Children need and deserve books that reflect themselves and the diversity of the world around them. In addition to people of color, people with disabilities are underrepresented in the popular media. For many children and teens with disabilities, it is difficult to find books with accurate portrayals of disabilities. With this gap in mind, Bookshare has assembled four new collections that feature characters with learning disabilities and visual impairments, because everyone has differences and abilities and representation matters.
Books that Feature Characters with Learning Disabilities
The novels in these two collections feature characters with a learning disability, such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, or dysgraphia.
For middle school readers (20 books for ages 8-12/grades 3-7):
- Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff – Sam must solve the mystery of who he really is, but he has trouble reading the clues he finds in the attic and turns to his friend Caroline for help.
- Dyslexia is My Superpower (Most of the Time) by Margaret Rooke – In more than 100 interviews, children and young adults reveal their personal tips and tactics for honing the creative benefits of dyslexia, enabling them to thrive in school and beyond.
For Young Adult (YA) readers (18 books for ages 13+/grades 8+):
- Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt – Fourteen year-old Doug just moved to a new town and struggles to rise above being an outcast and find friends who appreciate his talents and intelligence.
- Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt – Even though sixth grader Ally is smart, her dyslexia makes school a lonely and unsuccessful place until a substitute teacher helps her see herself beyond a label.
Books that Feature Characters with Visual Impairments
All of the novels in these two collections feature a character who is blind or has a visual impairment.
For middle school readers: (25 books for ages 8-12/grades 3-7)
- As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds – Two brothers spend the summer with their grandfather who is blind and learn what it means to become brave and own up to what you will or won’t do.
- A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel – After her family moves from Seattle to Sinkville, Alice finds herself floundering until she enters an essay contest and proves that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be.
“I was born with albinism and a visual impairment and don’t remember ever reading about a character with my issues. Most movies and books get it wrong or they mock it. This book got it right. I love how the story revealed Alice’s strengths to herself as well as to the reader. When your normal is different, you can feel weak and unselfconfident.” – Elizabeth Tetley (from reader reviews of A Blind Guide to Stinkville on Amazon)
For YA readers (25 books for ages 13+/grades 8+):
- Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom – Parker Grant is a high school girl who doesn’t want different treatment because she is blind. As she tries to navigate her life after her father’s death, she learns that everyone has blind spots, whether they are visually impaired or not.
- The Heart of Applebutter Hill by Donna W. Hill – Baggy is 14 and in a strange country with his camera, his best friend Abigail, and her guide dog Curly Conner. They uncover a secret about the Heartstone of Arden-Goth in this fast-paced adventure mystery.
Even More Books
You might also be interested in additional Bookshare collections of underrepresented communities. These lists and many more can be found by clicking on Browse at the top of the Bookshare home page.
- Schneider Family Book Award winners – books that embody the disability experience
- Deaf Special Collection – 150 books by and about members of the deaf community
- Deaf-Blind Special Collection – 73 books by and about members of the deaf-blind community
- Heroes with Disabilities – books about the experiences of children with a variety of disabilities
What are some of your favorite books that feature characters with disabilities? Tell us in the blog comments or on Bookshare Facebook or Twitter using #RepresentationMatters.
Special thanks to Emily Nostro who contributed to this blog.
Thank you so much for posting this! I have been beating my head against a wall about this issue. It does not seem to be important until someone publishes it! Thank you Thank you!!!
Thank you, Elaine. We feel it’s important too!
Great post and thanks for writing it. Recently in Writer Magazine there was an article on this same topic. Two people who have disabilities do reviews of books about disabled people. I checkd out their site and it looks pretty good. Here is the info for anyone interested. Disability in Kid Lit
I’m glad to find this subject being raised. I do wonder if each of these titles was written by an author who shares the disability that is the subject of the book. It makes a difference. Also, although I understand why Bookshare is targeting children and young adults, there’s also a need for fiction by and about blind adults. I’ve written an essay on how fiction meets needs that autobiography can’t, which can be found at this address: http://adrianspratt.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/time-to-move.pdf. This essay includes an extensive review of the literature by blind authors.