Oct 13 2021 Children’s Books and Disability: Looking in the Mirror
For disabled children, books featuring other disabled people — mirrors — where kids see and read about people similar to them helps them identify with the characters and can play a role in boosting self-image. These books convey the positive message that there are many children like them.
For non-disabled children, these stories teach how it feels to navigate childhood with a disability, providing a window into the lives of those who are different from them.
Reading helps all children recognize words and expand their language, whether it’s spoken or sign language. Books spark imagination and stimulate curiosity, improving focus, social skills, and communication skills, and teaching the difference between real and make-believe.
Click HERE to find tips for sharing books with your grandchildren.
Here are some recommendations for Jewish-themed books with disabled characters, along with a few secular suggestions.
Click on each title to buy the book!
The Mitten String by Jennifer Rosner
Ruthie knits mittens. When a deaf woman and her baby visit, Ruthie learns about their relationship and is inspired to create a special gift for them.
Nathan Blows out the Hanukkah Candles by Tami Lehman-Wilzig
At Chanukah, Jacob worries that his autistic brother, Nathan, will blow out the candles and embarrass him.
Cakes and Miracles by Barbara Diamond Goldin
For Purim, Hershel, the only blind boy in the village, wants to help his mother prepare for the holiday, but worries that he can’t help if he can’t see. A dream helps him learn that he can see when he closes his eyes.
And here are some wonderful secular choices:
Moses Goes to a Concert by Isaac Millman
Moses is deaf and attends a concert with his deaf classmates. They hold balloons in their laps to feel the vibrations. After the concert they learn from the percussionist in the orchestra who is also deaf. The book includes American Sign Language at the bottom of each page.
Together Things: When her father feels sad, a little girl finds ways to keep the bonds of love alive by Michelle Vasiliu and Gwennyth Jones
This book teaches children the importance of talking about mental health and helps them understand the emotions and realities of living with a parent experiencing mental illness.
We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio
Based on the wildly popular novel Wonder, this book for younger readers introduces the concepts of empathy, kindness, and belonging by exploring what it is like to live in Auggie’s world. While Auggie may feel like any other kid, he is not always seen that way due to a significant facial difference.
Follow the links below to find more books with disabled characters for children of all ages and reading abilities.
Click HERE to find HuffPost’s Children’s Books That Feature Characters with Disabilities.
Click HERE to find Rebekah Gienapp’s list of 16 stereotype-busting children’s books starring disabled characters.
Click HERE to find The Book of Life’s list of Diverse Jewish Books.
Lisa Friedman is a widely recognized expert in Jewish disability inclusion and has been a consultant for congregations, schools, camps, and other organizations for over fifteen years. She also currently serves as Director of Education at a Reform congregation in Central New Jersey.