My oldest son has just started asking questions about disabilities. Whether it’s why we can’t park in the handicapped spot at the pool to what happened to his little friend at preschool who uses leg braces, I’ve been looking for thoughtful resources to help him understand differences and disabilities.
Enter Courtney Westlake. This author, blogger, and all around awesome mom is guest blogging for me today on her Top Ten Children’s Books about Differences and Disabilities.
Take it away, friend!
Top Ten Children’s Books about Differences and Disabilities
by Courtney Westlake
The beauty of reading is that it can transport us to faraway places, different time periods, and even worlds only alive in our imaginations. But reading does something else: it allows us to learn about each other. It can enable us to develop empathy for those who are very different than we are.
Through characters who grow within a well-told story, books can foster new ideas, and illuminate new cultures. We can come to understand, connect, and celebrate how uniquely we are all created.
My daughter, Brenna, was born in 2011 with a severe skin disorder, and because of this, I’ve come to realize how important it is to be proactive in teaching both Brenna and my son, Connor, about others who are different. Here is a list of some of our family’s favorite books about celebrating differences and being yourself…
Different is Awesome by Ryan Haack. This book is probably my kids’ favorite on this list! Ryan wrote this story about himself, to help teach children that even though he was born with his left hand missing, he can still do just about anything everyone else can – he just may do it a little bit differently. He helps readers realize that we’re all different from each other, and being different is awesome!
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. This book is so beautiful, it makes me get a little choked up. A mother points out to her little girl how many different shades of brown there are while she is painting herself, and the girl then notices how beautiful and unique everyone’s skin color is, comparing them to foods like cinnamon, chocolate and peaches. My son really related to the little girl mixing different paint colors, because he loves to paint, and we then talked about how even in our own little family, our skin differs in color from one another. He thought that was pretty neat!
Not Your Typical Dragon by Dan Bar-el. My kids immediately took to this book… not only is the story really cute and kind of silly with lovable characters, but the ending was perfect. The little dragon discovers he can’t breathe fire like all the other dragons, though he can breathe bubbles and other silly things. At first he and his family are embarrassed, but in the end, they all realize how special he is.
Zero by Kathryn Otoshi. In this book, Zero feels lonely as she watches the other numbers and how much value they have. She tries everything she can to change, but in the end, realizes that she can only be Zero – and she learns what it means to find value in herself.
Let’s Talk About It: Extraordinary Friends by Fred Rogers. This is an ideal book for teaching children about differences and disabilities in a way that is relatable and not intimidating. That Mr. Rogers really knows his stuff!
Zoom! by Robert Munsch. This book is from the author of the popular Love You Forever. He takes a wheelchair and makes it engaging and relatable to young children. This book opened up some great conversations with my kids about why people might use a wheelchair.
I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont. The little girl in this book decides that she loves many things about herself that even others may not appreciate. It encourages kids to not let others’ negative opinions become their own, and to appreciate both their insides and their outsides.
Don’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas. I’ll say that I’m not a huge fan of the title, but this book explains parts of disability in ways that are really easy to understand. I love the lesson it teaches: “when we assume things about people, it might hurt their feelings or make them feel left out.”
We Can Do It! by Laura Dwight. This book showcases five children with five different disabilities, and highlights their busy and happy lives.
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. This book is adorable! Molly Lou’s grandma has always told her to smile big, stand proud and just generally be herself, and even after being picked on by a bully, she doesn’t lose sight of who she is and what she likes about herself.
Courtney Westlake is the author of A Different Beautiful, which just released on August 1. She lives in Illinois with her husband Evan and children Connor and Brenna. After Brenna was born with a severe skin disorder, Courtney began chronicling family life and experiences raising a child with physical differences and special needs on her blog. Her writing has been published on sites such as the Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day and Yahoo Parenting. You can also follow her on Facebook and Instagram.