Best Children's Books About Disabilities

The Best 33 Books To Help You Better Understand Disabilities

Updated Feb. 22, 2019

Did you know that more than 12.8% of people in the United States of America have a disability (2017 Disability Statistics Annual Report)? Whether mental or physical differences, learning about disabilities can help us have a better understanding of conditions and more empathy for differently-abled people.

Apart from being a great way to learn, these books are also a great way to start conversations with your children about advocacy, inclusion, and kindness.

A Boy Called Bat book
#1
A Boy Called Bat
Written by Elana K. Arnold and illustrated by Charles Santoso
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 6-10
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I absolutely adore this book. Bat is a wonderful, developed character that can really help children reading understand and have empathy for those on the Autism spectrum.

The first book in a funny, heartfelt, and irresistible young middle grade series starring an unforgettable young boy on the autism spectrum, from acclaimed author Elana K. Arnold and with illustrations by Charles Santoso. For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter. But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet. "This sweet and thoughtful novel chronicles Bat’s experiences and challenges at school with friends and teachers and at home with his sister and divorced parents. Approachable for younger or reluctant readers while still delivering a powerful and thoughtful story" (from the review by Brightly.com, which named A Boy Called Bat a best book of 2017).

Wonder book
#2
Wonder
Written by R. J. Palacio
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Born with a facial deformity that initially prevented his attendance at public school, Auggie Pullman enters the fifth grade at Beecher Prep and struggles with the dynamics of being both new and different, in a sparsely written tale about acceptance and self-esteem.

I Am Helen Keller book
#3
I Am Helen Keller
Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos, Brad Meltzer
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

I thought this was a fantastic biography of the life of Helen Keller--her hardships and accomplishments. There are a lot of fun facts in the story, and it's a little longer of a picture book, but I thought it was engaging and a fun, inspiring read.

"The story of Helen Keller, who learned to read and write despite being deaf and blind, and became an activist who fought for the rights of disabled people"

We'll Paint the Octopus Red book
#4
We'll Paint the Octopus Red
Written by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen and illustrated by Pam DeVito
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Emma and her father discuss what they will do when the new baby arrives, but they adjust their expectations when he is born with Down syndrome.

Mrs. Gorski I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgets book
#5
Mrs. Gorski I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgets
Written by Barbara Esham and illustrated by Mike Gordon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses is meant to demonstrate various forms of learning, creativity, and intelligence. Each book introduces a realistic example of triumph over difficulty in a positive, humorous way that readers of all ages will enjoy! David gets scolded a lot by his teacher, Mrs. Gorski, for not paying attention in class. He wants to pay attention but it is just so hard when an exciting idea pops into his head. And he usually can't tell that he's making a mistake until after he makes them. But after a particularly big mistake, David comes up with his own plan to tone down his wiggle fidgets. This award-winning story is a simple introduction to ADHD and the creative ways of finding solutions to the challenges that ADHD can create. Mrs. Gorski, I Think I Have the Wiggle Fidgetsis the recipient of: the Academics' Choice Gold Seal Mom's Choice Award Gold Parents' Choice Award "A masterful tale of empowering children...Esham artfully describes the gifts and challenges of children with ADHD." -Dr. Susan Baum, professor emeritus, the College of New Rochelle Praise for the series: "This is a wonderful book series. Each story shows children that success is about effort and determination, that problems need not derail them, and that adults can understand their worries and struggles. My research demonstrates that these lessons are essential for children." --Dr. Carol S. Dweck

Susan Laughs book
#6
Susan Laughs
Written by Jeanne Willis and illustrated by Tony Ross
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

Rhyming couplets describe a wide range of common emotions and activities experienced by a little girl who uses a wheelchair.

A Christmas Carol book
#7
A Christmas Carol
Written by Jennifer Adams and illustrated by Alison Oliver
board book
Recommend Ages: 2-4

Take a walk with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come in Little Master Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: A BabyLit® Colors Primer. See old Jacob Marley shaking silver chains, gold stars shining around the Ghost of Christmas Past, and a red scarf keeping Tiny Tim warm. This bright retelling of a Christmas classic will scare any “bah, humbug” feelings away.

Through Grandpa's Eyes book
#8
Through Grandpa's Eyes
Written by Patricia MacLachlan and illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8
Thoughts from B is for Bookworm

This book is a bit on the long side, so may be better for kiddos with a longer attention span, but it is a lovely story about a little boy trying to experience the world the way his grandpa does—without sight. The illustrations are soft and soothing, and the messages about empathy and how important the bond between grandparents and grandchildren can be are powerful ones.

