A selection of books for children that depict inclusive community- building, and inclusion of children of diverse abilities in typical classrooms, schools and neighborhoods.
Bouwkamp, J. (2006). Hi! I’m Ben!… and I’ve got a secret. 2nd. edition. Rochester Hills, MI: Band of Angels Press.
3-year-old Ben introduces himself and asks readers to guess his secret. His clues tell about his family, all the things he enjoys doing, things he is afraid of, all very typical of any child his age. The secret he reveals is his Down syndrome, which is explained in positive and age-appropriate language.
Bunnett, R. (1992). Friends in the park. Yardley, PA: Checkerboard Press.
A photo essay, this book depicts friends of mixed abilities playing together and doing the activities that all children enjoy such as playing ball, swinging, and riding toy vehicles.
Bunnett, R. (1996.) Friends at school. Long Island City, NY: Star Bright Books.
This photo essay depicts young children of mixed abilities in an inclusive school setting sharing a busy school day. A Spanish edition is also available.
Brown, Tricia. (1995.) Someone special, just like you. New York: Henry Holt & Company.
Pre-school aged children with disabilities are depicted in this photo essay having fun doing all the things that any children enjoy: blowing bubbles, singing, dancing, resting, and eating. They show that, despite some differences they might have, they explore life’s experiences the way any children do: with enthusiasm and delight.
Carter, A. (1997). Big brother Dustin. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.
Dustin, a preschool aged child who has Down syndrome, and his family eagerly await and prepare for their new baby.
Carter, A. (1999). Dustin’s big school day. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.
This story follows Dustin, a second grader who has Down syndrome, through his school day. He is attends typical school and learns in a typical classroom, with visits to a speech therapist and an occupational therapist. Dustin is an engaging young man who is more similar to his friends than he is different.
Carter, A. (1998). Seeing things my way. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.
Amanda is a second grader who has a vision impairment. She introduces us to her family, her school, her doctors, and the variety of assistive technology available to vision impaired students. Amanda is a busy and happy girl with many interests, and the photographic illustrations show how similar she is to her peers than different.
Cave, K. (2004). That's what friends do. New York: Hyperion Books for Children.
This loving illustration of friends who are very different in appearance will inspire children and the adults who care for and teach them.
Cheltenham Elementary School Kindergartners. (1991.) We are all alike… we are all different. New York: Scholastic Inc.
This compilation of kindergarteners’ drawings and words rounded out by Laura Dwight’s photography demonstrates that all children share differences and similarities in their families, houses, bodies, feelings and activities.
Clements, A. (2002). Big Al and Shrimpy. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. A big, strong fish named Big Al who becomes injured during one of their adventures together befriends a very small, smart and lonely fish named Shrimpy. It is Shrimpy’s big ideas and perseverance that builds the team that saves Big Al.
De Bear, Kirsten. (2001). Be quiet, Marina! Long Island City, NY: Star Bright Books.
This photographic story illustrates how two three-year-old girls (one who has cerebral palsy and one who has Down syndrome) learn to appreciate each other's differences in communication style in order to become friends and playmates.
Dwight, L. (2005). Brothers and sisters. Long Island City, NY: Star Bright Books.
Dwight, L. (1992). We can do it! New York: Checkerboard Press.
This book focuses on the abilities of five children with different disabilities: blindness, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and spina bifida. They are shown in inclusive settings enjoying the typical activities young children at home and at school.
Girnis, M. (2001). 1, 2, 3 for you and me. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.
This counting book is illustrated with fun photographs of children who have Down syndrome and their typical peers and siblings.
Girnis, M. (2000). A, B, C for you and me. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Company.
This alphabet book is illustrated with fun photographs of children who have Down syndrome and their typical peers and siblings.
Kent, D. (2003). Athletes with disabilities. New York: Franklin Watts.
This chapter book is meant for an older elementary audience, but is worth mentioning here because its photographic illustrations are inspiring and it contains information about athletes with a variety of disabilities who compete in the Special Olympics, the Paralympics and other competitive arenas.
Kraus, R. (1971). Leo the late bloomer. New York: Windmill Books.
