More Diversity, Please…

When Archie Comics recently announced the addition of a character who uses a wheelchair, it also revealed a genuine need for more stories (books, comics, tv, movies) that reflect the diversity of real life. It not only reminds the broader community of the value of individuals with disabilities, it’s a powerful affirmation of worth for the individual to see herself or himself depicted in stories that everybody shares and talks about.

Being excluded from the media is not unique to the disability community. The We Need Diverse Books campaign is focused on persons of color; however, it’s a push that ought to also include persons with disability.

There are some very good books for middle grade and young adult readers that do a fine job of depicting individuals with disabilities or other differences that change the way people view them (and they view themselves). Whether or not your child reads, everyone can be read to (or with).

Here’s a list of a few that are well worth adding to you and your child’s summer reading list:

Alchemy and Meggy Swann
by Karen Cushman

Ages: Middle Grade
From the Children’s Literature Network: Meggy’s
mother was glad to be rid of her; her father, who sent for her, doesn’t want
her after all. Meggy is appalled by London, dirty and noisy, full of rogues and
thieves, and difficult to get around in—not that getting around is ever easy
for someone who walks with the help of two sticks. Just
as her alchemist father pursues his Great Work of transforming base metal into
gold, Meggy finds herself pursuing her own transformation.

by Katherine Erskine
Ages: Middle Grade
From the publisher: Caitlin is a bright fifth grader and a
gifted artist. She also has Asperger’s syndrome, and lives in a world of her
own. Her brother, Devon, was the one who always helped her get by. But a
middle-school shooting took his life. Now she has only her widowed father to
rely on, and he has problems — and grief — of his own. Can a wise school
counselor help Caitlin reach out to a world she’s never understood? With Devon
gone, will she have the courage to live fully on her own.

by Cynthia Lord

Ages: Middle Grade
From the publisher: Twelve-year-old Catherine just wants a
normal life. Which is near impossible when you have a brother with autism and a
family that revolves around his disability. She’s spent years trying to teach
David the rules — from “a peach is not a funny-looking apple” to
“keep your pants on in public” — in order to stop his embarrassing
behaviors. But the summer Catherine meets Jason, a paraplegic boy, and Kristi,
the next-door friend she’s always wished for, it’s her own shocking behavior
that turns everything upside down and forces her to ask: What is normal?

A.J. Palacio
Ages: Middle Grade
From the publisher: August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a
facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school—until
now. He’s about to start 5th grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the
new kid then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an
ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new
classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances? 

Marcello in
the Real World

by Francisco
Ages: Young
From the publisher: Marcelo Sandoval hears music that nobody else can hear — part of an autism-like
condition that no doctor has been able to identify. But his father has never
fully believed in the music or Marcelo’s differences, and he challenges Marcelo
to work in the mailroom of his law firm for the summer . . . to join “the
real world.” There, Marcelo
meets Jasmine, his beautiful and surprising coworker, and Wendell, the son of
another partner in the firm. He learns about competition and jealousy, anger
and desire. But it’s a picture he finds in a file — a picture of a girl with
half a face — that truly connects him with the real world: its suffering, its
injustice, and what he can do to fight.

For more books that reflect the lives of children with disabilities, visit the American Library Association Schneider Family Book Award for past winners.


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