On John's visits to Grandpa's house, his blind grandfather shares with him the special way he sees and moves in the world.

Dan and Diesel book
#9
Dan and Diesel
Written by Charlotte Hudson and illustrated by Lindsey Gardiner
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-5

Dan's dog, Diesel, is a wonder dog. He can do anything. He can ride on trains and planes and in underground tunnels. He can stand next to an enormous smoke-breathing dragon and never flinch an inch. When Dan is with Diesel he can go anywhere. He can go shopping at the market. He can play jazz in the Boogaloo band. He can climb mountains and draw pictures in his head. Together, they can conquer the world! But one day, Diesel is whisked away in a big black van . . . Only when Dan and Diesel are finally re-united does it become apparent that Dan is blind and Diesel is his guide dog.

My Friend Isabelle book
#10
My Friend Isabelle
Written by Eliza Woloson and illustrated by Bryan Gough
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A young boy named Charlie describes the activities he shares with his friend Isabelle, a girl with Down Syndrome.

If You're So Smart, How Come You Can't Spell Mississippi book
#11
If You're So Smart, How Come You Can't Spell Mississippi
Written by Barbara Esham and illustrated by Mike Gordon
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

The Adventures of Everyday Geniuses is meant to demonstrate various forms of learning, creativity, and intelligence. Each book introduces a realistic example of triumph over difficulty in a positive, humorous way that readers of all ages will enjoy! Katie always thought her dad was smart--he is one of the busiest attorneys in town! People are always asking him for advice. She has been a bit confused ever since asking him for help with her weekly spelling list. How can her very smart dad struggle with one of her spelling words? This definitely didn't make sense. The word Mississippi has changed everything... This frank and thoughtful approach to dyslexia is an important exploration of the various ways people learn and that some difficulties do not have to be restrictions on what a person can achieve. "Challenges in reading and spelling are often accompanied by special abilities in areas like complex pattern recognition and spatial reasoning. If You're So Smart How Come You Can't Spell Mississippi? is a fantastic way of bringing this information to the many smart children who find reading and spelling especially difficult--especially to those who are beginning to doubt their own potential." --Drs. Brock (M.D., M.A.) and Fernette (M.D.) Eides, authors of The Mislabeled Child and founders of the Eide Neurolearning Clinic. Praise for the series: "This is a wonderful book series. Each story shows children that success is about effort and determination, that problems need not derail them, and that adults can understand their worries and struggles. My research demonstrates that these lessons are essential for children." --Dr. Carol S. Dweck

Don't Call Me Special book
#12
Don't Call Me Special
Written by Pat Thomas and illustrated by Lesley Harker
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-7

This delightful picture book explores questions and concerns about physical disabilities in a simple and reassuring way. Younger children can find out about individual disabilities, special equipment that is available to help the disabled, and how people of all ages can deal with disabilities and live happy and full lives. Titles in this series for younger children explore emotional issues that boys and girls encounter as part of the growing-up process. Books are focused to appeal to kids of preschool through early school age. Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas, A First Look At books promote positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers, and encourage kids to ask questions and confront social and emotional questions that sometimes present problems. Books feature appealing full-color illustrations on every page plus a page of advice to parents and teachers.

My Brother Charlie book
#13
My Brother Charlie
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

"Charlie has autism. His brain works in a special way. It's harder for him to make friends. Or show his true feelings. Or stay safe." But as his big sister tells us, for everything that Charlie can't do well, there are plenty more things that he's good at. He knows the names of all the American presidents. He knows stuff about airplanes. And he can even play the piano better than anyone he knows. Actress and national autism spokesperson Holly Robinson Peete collaborates with her daughter on this book based on Holly's 10-year-old son, who has autism.

Special People, Special Ways book
#14
Special People, Special Ways
Written by Arlene Maguire and illustrated by Sheila Bailey
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-10

Rhyming text drescribes the different ways in which people may vary in physical or mental abilities, and the things they have in common.

Ian's Walk book
#15
Ian's Walk
Written by Laurie Lears and illustrated by Karen Ritz
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-8

When her autistic little brother, Ian, wanders off while on a walk to the park, Julie must try to see the world through his eyes in order to find him. Full color.

