Representation Matters: Kids Books that Embrace Disability and Difference

By Samantha Simoes, School Outreach Librarian
February 22, 2022

The New York Public Library is celebrating Disability Pride Month throughout July. Discover a wide array of accessible resources, including book recommendations, accessible technology training, braille study groups, and more. Plus, join us for free events for all ages—this month and all year long!

When we don’t talk openly about disabilities, they can become the elephants in the room, and children may interpret disability as a restricted topic. Let’s prioritize discussing and educating children about all kinds of physical and mental differences! One way to do this is to read about people who are different from you, which lets you imagine, reflect on, and learn about their lives. The books below show respectful and genuine representation of a variety of disabilities and are wonderful titles to share with any child in your life.

  • Baby Loves the Five Senses: Sight!

    by Ruth Spiro

    This series explains to toddlers how the five senses work. The Sight and Hearing books also explain sight and hearing disabilities. An important introduction to the diversity of human bodies. 


  • Baby Loves the Five Senses: Hearing! book cover

    Baby Loves the Five Senses: Hearing!

    by Ruth Spiro

    Explores the science behind the sense of hearing, and technical advances that can help people with impaired hearing.


  • Benji, the Bad Day, and Me book cover

    Benji, the Bad Day, and Me

    by Sally J. Pia; illustrated by Ken Min

    In this tender story about siblings, author Sally J. Pia shares her experience of raising sons with different personality traits and needs. Benji, the Bad Day, and Me embraces the philosophy that we are all part of a wide spectrum of neurodiversity. And on those really bad, rotten days, you can always count on family to be there for you.

    Grades Pre-K – K

  • This Beach is Loud! book cover

    This Beach Is Loud!

    by Samantha Cotterill 

    When a young boy is overwhelmed by all the sights, sounds, and sensations at the beach, his father gently reminds him of tricks that help calm him.

    Grades Pre-K – 1

  • Moses Goes to a Concert book cover

    Moses Goes to a Concert

    by Isaac Millman

    Moses loves playing his new drum. Even though he is deaf, he can feel the vibrations when he plays. One day, Moses's class goes to a concert. The teacher then says that he knows the percussionist and that she is deaf as well!

    Grades Pre-K – 2

  • Hello Goodbye Dog book cover

    Hello Goodbye Dog

    by Maria Gianferrari; illustrated by Patrice Barton

    A student who uses a wheelchair finds a way to see her dog each day in school.

    Grades Pre-K – 2

  • The Black Book of Colors book cover

    The Black Book of Colors

    by Menena Cottin; illustrated by Rosana Faria; translated by Elisa Amado 

    Illustrations with raised lines and descriptions of color based on imagery provide readers with an interactive experience with the concept of blindness and include a full Braille alphabet.

    Grades Pre-K – 2

  • Can Bears Ski book cover

    Can Bears Ski?

    by Raymond Antrobus; illustrated by Polly Dunbar

    Is Little Bear ignoring his friends when they say hi, or is something else going on? A discovery opens new doors in a tale that will delight kids with deafness and all children learning to navigate their world.

    Grades K – 1

  • Emmanuel's Dream book cover

    Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah

    by Laurie Ann Thompson;l illustrated by Sean Qualls 

    The inspiring story of a West African youth who pursued an education, helped support his family, and became a record-setting cyclist in spite of a disability traces his ongoing achievements as an activist.

    Grades K – 3

  • Frida Kahlo: Little People Big Dreams book cover

    Frida Kahlo: Little People, Big Dreams

    by Isabel Sanchez Vegara; illustrated by Fan Eng Gee; translated by Emma Martinez

    An introduction to the life and achievements of the famed Mexican artist describes the childhood accident that ended her ambitions to study medicine and prompted her to become an artist while regularly confined by disabilities.

    Grades 1 – 3

  • Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille book cover

    Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille

    by Jen Bryant; illustrated by Boris Kulikov

    The story of Louis Braille and how he developed the Braille alphabet system.

    Grades 1 – 3

  • Just Ask! book cover

    Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You!

    by Sonia Sotomoyor; illustrated by Rafael Lopez

    Sonia and her friends plant a garden, and each one contributes in his or her own special way, in a book that celebrates the many differences among humans.

    Grades K – 2

  • Thank you, Mr. Falker book cover

    Thank you, Mr. Falker

    by Patricia Polacco 

    Trisha loves school but has difficulty learning to read. Until a new teacher helps her understand and helps her find a solution. An autobiographical tribute to Polacco's fifth-grade teacher, the first adult to recognize her learning disability and to help her learn to read.

    Grades K – 4

  • I Talk Like a River book cover

    I Talk Like a River

    by Jordan Scott; illustrated by Sydney Smith

    When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he'd like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father's ability to reconnect a child with the world around him.

    Grades 1 – 4

  • book cover of The Girl Who Thought in Pictures showing a girl with scientific images

    The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin

    by Julia Finley Mosca; illustrated by Daniel Rieley

    Describes the life and accomplishments of the animal scientist and designer of cruelty-free livestock facilities, from her early life and autism diagnosis through her journey to become a livestock expert.

    Grades K – 5

Summaries provided via NYPL’s catalog, which draws from multiple sources. Click through to each book’s title for more.