This classic tale tells the story of Leo, a tiger who learns things like talking, reading, writing, drawing and eating neatly much more slowly than his father expects him to. His mother believes that he is a “late bloomer,” and she is right: “One day, in his own good time, Leo bloomed.”
Lester, H. (1999). Hooway for wodney wat. New York: Water Lorraine Books.
When a shy classmate who has trouble pronouncing his “R’s” has an opportunity to just be himself and unwittingly save his class from a bully, he becomes a hero.
Levete, S. (1998). How do I feel about making friends. Brookfield, CT: Copper Beech Books.
This book emphasizes the importance of friendship by illustrating and describing scenarios about making friends and keeping peers feeling welcome and included, all in age-appropriate language. The photographic and drawn illustrations are ethnically diverse and inclusive of all abilities.
Lionni, L. (1963). Swimmy. New York: Pantheon.
In this classic, Swimmy is a lone black fish in a school of red fish that learns to be himself, share and get along with others, and use teamwork to conquer a big task.
Mayer, G. & Mayer, M. (1992.) A very special critter. New York: A Golden Book.
When a new student who uses a wheelchair joins the critters’ class, the critters are nervous and curious. But when Alex arrives and they get to know him and learn about the assistance his wheel chair offers him, they realize that he is more similar than different.
McMahon, P. (2000). Dancing wheels. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
McMahon, P. (1995). Listen for the bus: David’s story. Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press.
This story follows David through his first days of kindergarten in a typical school and classroom. He rides the bus, finds his cubby, enjoys circle time and story time. Since he is blind and hearing impaired, David experiences all of these new adventures through feeling the textures of objects and using sign language, and receives some help from his teachers and school friends.
Millman, I. (1998). Moses goes to a concert. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Frances Foster Books.
Moses, a young deaf student, goes to an orchestra concert on a field trip with his classmates and meets a deaf percussionist. Moses and his friends learn to feel the vibrations of the music, and are able to sample the different percussion instruments after the concert. This book includes pictures of Moses and his teacher and friends using American Sign Language, and the ASL hand alphabet is illustrated.
Millman, I. (2000). Moses goes to school. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux: Frances Foster Books.
This book shows Moses and his ethnically diverse deaf classmates learning in their school, on their playground, and on their school bus. American Sign Language is illustrated throughout.
Moncure, J. B. (1996). The child’s world of kindness. Chanhassen, MN: Child’s World.
In simple language and appealing illustrations, this book introduces what it means to be kind, being gentle with animals, taking turns, and helping others.
Oliver, C. (1999). Animals helping with special needs. New York: Franklin Watts.
This informative book is meant for an older elementary audience, but would benefit a younger group with assistance. Seeing eye dogs, hearing dogs, and other assistance pets (including monkeys!) are introduced, shown in photographic illustrations with the people whom they assist. Interesting and inspiring anecdotes are shared in sidebars.
Osofsky, A. (1994). My Buddy. New York: Henry Holt & Company.
Buddy is a golden retriever who helps a boy who has muscular dystrophy reach his goals of independence. Together, the boy and his buddy make a great team and show that children who have physical disabilities are able to participate in typical activities if they have some help.
Parr, T. (2001). It's okay to be different. Boston: Megan Tingley Books.
Todd Parr's books celebrate differences among people. Illustrations are bold and primitive, so these work well with younger children even if the topics are abstract.
Parr, T. (1999). The okay book. Boston: Megan Tingley Books.
Pitzer, R. (2004). I can, can you? Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
In board book format and illustrated with photographs, this book shows babies and toddlers who have Down syndrome having fun doing the things that all babies and toddlers do.
Rickert, J.E. (2001). Russ and the almost perfect day. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
This story follows Russ, an elementary school student who happens to have Down syndrome, through a day that is typical, but better. He finds a five-dollar bill on the way to school and decides that even though he has fun ideas about how to spend the money, his sad classmate who lost her lunch money deserves it more.
Rickert, J.E. (1999). Russ and the apple tree surprise. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
In the second story in the Russ series, Russ, a pre-schooler who has Down syndrome, learns that the apple trees in his back yard are more fun than a jungle gym. He picks apples with his father, helps make an apple pie with his mother and grandmother, and is excited when his grandfather surprises him with a tree swing.