Thank You, Mr. Falker book
#16
Thank You, Mr. Falker
Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
picture book
Recommend Ages: 5-8

The real-life, classic story of a dyslexic girl and the teacher who would not let her fail. A perfect gift for teachers and for reading students of any age. Patricia Polacco is now one of America's most loved children's book creators, but once upon a time, she was a little girl named Trisha starting school. Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was jumble. It took a very special teacher to recognize little Trisha's dyslexia: Mr. Falker, who encouraged her to overcome her reading disability. Patricia Polacco will never forget him, and neither will we. This inspiring story is available in a deluxe slipcased edition, complete with a personal letter to readers from Patricia Polacco herself. Thank You, Mr. Falker will make a beautiful gift for the special child who needs encouragement or any special teacher who has made a difference in the child's life.

We're Amazing 1, 2, 3! (Sesame Street) book
#17
We're Amazing 1, 2, 3! (Sesame Street)
Written by Leslie Kimmelman and illustrated by Mary Beth Nelson
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

This story stars Elmo, Abby, and their friend Julia, who has autism. Together, the three pals have a delightful playdate.

Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus book
#18
Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus
Written by Dusti Bowling
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

Aven Green was born without arms--so when her dad takes a job running a dying western theme park in Arizona, she knows she'll become the center of unwanted attention at her new school. But she bonds with Connor, a classmate with his own disability to conquer. Then they discover a room at the park that holds bigger secrets than Aven ever could have imagined. Can Aven face her fears, solve a mystery, and help her friend, too?

Hansel and Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist (Fairy Ability Tales) book
#19
Hansel and Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist (Fairy Ability Tales)
Written by Jewel Kats and illustrated by Claudia Marie Lenart
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-6

Hansel & Gretel: A Fairy Tale with a Down Syndrome Twist is an enchanting tale about how kindness overcomes callousness and leads to a wondrous reward. This adaptation of the classic Grimms' tale includes the wicked witch and the poor siblings in search of food, but in this case, five-year-old Hansel is a mischievous, yet courageous, boy with Down syndrome. Young readers will learn that: -Children with Down syndrome are capable and can achieve extraordinary success with determination. -An act of kindness can transform people and the world. -Treating people like family can create a miracle. -People cannot be judged by appearance; a princess or a hero can be hidden within. -Facing a challenge can lead to unimagined rewards.

Out of My Mind book
#20
Out of My Mind
Written by Sharon Draper
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

Considered by many to be mentally retarded, a brilliant, impatient fifth-grader with cerebral palsy discovers a technological device that will allow her to speak for the first time.

Fish in a Tree book
#21
Fish in a Tree
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-16

"Ally's greatest fear is that everyone will find out she is as dumb as they think she is because she still doesn't know how to read"--

When My Worries Get Too Big! book
#22
When My Worries Get Too Big!
Written and illustrated by Kari Dunn Buron
picture book
Recommend Ages: 6-10

An illustrated children's book with tips on how to recognize and cope with anxiety. Expanded 2nd ed. includes teaching ideas for parents and educators and other professionals.--Publisher.

El Deafo book
#23
El Deafo
Written by Cece Bell
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 8-12

The author recounts in graphic novel format her experiences with hearing loss at a young age, including using a bulky hearing aid, learning how to lip read, and determining her "superpower."

Florence & Leon book
#24
Florence & Leon
Written by Simon Boulerice and illustrated by Delphie Côté-Lacroix
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Florence and Leon have never met. Florence is a swimming instructor. She has a small problem with her lungs: it’s as if she’s breathing through a straw. Leon is an insurance salesman. He has a small problem with his eyes: it’s as if he’s seeing the world through a straw. One day Florence and Leon bump into each other, literally, and this mishap turns their lives upside down. Over slushy drinks with proper straws, Florence and Leon find out how their differences make them alike.

Kids Like Me... Learn ABCs book
#25
Kids Like Me... Learn ABCs
Written by Laura Ronay and illustrated by Jon Wayne Kishimoto
board book
Recommend Ages: 0-4

Introducing the new children's series, KIDS LIKE ME . . . Featuring adorable and diverse children with Down syndrome on every page, and many of their siblings too, these chunky, sturdy books are perfect for youngsters who are ready to start learning skills like their ABCs and colors. KIDS LIKE ME . . . LEARN ABCs includes appealing photos of children with Down syndrome on a crisp white background, surrounded by colorful borders. Each child holds or interacts with an object that represents a letter of the alphabet. Surrounding images also show that letter in sign language, upper and lower case type, and an illustration of the featured object. All children will enjoy this book, but children with Down syndrome will delight in seeing other kids just like them, having fun and learning about their ABCs.

Have a suggestion for a book to add to this list? Send an email to [email protected] with your book and list suggestion.