Disability Inclusion and Awareness Book List
Children’s Books that Celebrate People of All Abilities
Picture Book: Benji, the Bad Day and Me by Sally J. Pla
For grades K-5 (or older if you want to study the text and art as a way of conveying information and emotions): Though it is an easy picture book, there are so many opportunities for discussion that it can be used with older children as well. The Lee and Low Books Teacher’s Guide contains wonderful background info about autism, excellent discussion questions for different levels and interdisciplinary activity ideas.
Summary: In this tender story about siblings, author Sally J. Pla shares her experience of raising sons with different personality traits and needs. Benji, the Bad Day, and Me embraces the philosophy that we are all part of a wide spectrum of neurodiversity. And on those really bad, rotten days, you can always count on family to be there for you.
Chapter Book:The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla
For Grades 4 and up – this is a wonderful read aloud with so much opportunity for discussion.
Summary: Charlie’s perfectly ordinary life has been unraveling ever since his war journalist father was injured in Afghanistan. When his father heads from California to Virginia for medical treatment, Charlie reluctantly travels cross-country with his boy-crazy sister, unruly brothers, and a mysterious new family friend. He decides that if he can spot all the birds that he and his father were hoping to see someday along the way, then everything might just turn out okay.
Curriculum Guide for Educators and Readers: https://sallyjpla.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Someday-Birds-Guide-FINAL.pdf
Blindness and Low Vision
Picture Book: Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille, by Jen Bryant
For Grades 1-4
This picture book biography of Louis Braille (1809–59) strikes a perfect balance between the seriousness of Braille’s life and the exuberance he projected out into the world. The text highlights Braille’s determination to pursue an education. Readers will learn how he attended the Royal School in Paris and was frustrated by the lack of books for the blind, an obstacle that set him off on a long quest to invent an accessible reading system. Braille ultimately found success by simplifying a military coding technique that had earlier been introduced but was far too complex.
Chapter Book: Blind Guide to Stinkville, by Beth Vrabel
For Grades 2-7
Summary: Before Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville.
Deafness and Hard of Hearing
For Grades 3-7
Summary: Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school and making new friends while wearing a bulky hearing aid strapped to your chest? That requires superpowers! In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful—and very awkward—hearing aid.
The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear—sometimes things she shouldn’t—but also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is. After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become “El Deafo, Listener for All.” And more importantly, declare a place for herself in the world and find the friend she’s longed for.
Chapter Book: Sam’s Top Secret Journal: We Spy (Book 1, Middle Grade Mystery) by Sean Adelman
For Grades 3-6
Join Sam as she embarks on her first big adventure in this middle-grade mystery. Sam is a middle school girl living a typical life except when she is sometimes bullied for the differences kids perceive in her. Sam has Down syndrome. See how she and her brother John work together to find some stolen money, help a new friend and escape real danger in this exciting adventure.
The author of this book wanted to write a story with a main character with Down syndrome. All of the things Sam does in the book are based on his own daughter’s abilities.
Chapter Book: Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
For Grades 4-8
In this book, sixth grader Ally has been smart enough to fool a lot of smart people. Every time she lands in a new school, she is able to hide her inability to read by creating clever yet disruptive distractions. She is afraid to ask for help but her newest teacher, Mr. Daniels, sees the bright, creative kid underneath the trouble maker. With his help, Ally’s confidence grows and she feels free to be herself. She discovers that there’s a lot more to her—and to everyone—than a label, and that great minds don’t always think alike.
Chapter Book: Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School, by Melissa Shang and Eva Shang
For Grades 4-7
Hello, sixth grade! Mia Lee is a stop-motion filmmaker with a wheelchair and a lot of sass, trying to survive her new middle school. Which doesn’t seem so easy when she’s running for Video Production Club President against certified Middle School Mean Girl, Angela Vanover. Things get weird when Angela starts being nice to her – well, when other people are around, at least. But when Mia’s campaign posters for VP Club President mysteriously vanish – no tape, no poster, no nothin’ – the presidential race gets real. With the help of her brain files, an awesome aide with keys to the whole school, and her friends, Rory, Daniela, and Caroline, Mia finds herself on a mission to prove Angela isn’t just an ordinary middle school mean girl, she’s a thief!
Some interesting information about the author of this book
Melissa Shang is a graduate of Newton South High School and a current student at Harvard University. Born with a form of muscular dystrophy called Charcot-Marie-Tooth, Melissa is a disability advocate and an American Girl fan. When she was in middle school, with the help of her sister Eva, Melissa launched a viral petition for a disabled American Girl doll that was featured in Cosmopolitan, USA Today, CBS, HLN, IB Times, and other major news outlets and raised massive public attention to disability representation in children’s toys. Though the petition did not result in an American Girl doll, it did inspire Melissa and Eva to write Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School.
General Disability Themed Books
Picture Book: All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans with Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel
For ages 4-8
Jennifer Keelan was determined to make a change―even if she was just a kid. She never thought her wheelchair could slow her down, but the way the world around her was built made it hard to do even simple things. Like going to school, or eating lunch in the cafeteria. Jennifer knew that everyone deserves a voice! Then the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that would make public spaces much more accessible to people with disabilities, was proposed to Congress. And to make sure it passed, Jennifer went to the steps of the Capitol building in Washington DC to convince them. And, without her wheelchair, she climbed. ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP!
Picture Book: Just Ask: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor
For ages 4-7
Summary: Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful. In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.
Other Great Resources
We highly recommend consulting the Schneider Family Book Award List from the American Library Association
See their list of winners from all years: