Disability in Children’s Literature: How to Critically Select Children’s Books with Representations of Disability Experiences

Erin ToaleBooks, Diversity Initiatives

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“Did you see yourself and the elements of your identity represented in books you read as a child?” This was the opening prompt at Lunch & Learn: Disability in Children’s Literature, hosted by the Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium on March 23. The conversation about inclusive children’s literature was structured around the ‘4 Guiding Questions’ posed in Monica Kleekamp’s text: How To Critically Select Children’s Books With Representations of Disability Experiences (2019). The questions are as follows:

  1. Does the author/illustrator present the character with a disability label as multidimensional?
  2. Whose story is this and who gets to tell it?
  3. As a reader, how have you been positioned to think about feel about the character with a disability label in this book?
  4. What opportunities does the character with a disability label have in the book to engage in authentic relationships?

Answering these questions can help parents, teachers, and caregivers assess which books about the disability experience to include in their selections. Suggestions provided at the event include:

I Talk Like A River by Jordan Scott & Sydney Smith

Why Johnny Doesn’t Flap: NT Is Ok! by Clay Morton & Gail Morton

Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor

The Deaf Musicians by Pete Seger and Paul Dubois Jacobs

WITS thanks CCAC for facilitating this shared space to discuss accessibility-related texts! National Deaf History Month is March 13-April 15, 2021. Keep an eye out for more WITS posts about representations of disability in children’s literature.