacher, teaching students with severe multiple impairments and who were immune-compromised, I got to work with Zac. Zac had been a legend at the school I had come from, known for his inappropriate mouth and charismatic personality. He had Duchenne muscular dystrophy and I went in not believing this condition would take his life. During the years I was teaching him, God put a desire in my heart to write a children’s book. My students weren’t represented in books often and I wanted to change that. I wanted to write a chapter book where the story was the focus, not the disability. I recruited the help of my son who was only 8 at the time, and we got to work on the story of “Zac’s Mighty Wheels and the Giant Problem.” It was a slow process with working full-time but the yearning to finish got very strong in 2020, four years after beginning the process. “Zac’s Mighty Wheels” became a story of Zac making a wish in a wishing well for the wheelchair of his dreams. Unfortunately, he was not the only one that found the wishing well that day and a giant bully emerges. With Zac’s super-wheelchair and the help of his friends, who also have disabilities, he saves the town from destruction. The story was published in April of 2020, just five months after the real-life Zac passed away. Although he never heard the finished story, I hope he’s looking down and proud of the legacy he left. 10% of profits go to Zac’s Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Foundation. Book two of the series is being written now with plans of introducing new disabilities in each book. It’s important for people to see themselves represented in books, and others in the general education community to see people with all abilities as main characters who have a place in our communities. I’m hoping to fill that gap in the industry. “Zac’s Mighty Wheels and the Giant Problem” is available on Amazon.

Community Voices

Hi, my name is Andrea. I’m new to The Mighty and am excited to connect and share my book, Zac’s Mighty Wheels!

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10 Children's Books That Feature Disabled Characters

When I was a little kid with hearing loss, I never read any children’s books with characters who had a disability just like me. I felt like my disability made me different when I was a little kid, and I wish I saw people who had the same disability as me in books I read and shows I watched. Fortunately, there is an increasing number of children’s books that do feature disabled characters. Some of these books recently were celebrated at the Schneider Family Book Awards, which “honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.” If you are looking for children’s books that feature disabled characters, we asked members of the Mighty’s disability community to share their recommendations. These books may be great additions to your home library and can help disabled kids feel seen. Here is what the community recommended: 1. “Thank You, Mr. Falker” by Patricia Polacco Trisha is a student who struggles with dyslexia until her teacher Mr. Falker comes along and helps her work through the difficulties she has with reading. “This book is about a teacher who teaches the main character how to [manage] her learning disability, dyslexia. As a teacher and a member of the disabled community, it’s my personal favorite!” – Liz Ann 2. “Roll With It” by Jamie Sumner Ellie, an irrepressible girl with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair, moves to a new town and has to start at a new school. Ellie quickly quashes people’s assumptions about her, and she dreams of becoming a professional chef. “Well written, good humor and realistic to what most in wheelchairs experience.” – Alicia 3. “Why Is That Doggie in the Store?” by Joaquin Juatai Through the lens of a curious non-disabled child, this picture book teaches kids how they should behave around service dogs. 4. “The Dancing Swan” by Lauren Walier Having always dreamt of being a dancer, Lauren, who has cerebral palsy, learns to dance with the support of everyone around her. “The author Lauren [and] I have CP. Works hard and achieves a goal to dance!” – Gail 5. “Taking Seizure Disorders to School” by Kim Gosselin This children’s book dispels the myths surrounding epilepsy in a positive and upbeat style and explains seizures in an understandable fashion that kids will get. 6. “Mama Zooms” by Jane Cowen-Fletcher In this picture book for children, Mama is a disabled character, and she zooms to do activities with her young son. “Oftentimes we see a side character who uses a wheelchair, rarely the main character, and in this we get to see a parent use one.” – Julia 7. “My Sister Lulu and Me” by Traci Dunham In this children’s book about disability, Lulu has fun just like any other non-disabled kid with the support of her sister, who always wants to do things with her. 8. “ Meet Will and Jake: Best Buds Forever” by Community Living Kincardine & District Will and Jake are best friends, and Jake happens to have Down syndrome. This story explains what Down syndrome is to young readers. “‘Meet Will and Jake’ is a great book about diversity and inclusion.” – Colin 9. “Meet ClaraBelle Blue” by Adiba Nelson ClaraBelle is a young disabled Black girl who helps show that disabled kids want to have fun just like everyone else. “My daughter loves it!” – Heather 10. “Hiya Moriah” by Victoria Nelson This picture book explains why Moriah and other kids with disabilities like her sometimes need equipment to stay healthy and just be a kid who wants to make more friends. Which books would you add to this list?