Children’s books to facilitate conversation on abilities blog header

Children’s books to facilitate conversation on abilities

Being a child can be hard work! You’re constantly learning new things, figuring out how to make friends, tie your shoes, do your math homework and remember to eat your vegetables! 

Now, imagine all of these things being asked of you, and you’re differently abled…it might be a bit harder, right? Maybe a wheelchair prevents you from playing on the swings with your friends, you have a hard time focusing during piano lessons, or you have to take time off school and away from friends because of your weakened immune system. Not to mention, the risk of being bullied or treated differently because you’re different is much greater. 

It’s never too early to start the discussion on differently-abled individuals. As adults, we’re often looked up to by children for how to treat others and our knowledge of the world around us. We’ve rounded up a few great books to start the discussion on differently-abled individuals. Some are true stories and the children in your life will relate to these stories in one way or another, whether they share the common ground of being differently abled or know someone else who is. 

So, let’s learn a little more about different abilities. Check your biases and show children what a great world we can live in with our differently-abled friends!

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

The Girl Who Thought In Pictures. The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin By : Julia Finley Mosca

By: Julia Finley Mosca

Recommended Age: 4 years +

When young Temple was diagnosed with autism, no one expected her to talk, let alone become one of the most powerful voices in modern science. Yet, the determined visual thinker did just that. Her unique mind allowed her to connect with animals in a special way, helping her invent groundbreaking improvements for farms around the globe.

This Is Ella

This Is Ella By: Krista Ewert

By: Krista Ewert

Recommended Age: 3 years +

In a simple, welcoming way, This Is Ella teaches children about Down syndrome, inclusion, and friendship. The story is followed by information about Down syndrome, including helpful facts and explanations. This is Ella offers a perfect starting point for a conversation with children about difference in general, Down syndrome in particular, and the concepts of inclusion and friendship

I Have Cerebral Palsy

I Have Cerebral Palsy By: Mary B Springer

By Mary Springer:

Recommended Age: 3 years +

Meet Sydney, a girl who likes the same things other children do – riding her bike, playing baseball, and hanging out with her friends. Sydney also has cerebral palsy, which makes walking, talking, and using her hands difficult. Sydney shares her first hand account of life with cerebral palsy in I Have Cerebral Palsy so that others can understand what her life is like. Most importantly, Sydney wants her story to help other children feel more comfortable around people with disabilities. 

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

Emmanuel's Dream By: Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls

By: Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls 

Recommended Age: 3 years +

Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing four hundred miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.

Uniquely Wired: A Book About Autism and its Gifts

Uniquely Wired. By: Julia Cook

By: Julia Cook 

Recommended Age: 4 years +

Zak is obsessed with watches. Before that it was trains. He owns hundreds of watches and is quick to tell everyone everything about them. Zak also has autism, so he sometimes responds to the world around him in unconventional ways. As Zak describes his point of view, young readers gain a better understanding of his behaviours and learn valuable lessons about patience, tolerance and understanding. 

Keep Your Ear on the Ball

Keep Your Ear on the Ball. By: Genevieve Petrillo

By: Genevieve Petrillo

Recommended Age: 3 years +

Everybody wants to help Davey. “Let me open that.” “Do you want to hold my hand?” Davey has one answer for all, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Davey is blind—and he is perfectly capable of doing everything on his own. His well-meaning classmates stop offering help when they see how able Davey is. They respect his self-reliance—until he tries to play kickball. After several missed kicks and a trampled base keeper, no one wants Davey on their team.

Working together, the children figure out a way to offer help that respects Davey’s unique abilities and his desire for freedom. In this seamless tale, based on a true story, the children realize that interdependence can be just as important and rewarding as independence.

Tom’s Special Talent

Tom's Special Talent by Kate Gaynor

By: Kate Gaynor

Recommended Age: 4 years +

Tom isn’t sure if he has any talents at all when he sees how good his friends are at writing and reading. But a school competition soon helps him to find his own very special talent! Children with Dyslexia or a learning difficulty often find school a daunting and sometimes terrifying daily task. In an environment where certain skills, such as writing and reading, are praised and highlighted more than others, it is important for children to recognize that everyone has a ‘special talent’ of their own. It encourages other children to be mindful of the differences that exist between their friends and classmates and to be aware that all children, regardless of their talents, learn differently.

Don’t Call Me Special: A First Look at Disability

Don't Call Me Special. By: Pat Thomas

By: Pat Thomas

Recommended Age: 3 years + 

This unique picture book explores questions and concerns about physical disabilities in a simple and reassuring way. Younger children can find out about individual disabilities, special equipment that is available to help the disabled, and how people of all ages can deal with disabilities and live happy and full lives. Titles in this series for younger children explore emotional issues that boys and girls encounter as part of the growing-up process. Books are focused to appeal to kids of preschool through early school age. Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas, A First Look At books promote positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers, and encourage children to ask questions and confront social and emotional questions that sometimes present problems.

What other books do you use to teach about different abilities? Let us know in the comments!

Kiah Price

Kiah Price is a Social Media Specialist at HiMama. Prior to HiMama she was an Early Childhood Educator in a preschool classroom in Toronto. She is the Jill of all trades at HiMama from dipping her toes in Sales, Customer Success, Operations, and Marketing! She enjoys sweating through spin classes, hot yoga, and biking along the waterfront trails in Toronto. She loves traveling and trying new foods and wines across the globe- 29 countries and counting!

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