I’ve been watching the Paralympics recently and have thoroughly enjoyed it.
The determination, persistence and resilience of the athletes constantly amazes me.
And then there’s the post-event interviews!
Yes, it’s often a case of ‘get the tissues out’, but for me it’s also a case of ‘get the pen and paper out’ so I can write down all the things I’m learning from every interview.
The stories being shared have had me thinking about the many accessibility issues people with disabilities face every single day. They’ve also inspired me to keep challenging myself to be conscious of how inclusive I’m being in my work.
As a direct result of this, I’ve recently started the process of adding closed captioning to all the videos in my online courses. It’s a small change, but an important one.
Another key takeaway from the stories being shared by the para-athletes is the importance of visibility and acceptance. The idea that, as a young person with a disability, ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’.
This got me thinking about representation of people with disabilities in picture story books.
So today I’m sharing 6 picture story books featuring disability, in the hope that they’ll find their way onto classroom bookshelves in every school.
Jessica’s Box, written and illustrated by Peter Carnavas, is the story of a girl who is starting school and is desperate to make friends. She tries different things to impress people and eventually decides to try being herself (which ends up being highly successful).
This book was first published in 2008. It was a CBCA notable book in 2009 and a revised edition was published in 2013. The edition I suggest everyone purchases was made in conjunction with the Cerebral Palsy Alliance of Australia. In this edition, the text is identical to the original, but the illustrations show the main character as being in a wheelchair.
Boy by Phil Cummings and Shane Devries is a touching story about a deaf boy who turns into a village hero by solving a long running battle between a king and a dragon. The book introduces the concept of sign language (referred to as ‘dancing hands’) and was shortlisted in the CBCA Book Week awards in 2018.
Two Mates by indigenous author Melanie Prewett, with illustrations by Maggie Prewett is a true story about the bond between two best friends. The book details all the things the two mates enjoy doing together and it isn’t until the very last page that it’s revealed that one of the characters is in a wheelchair. The author note at the back of the book says Melanie Prewett was ‘inspired to tell the story of Jac and Raf’s friendship and their life in Broome to show that physical disability really is no barrier to true friendship.’
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille, written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Boris Kulikov, tells the fascinating story of young Louis Braille’s life, and explains how he came to invent the braille writing system that we still use today. This is a very inspiring story of hardship, resilience and determination.
Emmanuel’s Dream: The true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah (by Laurie Ann Thompson and Sean Qualls) tells the incredibly inspiring story of a West African boy who was born with only one leg but learned to do everything his peers could do plus much more. He became an advocate for disability in his country and, after learning to ride a bike, cycled all over Ghana to promote the message that disability does not mean inability.
Go Home, Cheeky Animals!
Not all books featuring disability are about people with disabilities, this one has been created by a person with a disability (even better!)
Written by Johanna Bell and illustrated by Dion Beasley, Go Home, Cheeky Animals! is a gorgeous book about the dogs of Tennant Creek and their role in the community. It was created through a heart-warming collaboration between an aspiring children’s author and an indigenous illustrator with muscular dystrophy and profound deafness. Look out for their other book, Too Many Cheeky Dogs, as well. Watch a video about the collaboration here.
Do you know any other great picture books featuring disability? I’d love you to share them in the comments below or over on the Oz Lit Teacher Facebook group.
P.S After listening to the interviews