4 Books to Help Kids Understand People with Different Needs
Reading books with your kids is one of the easiest ways to spend fun, quality time with them. Having nightly story sessions can be a treat for them and for you. There is a time and place for fun, simple stories, but then sometimes you may want to introduce your little ones to books that make them think more deeply about the world around them.
Some books can even help kids increase the empathy they feel for others. Introducing your children to these books about kids with different needs can empower them to have a greater understanding of peers who may be different. It’s also a great way to introduce a discussion about befriending differently-abled children, as well as about how to be inclusive.
First try finding these at your local Delta library. If they don’t have the book and can’t order a copy for the library’s collection, you can easily find these for purchase by searching online by book title and author’s name.
“My Friend Suhana”
Written and illustrated by Shaila Abdullah and Aanyah Abdullah, “My Friend Suhana” was cowritten by a child. Who better to help other kids understand the importance of empathizing with those who are different? In “My Friend Suhana,” the author reveals how special her friendship is with a peer who has cerebral palsy. Although it shows how the friendship is, it doesn’t gloss over the difficulties that kids with cerebral palsy have to face. The book can give kids a greater appreciation for the strength of peers with cerebral palsy.
“It’s Okay to Be Different”
“It’s Okay to Be Different” by Todd Parr is a bold book with a gentle message, and the vibrant illustrations match the mood perfectly. It reassures children that it’s okay to be, well, different from others. Without being dismissive or overly cheerful, it’s unapologetically upbeat in its phrasing. For example, in the page that discusses someone in a wheelchair, it states: “It’s okay to have wheels.” Its focus on the value of individuality — and accepting one another as we are — is powerful.
“My Brother Charlie”
Celebrity Holly Robinson Peete is best known for her roles in TV shows such as “21 Jump Street” and “Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper,” and is also a talented author and a national spokesperson for autism awareness. She wrote “My Brother Charlie” with the help of her daughter Ryan Elizabeth. It was inspired by Holly’s son RJ, who has autism. This book shows how kids with autism are gifted in some ways. It also reveals how differently-abled kids may
have some talents that other children don’t have. Also, for older kids, she wrote “Same But Different: Teen Life on the Autism Express” with both her children.
The creative way that “Susan Laughs” is told makes it especially powerful for kids. The book starts out telling the story of all the things that Susan does that are just like the things all children do. It’s not revealed that Susan also happens to be in a wheelchair until the end of the story. Susan’s a happy little girl enjoying life, and the cheerful story that’s told in rhyme helps all kids empathize with her. It’s also sure to help kids understand that lives of people who have different abilities are not so different from their own. The simple illustrations with a palette of lovely pastel colors are perfect for the sweet but serious story.
Robin Raven is a children’s book author who was born and raised on the Gulf Coast. She often has her feet on a dance floor, her nose in a book, or her arms around a rescued animal.