Disability representation is as key to your classroom library as representing kids’ genders, races, cultures, and family circumstances. It can be tricky, though. Many children’s books about disabilities actually promote negative stereotypes. To put together the most helpful list for you, we focused mostly on #ownvoices books written by disabled authors. We also looked for books in which disabled characters tell their own stories. Finally, we read tons of reviews to see what disabled readers and parents of disabled children had to say.
Feel like you need more guidance on choosing and sharing children’s books about disabilities? We learned a lot from children’s publishing agents James and Lucy Catchpole. They are disabled, and they give great tips for teachers on their blog. (See James’s own picture book below, too!)
(Just a heads up, WeAreTeachers may collect a share of sales from the links on this page. We only recommend items our team loves!)
Children’s Picture Books About Disabilities
1. We Move Together by Kelly Fritsch and Anne McGuire
This gem celebrates human connection and calls for shared activism. The resource section at the back helps classes talk about ableism, accessibility, and more. An all-ages book with many layers.
2. What Happened to You? by James Catchpole
Joe is deep into a game of pirates at the playground when other children begin asking him questions about why he has one leg. Joe deftly keeps the focus on play, teaching his playmates about empathy and privacy. This is an important book for talking about respectful responses to (any) differences. Definitely check out the free lesson plans from the author’s website and his personal reasons for writing the book.
3. Mama Zooms by Jane Cowen-Fletcher
Add this joyful title to your collection of books about families! A young boy zooms through the day on his mom’s lap in her wheelchair.
4. Little Senses series by Samantha Cotterill
Written by an author with autism, these stories encouragingly highlight common experiences for neurodiverse kids. Many children can relate to having to cope at noisy places, manage schedule changes, try new foods, or figure out another’s feelings.
5. Can Bears Ski? By Raymond Antrobus
A young bear shares his early experiences with deafness. Others keep asking him something that sounds like, “Can bears ski?” When his family learns more about how to best communicate with him, he’s joyfully able to understand (and answer) the question, “Can you hear me?”
6. Lone Wolf by Sarah Kurpiel
Here’s an example of a children’s book that’s not about disabilities, but can increase representation in your classroom library. People ask Maple, a family husky, if she’s really a wolf…so much that she starts to wonder. The author uses a power wheelchair and shows one of the family members in the illustrations using one, too.
7. I Talk Like A River by Jordan Scott
This personal narrative explains how the metaphor of a flowing river helped the author feel less alone with his stuttering. This title would be a powerful addition to your collection of personal narrative writing mentor texts.
8. My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay by Cari Best
Zulay is a blind first grader. She’s already learned to read and write Braille, climb trees, swim, and has a fun crew of friends. She’s learning to use a cane, and she works determinedly to run a race on Field Day. We like how the rhythmic text and Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s illustrations make this book feel fresh and fun, and not overly teach-y.
Informational Children’s Books About Disabilities
9. Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability by Shane Burcaw
The author uses photos and examples from his own life to answer FAQs and normalize disability for kids. He has a great sense of humor, which makes for an accessible, light-hearted tone. Just give it a read through first to make sure your students with disabilities would feel comfortable hearing the book shared in a group. Also, point out that while Shane is eager to share personal details, not all disabled people feel the same.
10. Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes
If you’re looking for children’s books about disabilities featuring service dogs, choose this one! Jessica Kensky, an amputee, shares how her black lab is both a service dog and a treasured companion.
11. All the Way to the Top: How One Girl’s Fight for Americans With Disabilities Changed Everything by Annette Bay Pimentel
As an 8-year-old with cerebral palsy, activist Jennifer Keelan-Chaffins crawled to the top of the Capitol building steps. This Capitol Crawl protest helped spur Congress to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990. The resource section teaches readers more about the history of the ADA as well as the work still to be done.
12. A Kids Book About Disabilities by Kristine Napper
This teacher and author who has Spinal Muscular Atrophy sends a clear message: “Having a disability is one of the many ways to be normal.” It’s a great conversation starter about how to live—and spread—this mindset.
13. I Am Not a Label: 34 Disabled Artists, Thinkers, Athletes and Activists from Past and Present by Cerrie Burnell
The author explains that this collection of mini-bios is a children’s book about disabilities she wishes she had as a kid. A fantastic classroom resource for browsing and sharing.
Middle Grade Children’s Books About Disabilities
14. The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker
This author was the first person in a wheelchair to be cast in a Broadway show, so she’s well suited to write about thirteen-year-old Natalie, whose biggest dream is to be a musical theater star. Natalie’s experiences—with friends, seeking independence, sticking up for herself, and pursuing her passion—will be relatable and empowering for many kids.
15. El Deafo: The Superpowered Edition by Cece Bell
Upgrade to the more recent edition of this classroom library staple! It has new back matter with photos from the author’s life and early sketches from the book. Cece Bell based this graphic novel on her own experiences with deafness—her “superpower.” The author’s note can help kids learn about varied experiences in the Deaf community.
16. The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family by Sarah Kapit
Tween sisters Lara and Caroline start a detective agency and end up taking a closer look at their own family mysteries. Each sister has different characteristics on the autism spectrum. This is an affirming title for kids with similar experiences written by an autistic author. It’s also a great discussion book to explore characterization and relationships.