As with all things, the best way to introduce sensitive subjects to our little ones is to start early. Today I’m discussing children’s books about disabilities, and the one I’m focusing on is designed for younger kids.
It can be hard to know what to expose youngsters to and what not to bring up until strictly necessary. In our home, if our children have questions, we answer them – simply, but factually. There are also certain topics for which we seek opportunities to raise in a natural way, to actively encourage curiosity and learning.
As a rule, children are naturally inquisitive, but also naturally accepting of what they’re taught, especially by their parents.
If they’re introduced to a concept while they’re young enough, as they grow and mature, it’s not strange or taboo – it just is.
That’s why we’ve loved Mr Tumble in our family – it’s a really lovely and gentle way to introduce toddlers to the idea that not everybody is the same. It’s also why I was really pleased to discover the book I’m recommending today in our local library.
Children’s Books About Disabilities
The book I’m reviewing is Don’t Call Me Special, by psychotherapist and counsellor Pat Thomas.
Don’t Call Me Special, whilst not a story book as such, uses a clever narrative to illustrate the idea that we should avoid making assumptions about people based on the way they look. With that in mind, the book is actually a wonderful tool for exploring more than just disability: since the concept of assuming facts about others can be applied in lots of different contexts, it’s a fantastic resource for encouraging conversations about diversity in a broader sense, too.
The book looks specifically at the issue of singling out disabled children with language which may feel isolating. It’s a difficult line to tread even for adults: offence may not be intended, yet can be caused nonetheless.
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Using appropriate terms is an almost impossible expectation to have of children since those deemed acceptable changes over time, but talking about intent and why some are hurtful while others might be empowering is helpful.
Illustrations are bright and colourful, and there are also text boxes containing prompts for additional points of discussion. These are formatted as open-ended questions, focussed both on disabled people and also bringing attention back to themselves, which helps to demonstrate both differences and similarities between able and less able people.
I particularly like the fact that the book talks about helpers being teachers as well as other children, and in a simple and appropriate way, also explores the idea of too much assistance being patronising.
The book finishes with guidelines for adults of how best to utilise the book for discussing disability with children, and suggestions of group activities to support reading too.
I’m personally very impressed with the positive messages in Don’t Call Me Special and have happily read the book with my preschooler.
The formative years are critical for fostering tolerance, and that’s easily achieved by capitalising on our young children’s natural openness.
There are several more titles in the series which also sound like excellent resources covering bullying, racism, death, conflict, and more.
Have you read any children’s books about disabilities that you’d recommend?
Check out more book reviews and recommendation in this series in the Moral Story Books for Children Index.