22% of the British population is disabled and 18% of that figure are of working age. There are disabled children in every classroom in the UK, some with visible disabilities and many with hidden disabilities. Unfortunately, there will also be many children whose hidden disabilities may not yet be formally recognised or identified.
You can help to beat the stigmas and misconceptions around disability by acknowledging the presence of disabled people in the world and one way you can do this is by ensuring your school, class and home library includes books about the achievements of disabled leaders, past and present.
‘A Picture Book of Louis Braille’ by David A. Adler, John and Alexandra Wallner
This is a beautifully illustrated book and the pictures give real depth to the text, transporting you back to France and what the experience must have been like for Louis Braille at the time.
I found the story very interesting, as much as I knew the important details of Braille’s life, this book gives a really good and in depth insight to his life- from birth to death- in a very accessible read for children.
While I knew of the outcome of Braille’s achievements, I did not appreciate his resilience, creativity and tenacity. The brief exploration of his development of Braille illustrates perfectly why disabled people are the best people to lead innovation in fields that benefit us and why abled people are often resistant to change that benefits us because they think they know what is best for us.
This book would be an excellent example for a STEM class and other designers/engineers to reflect on the importance of user led innovation and success.
Importantly, it shows how disabled people can surpass their abled peers in academics and creativity AND affect real change in the world.
At the end of the book, there is the excellent bonus of a page with the Braille alphabet and numbers so that readers have a sensory reference to the topic of the story.
This should be in Primary libraries and I’d suggest that it was not out of place in Secondary libraries either due to the knowledge and interest it will inspire.
‘Who Was Helen Keller?’ by Gare Thompson
While this was an interesting and detailed account of the life of Helen Keller, I do not think I could recommend the book for use in schools.
Although published in 2003, the author uses the word ‘handicapped’ throughout the story to describe Kellar and other disabled people, which made me wince every time I read it. In the early chapters there is also a lot of emphasis on how awful life must be to be both deaf and blind, which reminds me of many abelist tropes about the quality of life that disabled people live. I also felt uncomfortable with how often Kellar’s distress and frustration at being unable to communicate was described as a ‘tantrum.’
Additionally, I found the writing style very patronising and even difficult to read. The whole book is written in truncated sentences that seem aimed at much younger readers than appropriate for the length and content.
It is a shame, because the detail about Kellar’s life was very interesting. But I would not use this particular book with a class in school.
Review Coming Soon
Review Coming Soon
‘Greta’s Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went On Strike To Save The Planet’ by Valentina Camerini
Review Coming Soon
‘I Am Not A Label’ by Cerrie Burnell
This is an amazing reference book of 34 disabled artists, thinkers, athletes and activists from the past and present. I can absolutely see it being a favourite in class libraries and school libraries alike, particularly amongst children who like non fiction books. This book will also be popular with those who like reading shorter pieces of text as opposed to full novels, and anyone who has an interest in learning about people. I can think of so many children over the years that I have taught who would pick it up again and again.
This book is very well written, well researched, and the illustrations are of excellent quality. I found it very interesting and learned a lot about disabled icons I already knew about, and so much more about icons I was not familiar with.
I have been a big fan of Cerrie Burnell since she spoke at a World Book Day event at Edinburgh Usher Hall in 2016. I took my Primary 5 class (Y4) class along with many other year groups in the school, and after hearing a lot of authors speak, the class wanted me to buy Cerrie’s series of ‘Harper’ books as they were so impressed.
A highly recommended book by a great author (who has written other excellent books). A definite for school libraries in upper primary and a very valuable book for secondary schools too.
‘The Spectrum Girl’s Survival Guide: How to grow up awesome & Autistic’
by Siena Castellon
‘Touch and Go Joe: An Adolescent’s Experience of OCD’ by Joe Wells
‘What is Disability?’ by Elizabeth Wright
You can download a copy here.