Struggling with a disability, whether that be physical or mental, can be difficult for anyone, let alone a young child. Battling a disability while also struggling with the day-to-day issues of childhood and adolescence can be detrimental to mental health and long-term development.
Feeling like you don’t fit in and not having the support you need can have huge impacts on the livelihood of the child in question and can lead to long-term mental health issues throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
It is so important for children with disabilities to feel included, safe, and supported throughout their childhood and crucial developmental stages of life. Although you can’t always control the way children with disabilities are received in public or by other children, you can control how they’re treated at home.
Introducing children to films, books, and attitudes that help them to understand that they’re perfect as themselves can have excellent benefits, making core differences at crucial early stages.
Although disabilities often make people, especially children, feel out of place, using innovative texts that shed light on new perspectives can help them view their disability in a different way and recognize that their differences may not always be hindrances.
Fish in a Tree was written by Lynda Mullaly Hunt and is a brilliant example of a book that provides perspective for disabled children across the world. The sentiment follows Albert Einstein’s famous quote: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it’s stupid.”
This is a great moral message for any child but particularly resonates with children or adults with disabilities. It promotes the message that everyone is good at different things and that people cannot and should not be compared.
These books are vital for the development and acceptance of children and young adults with disabilities, so here are 20 similar books for you to explore if you’re looking for something similar.
Hope is a Ferris Wheel by Robin Herrera
Interestingly, this story doesn’t center around disabilities. However, it is a brilliant story based on not fitting in and social differences, so there are some similarities. This would be a great book if you’re teaching your non-disabled child about outcasting and norms.
Hope is a Ferris Wheel is a story about Star Mackie, a 10-year-old girl that comes from a poor socioeconomic background and has a plethora of family issues to deal with. It’s a heart-warming tale that will help children realize their privilege and learn to accept those who come from different backgrounds.
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This fantastic story was made into a film in 2017 starring Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson and tells the story of Auggie, a young boy with a severe facial deformity, which leaves him embarrassed, misunderstood, and left out.
Auggie has the same aspirations as any other kid in his class and has a particular fascination with space. Wonder shines a light on the lack of empathy and the strong presence of bullying in schools today. It helps children to understand that what matters is on the inside and that everyone should be treated as equals, regardless of how they look.
Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff
Absolutely Almost follows a crucial point in Albie’s life. He has discovered that he’s not very good at many things and with persistent comments made by teachers and parents, he has come to the conclusion that he’s pretty much useless.
But when he gets a new babysitter, Albie begins to understand what he is good at and develops a whole new outlook on himself and the world around him. This book is brilliant for kids who don’t feel like they’re particularly good at anything or kids that think a little differently.
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Melody is unable to walk and talk but her mind is extraordinary. She has a photographic memory and can recall every detail about most things that have happened in her life. She outsmarts her teachers, her doctors, and her fellow students frequently and refuses to fit into the strict confinements that cerebral palsy implements.
Out of My Mind is a fantastic book, emphasizing that appearance isn’t everything. It sheds light on the internal normality of those struggling with cerebral palsy and helps to shatter the stereotypes that surround the disability.
El Deafo by Cece Bell
El Deafo is one of the most popular graphic novels for kids and centers around a girl with hearing impairments.
Cece is embarrassed about her phonic ear that is strapped to her chest but then realizes she has abilities that others don’t. She can hear things out of the room and hone into conversations she shouldn’t.
I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott
This book follows a boy who suffers from a stutter, a small but stigmatized speech impairment. I Talk Like a River is a heartwarming story of a boy finding his voice through nature and the help of his dad.
This is a story for children and parents alike, encouraging both parties to lean on each other for support and development.
Can Bears Ski? by Raymond Antrobus
This innovative novel follows a bear that struggles with deafness. It provides insight into what life is like with hearing difficulties and illuminates the struggle to adjust after he gets hearing aids.
Can Bears Ski? is a great story of development and will help children understand if they have hearing difficulties, or how they can support those that do.
What Happened to You? by James Catchpole
Joe only has one leg but he’s a positive little boy that loves to play with others. But other children only want to know what happened to his leg and don’t seem that interested in playing with him.
What Happened to You? can help children approach their inevitable curiosity in more sensitive ways. Catchpole draws upon his own experiences as an amputee and sheds light on the impacts of exclusion.
We Move Together by Kelly Fritsch
We Move Together follows a group of children, all with different disabilities or personal struggles, as they navigate life as a group and find the positives in disabilities and differences.
This is a must-read for any child or parent impacted by disability. It sheds light on the positives and may encourage you to join support groups or find similar people through which you can create a sense of community and reliance.
This Beach Is Loud! by Samantha Cotterill
This little story helps to emphasize the impacts, causes, and realities of sensory overload, a common side effect experienced by those on the autism spectrum.
