Every year at this time I fret over the lack of good children’s literature dealing with special needs.
Much of what is available is didactic and preachy. In our post-Americans with Disabilities Act-world publishers need to aggressively seek stories that mainstream characters with disabilities. There are, however, some books worth exploring.
The Disabilities Rights Movement by Deborah Kent (Children’s Press) is good for readers ages 9 – 11. Part of the Cornerstones of Freedom series, it give a good overview of the battle disabled people fight to gain equal access to education, employment, transportation and public services. This movement was inspired by all the civil rights movements of the ’60s and culminates in the passage of the ADA in 1990. As a result, people with disabilities are more visible in our society and the image of disabled people as helpless and beholden is fading.
Sally Hobart Alexander is a blind author who has written Do You Remember the Color Blue? (Viking) to answer children’s questions about being blind. This one is good for readers ages 9 – 12 or for parents to share with younger children. Alexander, who lost her vision at age 26, explains that some blind people wear dark glasses to make others feel more comfortable when dealing with the issue of eye contact. She offers information on Braille, scanners that read material aloud and other techniques used to accomplish daily tasks.
Finally, From Where I Sit: Making My Way With Cerebral Palsy (Scholastic) is Shelley Nixon’s autobiography of her life with CP. Ideal for readers ages 10 and older, Nixon intimately tells readers exactly how it feels to live her life, such as how it feels when people talk to those around her instead of directly to her and how frightening it was to have numerous surgeries. Nixon says writing has been one of her best outlets throughout her life, and this open and honest memoir is a gem.
– Phyllis Grubbs,
Collection Development Librarian
Nashville Public Library