Kids Books That Celebrate Disability and Differences
Exposing children to books that feature folks of all abilities can go a long way in building empathy and compassion—for themselves and others. For help culling your inclusive at-home book collection (or your next library haul), pick up a few of these fantastic and award-winning reads that not only include kids with disabilities, but stunning prose and illustrations that’ll captivate any reader.
Written and illustrated by R.J. Palacio
We’re All Wonders is a beautiful introduction to Auggie Pullman, a young boy moving through life with facial differences. (The world first met Auggie over a decade ago as the protagonist of the bestselling book—and later, hit film—Wonder.) In this book, written and illustrated especially for 3- to 8-year-olds, Auggie likes to put on his helmet and zoom into space when life on Earth gets to be too much. From high above, Auggie sees that everyone is different—not just him! We’re All Wonders challenges young readers not only to believe in themselves, but to accept the differences in others. In short, it’s the perfect read to delve into empathy and kindness with young kids.
Written by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Sean Qualls
Emmanuel’s Dream tells the true story of a boy who was born in Ghana, West Africa with a deformed leg who never let that hold him back. In fact, Emmanuel not only learned to play soccer, hop to school, and ride a bike, he eventually rode 400 miles across Ghana, showing the world that “disability” does not mean “inability.” Through lyrical prose and beautiful watercolor collage illustrations, the multi-award winning Emmanuel’s Dream is a powerful book celebrating perseverance that’s just-right for the 5- to 9-year-old set.
Written by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song
Henry, a little boy on the autism spectrum, enters school yearning to find a pal who’s quiet, likes to read, and enjoys order just like he does. But the children in his class (second left down the hall) turned out to be loud and chaotic—and finding a friend seemed impossible! But then Henry meets Katie…who’s just like him in many ways, but also different in many ways. This award-winning, must-read book for children 3 and up does a wonderful job capturing what it’s like for a child with autism to make friends—and it gently hits home that friends don’t have to be exactly alike to appreciate each other.
Written and illustrated by Isaac Millman
Did you know you don’t need to hear to enjoy music? In Moses Goes to a Concert, a class of school children take an exciting field trip to a local concert hall only to learn that the lead percussionist is deaf…just like all the students! The performer uses her stocking feet to feel the musical vibrations and the kids use balloons to do the same. The story is told in pictures, written words—and in American Sign Language. There’s even an introductory note explaining how to easily interpret sign language throughout. This is a perfect addition to any 4-and-up child’s bookshelf!
Written by Jordan Scott, illustrated by Sydney Smith
This extraordinary read was named a New York Times Best Children’s Book of the Year for good reason. Here, poet Jordan Scott culls from his own life to share what it’s like to stutter…and what it’s like to have a loving parent help you find your voice. This is a powerful, moving, and stunning read for any child who has ever felt lost, lonely, or like an outsider—and those who love them. As a beautiful bonus, the book also includes an autobiographical essay, which prompts even more conversation-starters.
Written by Margaret O'Hair and Sofia Sanchez, illustrated by Sofia Cardoso
You may know Sofia Sanchez from her viral “Down Syndrome Is Not Scary” video. The actress and model is also the co-author of You Are Enough, a picture book dedicated to celebrating being yourself. Aimed at kids 3 and up, this cheerful book spreads the warm and universal message that we all belong. You Are Enough also includes a brief bio of Sofia, additional info on Down syndrome, along with tips on how we can all be more inclusive and kinder every day.
Written by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts
While Aaron loves to draw, he truly wants to write…but there’s a hiccup: Letters look like squiggles to him! It’s a good thing he figured out how to share his stories in a super-unique way. Aaron Slater, Illustrator Parents is a fantastic book about a kiddo with dyslexia figuring out how to tell his story—and it’s a great reminder that children with learning differences can, indeed, carve their own path to success. This bestselling Amazon Teachers’ Pick is a spot-on choice for kiddos 4 and up—and it’s a delight to read aloud.
Written by Maryann Cocca-Leffler and Janine Leffler, illustrated by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
Your kiddo may be shocked to learn that there was a time not too long ago when millions of children with disabilities were not allowed to go to public school in America. (Mind blowing, right?) We Want to Go To School rewinds to 1971 when seven children and their families fought for that right in court…a battle (Mills v. Board of Education) that led to life-changing laws that ensured kids with disabilities would receive a free and appropriate public education. This important history lesson works wonders to empower children to continue advocating for the rights of all.
Written by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael López
The bestselling children’s book Just Ask! features several folks—including author Justice Sonia Sotomayor (who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes early in life)—answering questions about their respective disabilities, differences, and/or chronic conditions. The blunt questions are coupled with matter-of-fact answers that highlight the strengths and difficulties everyone bears. Vibrant and engaging, this Amazon Teachers’ Pick truly celebrates how our differences are what makes us special.
More Great Reads:
- Kids’ Books That Teach Empathy and Kindness
- Books About Big Emotions for Little Kids
- Best Kids Books About Friendship
- Books That Teach Little Kids About Race, Justice, and Equality
Have questions about a Happiest Baby product? Our consultants would be happy to help! Submit your questions here.
Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.