This Beach Is Loud! illuminates how quickly normal situations can become overwhelming for those with autism and can help those without autism sympathize and learn to handle it in a more effective way.
My Ocean is Blue by Darren Lebeuf
This book follows a young girl who, although physically disabled, can appreciate the world in a much deeper way than many other kids her age.
This story details her day at the beach, picking up on every tiny, beautiful detail of the landscape and her experience. My Ocean is Blue can help children appreciate the small things in life and can help those who are restricted physically to develop a positive mentality.
It Was Supposed to be Sunny by Samantha Cotterill
This text, also by the brilliant Samantha Cotterill can help readers understand the importance of routine, structure, and control for those with autism.
It Was Supposed to be Sunny follows Laila on her birthday, as she deals with changes that crop up throughout the day.
Lone Wolf by Sarah Kurpiel
This story follows Maple, a husky that is appreciated in her pack. But people always seem to think she’s a wolf and there may be truth to these claims. She can hunt well, howl, and dig just like wolves can, so where does she belong?
Lone Wolf is all about fitting in and finding a sense of belonging. Perfect for kids who don’t feel included, this is a fantastic addition to any reading list.
Just Ask by Sonia Sotomayor and Rafael López
This glorious book sheds light on the beauty of difference. This book is a celebration of disabilities and differences, honing in on different communities and people with one clear message – if you’re unsure, just ask.
Just Ask encourages people to talk more about disabilities and social differences, breaking down stigma and stereotyping one child at a time.
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best
Zulay is blind and relies on her friends and her white cane for support. Zulay is determined not to let her disability get in the way of her fun and decides that she wants to run a race but she’ll need the help and support of her closest friends if she’s going to succeed.
My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay is a great story, encouraging children with disabilities to embrace their differences and support each other.
I Am Not a Label by Cerrie Burnell
This is slightly different and focuses on the real lives of athletes, activists, and artists with different disabilities. Across all scopes of society, people with disabilities have thrived and made others facing similar challenges realize they can achieve anything.
I Am Not a Label is an inspirational and thought-provoking book, guaranteed to provide any reader with encouragement and words of wisdom.
Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker
Nat has a thriving social life and loves to compete with her wheelchair racing team, but one thing dominates her attention – musicals. But you don’t usually see many cast members in wheelchairs, so would Nat fit in?
Chance to Fly is a brilliant story of insecurities and acceptance. Nat is an inspiration to all disabled children and will provide you with ample inspiration to reach for your own dreams.
Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
This is a wonderful, well-read story about the opportunities provided by disability. Although his mum is in a wheelchair, what many people don’t know is that this wheelchair can take them zooming anywhere and provide heaps of adventure and fun.
Mama Zooms is a highly-rated book aimed at families that struggle with disability. It is uplifting and progressive and has the potential to change perspective.
Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman
Moses, along with his other friends from school, is deaf and uses sign language to communicate with other people.
With the help of an innovative teacher, Moses and his friends go on adventures and experience a multitude of different things, refusing to allow their deafness to get in the way. Moses Goes to a Concert also features some helpful sign language instructions so you can start learning yourself.
My Travelin’ Eye by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
My Travelin’ Eye follows Jenny Sue, whose eyes look in different directions. She gets some weird looks but she sees the world in a completely different way and has overcome the boundaries that once engulfed her.
This book will help provide perspective and give inspiration to those who may look a little different.
Any of these 20 books will be educational and positive for children with disabilities. It is also very important to get non-disabled children thinking about disabilities and make them aware of the distinctions, effects, and impacts of disabilities.
Exposing all children to information about disabilities can help to reframe the narrative and will help children with disabilities feel safer and more included if their peers understand their disability and make activities and socializing inclusive.
We hope these books have given you some inspiration!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it important for non-disabled children to read books tailored to children with disabilities?
Making non-disabled children aware of disabilities can help ease the integration process for children with disabilities. Helping them to understand that not everyone’s the same and not everyone’s brains are wired the same can help them approach situations with more understanding.
What book is recommended for autistic children?
Samantha Cotterill has written a multitude of books tailored to children with autism. Her work helps to shine a light on how children on the spectrum think differently and can help autistic children get a grasp on their thoughts and feelings.
At what age should I start teaching my non-disabled child about disabilities?
There is no time stamp on it. It’s important to get them thinking and asking questions about disabilities from an early stage before they encounter someone with disabilities and potentially make remarks or ask insensitive questions.
How many books has Lynda Mullaly Hunt written?
She has written 3 books, all of which are tailored to children and provoke discussions about disabilities.
What is the best book for children with disabilities?
This is a difficult question because different books hone in on different disabilities, so it all depends on what you want to educate your child on. However, El Deafo and Wonder are the most well-read books on this list.