Celebrate Differences with Ability-Diverse Picture Books

By Chelsey Masterson and Cara Madden, School Outreach Librarians
June 24, 2024

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!

An important component in a child’s reading experience is being able to relate to the characters in a book, especially if that child often feels different from others. It is equally essential to give children the opportunity to see characters in books who look, act, and think differently than they do, as this fosters empathy and understanding towards all types of people. As we celebrate Disability Pride Month now and year-round, here is a list of new titles that do an excellent job at introducing children to a variety of physical and mental disabilities. Read and talk about these books with your child so that we can help tear down stigmas against disabilities!

  • Addy’s Chair to Everywhere

    by Debi Novotny; illustrated by Jomike Tejido

    Addy creates an imaginative world with her wheelchair and invites new friends to join her make-believe adventures.

    Grades Pre-K – 1

  • book cover of A Day with No Words with a Black boy sitting in front of trees

    A Day with No Words

    by Tiffany Hammond; illustrated by Kate Cosgrove

    Young children will learn what life can look like for an autistic child who uses nonverbal communication by following a mother and child on a day where they use a tablet to communicate with others.

    Grades Pre-K – 3

  • book cover of Abdul's Story with a boy sitting at a desk

    Abdul’s Story

    by Jamilah Tompkins-Bigelow

    Abdul loves telling stories but thinks his messy handwriting and spelling mistakes will keep him from becoming an author, until Mr. Muhammad visits and encourages him to persist.

    Grades Pre-K – 3

  • book cover of Daisy the Daydreamer with a school bus holding three children

    Daisy the Daydreamer

    by Jennifer Goldfinger

    Daisy’s imagination definitely makes life more interesting for her, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own—and can make it look like she’s not listening at school. Inspired by the author’s own experience as someone with ADHD, this story and its whimsical illustrations give kids a concrete way to talk about how people’s brains work differently and benefit from different ways to show what they know.

    Grades Pre-K – 3

  • book cover of Mara Hears in Style with a girl sitting in a field

    Mara Hears in Style

    by Terri Clemmons; illustrated by Lucy Rogers

    Mara is worried about what the students at her new school will think about her hearing aids, but as she explains about lip reading and sign language, she makes two new friends.

    Grades Pre-K – 3

  • book cover of More than Words with a Black boy looking at the Northern Lights

    More than Words: So Many Ways to Say What We Mean

    by Roz MacLean

    Nathan doesn't say much. He sure has a lot on his mind, though. At school, Nathan quietly observes the ways his peers communicate. Even when they're not talking, they're expressing themselves in all sorts of ways! By witnessing the beauty of communication diversity, Nathan learns and shows his classmates the essential lesson: Not only does everyone have something to say, but seeking to understand one another can be the greatest bridge to friendship and belonging.

    Grades Pre-K – 3

  • book cover of Song in the City with a Black girl holding a white cane listening to the city around her

    Song in the City

    by Daniel Bernstrom; illustrated by Jenin Mohammed

    A young blind girl, filled with the sounds of her beloved city, shares a song with her grandmother that changes the two forever. After helping Grandma realize that the city makes music as beautiful as the sounds they hear in church on Sunday morning, the two sit down and take in all the sounds of the city...together.

    Grades Pre-K – 3

  • book cover of What Happened to You? with two children, one missing a leg, standing on swings

    What Happened to You?

    by James Catchpole; illustrated by Karen George

    Constantly seen first for his disability, Joe is fed up with only ever being asked about his missing leg. All he wants to do is play Pirates! But as usual, one after the other, all the children ask him the same question they always ask: What happened to you? Until finally the children realize that it's a question Joe just doesn't want to answer, and that Joe is playing a rather good game... one that they can join in with if they can stop fixating on his missing leg.

    → Find a classroom discussion guide here

    Grades Pre-K – 3

  • book cover of My Brain Is Magic with a girl colorfully painting on a wall

    My Brain Is Magic: A Sensory-Seeking Celebration

    by Prasha Sooful; illustrated by Geeta Ladi

    A sensory-seeking child describes her sensational life. Whether your brain buzzes around the room like a bee or tells you to be loud and roar like a lion, celebrate the many things that it can be! This sensory-seeking celebration shines a light on sensory processing and neurodiversity in a fun and action-packed way for all children to enjoy.

    Grades K – 3

  • book cover of My Life with Tourrette Syndrome with a girl building a sand castle on the beach

    My Life With Tourette Syndrome

    by Mari Schuh; illustrated by Ana Sebastian

    Meet Emma! She loves riding roller coasters and playing at the beach. She also has Tourette syndrome. Emma is real and so are her experiences. Learn about her life in this illustrated narrative nonfiction picture book for elementary students. The “My Life with” series currently has 10 titles that embrace a variety of disabilities and differences.

    Grades K – 3

  • book cover of Tenacious with Paralympians playing sports

    Tenacious: Fifteen Adventures Alongside Disabled Athletes

    by Patty Cisneros Prevo; illustrated by Dion MBD

    An introduction to 15 fascinating disabled athletes and their many achievements, daily challenges, and joys. Includes an author's note, glossary, and a history of the Paralympics.

    Grades Pre-K – 5

Extension Activities

Visit the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library

This unique branch library provides accessible reading material for patrons who are blind, visually impaired, or are otherwise physically unable to read standard print. Devices on which to access these materials are also available, as well as accessible programming, individual coaching in assistive technology, and much more. The Heiskell Library welcomes teachers to bring in their students for accessible class visits, during which staff can share about all of these resources. Learn more about the Heiskell Library and schedule a class visit!

Discover NYPL resources to support readers of all ages with disabilities

Large print materials for readers of all ages can be found at all NYPL branch libraries, and you can request specific titles be sent to the location of your choice to pick up. Many readers also find that borrowing e-books and e-audiobook is a wonderful way to improve accessibility, as the reader can adjust font sizes, select different fonts for easier readability, and choose screen and text colors and brightness, among other options.

Find more book lists and resources to celebrate Disability Pride Month

Check out this list of older titles that show respectful and genuine representation of disabilities, and take a look at all of the resources that NYPL is sharing this month.