Rickert, J.E. (2000). Russ and the firehouse. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
In this first story in the Russ series, Russ, a pre-school aged boy who has Down syndrome, enjoys an exciting day visiting his uncle at his firehouse where he learns how to help out with the firefighters’ chores.
Rogers, F. (2001). Let’s talk about it: extraordinary friends. New York: Puffin Books.
Part of the “Let’s Talk About It” series, this book opens discussion about people with disabilities and deals openly with the feelings a child might have upon meeting someone with a disability for the first time, such as curiosity, fear or surprise. With a common sense approach, Rogers assures young children that these feelings are okay, and that once they learn that everyone has differences AND similarities, it will be easier to get to know those they might find intimidating, and make friends.
Ross, D. (1999). A book of friends. New York: Harper Collins Publishers.
An age-appropriate discussion of the different kinds of friendships one can have. Diversity is illustrated with animals; one drawback is the use of non-standard fonts and cursive, which make this a book to read aloud to a young audience.
Senisi, E. (1998). All kinds of friends, even green. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
Moses and his pet iguana, Zaki, have disabilities that require them to figure out ways to get around easily: Moses uses a wheelchair and Zaki is missing some toes. This story looks at disability and associated challenges as interesting and positive differences.
Shirley, D.. (2008). Best friend on wheels. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman & Co..
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Slate, J. (1998). Miss Bindergarten celebrates the 100th day of kindergarten. New York: Dutton Children's Books.
The Miss Bindergarten series follows a kindergarten class of recurring characters through their adventures. Lenny the Lion uses a wheelchair and he is included naturally in all activities, supported by his friends and teacher, who never mention or direct attention to his disability.
Slate, J. (1996). Miss Bindergarten gets ready for kindergarten. New York: Dutton Children's Books.
Slate, J. (2002). Miss Bindergarten plans a circus with kindergarten. New York: Dutton Children's Books.
Slate, J. (2000). Miss Bindergarten stays home from kindergarten. New York: Dutton Children's Books.
Slate, J. (2001). Miss Bindergarten takes a field trip with kindergarten. New York: Dutton Children's Books.
Stuve-Bodeen, S. (2005). The best worst brother. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
A sequel to the story entitled, We'll paint the octopus red, listed below.
Stuve-Bodeen, S. (1998). We’ll paint the octopus red. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
Six-year-old Emma learns that she will soon be a big sister and thinks of all the fun things she will be able to do with her new sibling. When her brother, Isaac, is born with Down syndrome, she is reassured that she will still be able to do all the things she planned, and with patience, she will help him learn to do everything she knows how to do.
Thomas, P. (2005). Don't call me special: a first look at disability. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series.
Thompson, M. (1996). Andy and his yellow frisbee. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
Sarah attends a new school and notices that a boy named Andy spends all of recess time spinning a yellow Frisbee. She asks him to teach her how to spin her pink Frisbee, but he doesn’t seem to notice her. Rosie, Andy’s sister, is concerned that Sarah might not understand Andy’s autism, but the two girls become friends.
Willis, Jeanne. (2000). Susan laughs. New York: Henry Holt & Company.
This rhyming story depicts Susan, who is an energetic and happy girl who is busy with typical every day fun activities of childhood. Only the last illustration shows Susan’s wheelchair, which serves to illustrate how many more similarities children share than differences.
Woloson, E. (2003). My friend Isabelle. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
Pre-school aged friends Charlie and Isabelle are the same age and similar in many ways. They both like to dance, go down the big slide, share snacks and hold hands. Isabelle has Down syndrome and her friend Charlie notices that she is smaller, runs slower, and sometimes speaks differently. When Charlie’s mother “says that differences are what make the world so great,” Charlie agrees that “life is more fun with friends like Isabelle.”
Also: Available as a free download from Woodbine House
Thrasher, A. (2004). A teacher's guide to My Friend Isabelle: classroom activities that foster acceptance of differences. Bethesda, MD: Woodbine House.
Zeigler, S. (1996). The child’s world of understanding. Chanhassen, MN: Child’s World.
The concept of understanding is defined and illustrated through this simple age-appropriate picture book.