When it comes to talking about differing abilities with our kids, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start. For me, this is where books come in. Quality children’s books can open up conversations and help us grownups teach children about important and sometimes challenging topics. In this post I’d like to share a few of the books I read regularly with my daycare kids to teach them about differing abilities.
This isn’t a complete collection by any means – feel free to post in the comments below if you have more ideas! These books have given me a good starting point for discussions as well as provided much loved story time. Below I’ll tell you a little bit about each book and how my daycare kids reacted to them.
- by Jane Cowen Fletcher
- ages 2+
Mama Zooms (affiliate link) is a simple story that follows a boy and his mother on their imaginary adventures. Though we see hints of Mom’s wheelchair throughout the story, it is not the main focal point of the book. This tells the reader that while Mom uses a wheelchair, her physical differences do not define her. She is Mom, first and foremost.
We have seen people using wheelchairs in the neighborhood so this book was a great way to bring up a discussion with my daycare kids. The interesting thing was they didn’t ask about the wheelchair until we’d read it several times. When they brought it up, I answered what questions they had and then we continued to read it for days to come.
- by Menena Cottin
- ages 4+
The Black Book of Colors (affiliate link) gives insight into the world of someone who is blind in a very artistic and imaginative way. It includes braille as well as written text and illustrations you can feel.
The concept of blindness was a new one for my daycare kids. We closed our eyes and focused on our other senses to try and imagine what it would be like. We discussed how people might move safely and experience the world by listening, touching and smelling.
Be Quiet, Marina!
- by Kristen DeBear
- Ages 3+
Be Quiet, Marina! (affiliate link) is a photo illustrated story that follows two young friends as they learn to play together and respect each other’s differences. Marina, who has cerebral palsy gets frustrated and screams. Moira, who has down syndrome, doesn’t like so much noise. Through communication and some patience, Marina learns to keep her emotions in check and Moira learns to remind her friend of her own need for quiet.
My daycare kids related immediately to this book. They have all had times when they wanted quiet amongst a boisterous group. The differences of the kids in the book didn’t come up for quite some time. The way the girls solved their problems was much more interesting to the kids than their differences. To me, that made this book a wonderful learning experience. The kids saw that people with differences like Moira and Marina are very much like themselves and aren’t defined by their challenges.
- by Jeanne M. Lee
- ages 4+
Silent Lotus (affiliate link) is a beautiful and inspiring story of a young Cambodian girl who cannot speak. The gorgeous artwork and touching story follow her as she learns to express herself through dance.
This book opened up a lot of discussions for us. The kids wanted to know why Lotus couldn’t speak. They felt it was unfair that no one wanted to play with her and wanted to know why. In the end they were inspired by her becoming a dancer and making friends despite her challenges.
Tips for Talking to Kids About Differing Abilities
- If your child notices someone who is different from them, bring it up at an appropriate time. You may say something like “It looked like you were curious about the little boy we saw earlier.” Let you kids now it’s OK to ask questions and that you’re willing to answer them.
- Say a “person with a disability” rather than a “disabled person.” Putting the disability last shows that people need not be identified by their differences.
- Talk about what your child has in common with people of differing abilities who you meet. Focus on what is the same, not just what is different.
- Find more ideas at the Fred Rogers Company website.