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Christmas Gift Ideas: Children's Books about Disability

By Steff

Educating children about tolerance and differences should be important to all parents, but can be difficult if a child does not have direct contact with any peers or relatives with disabilities. Books can teach children to understand other with disabilities, accept and celebrate their own differences, and to help others when they see them struggling.

Books featuring characters with disabilities are also great gifts for disabled children, because they help the child to realise that there are others out there like them. Stories can also help siblings of children with disabilities to cope with complex feelings of protectiveness and shame.

Here are our picks for some of the best children’s picture books about disabilities:

Footsteps through the Fog, by Margaret Mahy, illustrated by Gavin Bishop

Cover: Figures make their way through fog.

Sadly, much-loved New-Zealand children’s author Margaret Mahy died this year. Her last book was about a little blind girl named Anthea.  When Anthea’s family goes to the beach one day, her mother tells them to take care of her. But when a thick fog rolls in from the ocean, it’s up to Anthea to get everyone home safely.  All proceeds from the sale of this book go to the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind.

Hooway for Wodney Wat, by Helen Lester, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger

Roger "Wat" features on the cover of this book.

Although books where disabilities are portrayed on animals aren’t as effective as learning tools (because children don’t relate to them as much as with books about other children), this book is too delightful to ignore. The main character is Rodney Rat, who cannot pronounce the letter “R” and is teased mercilessly by the other rodents. But when Camilla Capybara joins the class, and announces she is bigger, meaner and smarter than all the rest of the rodents, everyone is afraid. But Rodney outsmarts Camilla in a game of Simon Says, and earns the respect of his classmates for putting the bully in her place.

My Brother Sammy, by Becky Edwards, illustrated by David Armitage

Two brothers together in a beautiful garden.

Sammy’s brother wishes he had a brother who can talk to him, build towers with him, and join his friends at play. Instead, he’s got Sammy, who mimics his speech, knocks down his building blocks, and lies alone on the grass staring at the leaves on trees. But as the older boy tries doing and seeing things Sammy’s way, a special relationship develops between them. An excellent book for children whose siblings have a disability, My Brother Sammy was the recipient of the Dolly Gray Award.

Dad and Me in the Morning, by Patricia Lakin, illustrations by Robert G. Steele

A dad and his son stand on the porch of a house at dawn.

The story begins when Jacob wakes up to his flashing alarm clock, puts in his hearing aids and goes down the hall to wake his dad. They walk down the beach together in the morning to watch the sunrise, talking to each other in different ways, by signing, lip reading or “just squeezing each other’s hands.” The rich, layered illustrations perfectly depict this sweet story about father and son enjoying a morning together. Dad and Me in the Morning won the Schneider Family Award.

Crow Boy, by Taro Yashima

A boy stands, cloth wrapped around his head and a small black bird on the end of his finger.

This classic tale was released in 1955, and is still a favourite today. It features a small boy called Chibi, who is different from the other children. He has many characteristics of autism. The other kids leave him alone and don’t include him in their games. However, a new teacher discovers that Chibi can imitate the sound of crows, and Chibi participates in the talent show, allowing his classmates to accept him.

Of course, books are no good if you, or your child, can’t actually read them. The Disability Shop offer a range of Dual focus magnifiers, full-page magnifiers, wooden reading rests and reading glasses to enable everyone to enjoy a book together.

What are your favourite Children’s books featuring characters who have disabilities?

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