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Picture Books to Celebrate Disability Pride Month

Jul 5, 2022
Author: Rachael Walker

On July 26, 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. This law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and is celebrated as part of Disability Pride Month. Though disability pride may mean different things to different people, Disability Pride Month focuses positive attention on the disability community, raises awareness of the disability experience, and amplifies the call for disability justice.

Reading and sharing books is a great way to celebrate Disability Pride Month and to build understanding. In the books below, you and your young readers can explore a wide range of disability experiences as well as enjoy amazing stories that center on a character with a disability — not the disability.

King for a Day(opens in new window)

Rukhsana Khan (Author) and Christiane Krömer (Illustrator)

It’s spring in Pakistan and time to celebrate Basant and compete in the annual kite-flying festival. Malik is excited to go to battle with the kite he has built and hopes to capture the most kites. With some help from his sister and brother, his kite triumphs, even taking down the kites flown by the bully next door. He is king of Basant and uses his brief reign to be generous and kind to others. Malik is in a wheelchair, but it is never mentioned in the story. Mixed media collage brings color, texture, and patterns to the inviting illustrations in this picture book.

Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You(opens in new window)

Sonia Sotomayor (Author) and Rafael López (Illustrator)

Sonia and her friends with different disabilities are planting a garden. As they work, each child talks about themselves and their disability, then asks a question that gets answered by a different child. Readers learn how everyone has unique needs and purposes and grows in different ways, just like plants in a garden. Disabilities discussed include asthma, autism, blindness, diabetes, Down syndrome, dyslexia, food allergies, and more. This vibrantly illustrated picture book is also available in Spanish as ¡Solo pregunta!: Sé Diferente, Sé Valiente, Sé Tú.

My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay(opens in new window)

Cary Best (Author) and Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Illustrator)

First grader Zulay enjoys a lot of things about school. She loves to sing and dance with her friends, help others with math, and type on her Brailler. She is also very excited to talk about her new pink running shoes. Zulay is not so enthusiastic about learning to use her folding cane. But she does want to run in the race on Field Day and wear her running shoes. And with the help of her special aide, Zulay practices using her cane so she can do just that. Bold, upbeat illustrations will encourage early independent readers and read aloud listeners to cheer Zulay on.

A Friend for Henry(opens in new window)

Jenn Bailey (Author) and Mika Song (Illustrator)

Henry wants to make a friend. But the particular way Henry thinks and feels about things make it hard to find a friend that fits him. Gentle ink and watercolor illustrations add a comforting warmth to Henry’s ultimately successful search for a friend who respects his needs for space and order. This is a great picture book for reading aloud and talking about acceptance of yourself and of others. Henry’s thoughts and behaviors indicate he is on the autism spectrum, but the text does not label him.

We Want to Go to School! The Fight for Disability Rights(opens in new window)

Maryann Cocca-Leffler (Author/Illustrator) and Janine Leffler (Author)

Before the 1970s, millions of children with disabilities were not allowed to attend public schools. In this colorfully illustrated nonfiction picture book, Janine, who was born with cerebral palsy in 1985, shares important disability rights history. With grace and gratitude, she tells the true story of the families who worked together to file a class action lawsuit, known as Mills v. Board of Education, and won the right to free public education for all children with disabilities in Washington, DC. Notes and a timeline in the back of the book provide more historical details to enrich discussion after reading aloud.

Poojo’s Got Wheels(opens in new window)

Charrow

This joyful picture book introduces Poojo, a grey and white dog with a lot of self-confidence, energy, and creativity. He was born without back legs, but he has wheels to get around. And boy, does he get around! Until he has a flat tire. But nothing stops Poojo! Fun to read and re-read aloud with bold and bright cartoon-like illustrations that will bring listeners in close to check out all the action in detail.

Hello Goodbye Dog(opens in new window)

Maria Gianferrari (Author) and Patrice Barton (Illustrator)

Zara’s dog Moose insists on being at Zara’s side. She escapes multiple times to join Zara at school and each time, it gets harder and harder to get Moose back home. But then Zara, who knows her pet well, comes up with a great solution that will keep them together. She takes Moose to “therapy dog school” where Moose gets training to become the reading dog for Zara’s class. Expressive illustrations match Moose’s liveliness and Zara’s tender warmth. Readers can see that Zara uses a wheelchair, but it is not a focus of the story.

We Move Together(opens in new window)

Kelly Fritsch and Anne McGuire (Authors) and Eduardo Trejos (Illustrator)

When sharing this book with young readers, make a point to take a close look at the rich, detailed illustrations. They tell the story of a diverse, mixed-ability group of kids and their families as they move together through everyday activities and deal with any barriers in their way with creative thinking and community-building. There’s also a call to action — to get everyone moving together — to provide equal access and opportunities for all. The notes in the back of the book, as well as the discussion prompts in the free learning guide, will help enrich the conversations this book is sure to spark.

Hands & Hearts(opens in new window)

Donna Jo Napoli (Author) and Amy Bates (Illustrator)

Open this sweet, simple picture book to spend a sunny day at the beach with a mother and daughter who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate. They run, swim, dance, build sandcastles, and “yak yak” with loving hands. Each page spread highlights a word that includes an illustration that shows how to sign it in ASL. Warm, soft illustrations complete this joyful outing.

Thank You, Mr. Falker(opens in new window)

Patricia Polacco

Trisha loves books and is excited to learn how to read. But for her, the letters and numbers wiggle on the page making reading impossible. With each new school year, she feels dumber, and her classmates make everything worse by calling her dummy. But when she starts fifth grade, a new teacher who appreciates Trisha’s talent for drawing, recognizes that Trisha doesn’t see letters or numbers the way other people do. This is the author’s own story about how, thanks to Mr. Falker, she learned to read.


Rachael Walker photo

Author: Racheael Walker

Rachael Walker is passionate about helping kids develop a love of reading and has worked for some 30 years to promote children’s literacy. She consults on multimedia projects, develops reading motivation programs, creates resources for parents and teachers to get kids excited about books, and is a PBS Ready to Learn Literacy Advisor.

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