The words "children's books for disability pride month" appear above a pile of pictures of book covers featuring Americans with different abilities

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I have learned so much reading these children’s books for Disability Pride Month! I grew up learning about a few famous people with disabilities (like Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, for my music lovers). But as the mission of showing all children that they belong in the pages of history is one of the pillars of The Radical Agenda, I have had the opportunity to learn about so many more Americans with a wide spectrum of abilities.

While I am quite certain that some of these names might be familiar to some of you, I hope to introduce you to some new names of American heroes.

Be sure to save this for future reference, as there will be more additions over time!

The words "children's books for disability pride month" appear above a pile of pictures of book covers featuring Americans with different abilities

A Life of Service: The Story of Tammy Duckworth – Christina Soontornvat

Tammy Duckworth was born in Thailand. Her father was an American working for the United Nations, and she learned from a young age that she felt joy in helping others. The book follows her life as she followed her passion for service into the military. The author described the accident that resulted in Tammy Duckworth losing both of her legs, and how she worked so hard to continue finding ways to help others after she healed.

I love for how this book describes Tammy’s fierce determination, strength of will, and her unwavering dedication to her fellow Americans. For any child interested in the military or politics, this book about Tammy Duckworth would be a perfect place to start learning about how to be a leader.

Little People, Big Dreams: Maya Angelou – Lisbeth Kaiser

You might know about Maya Angelou: the renowned poet, but do you know about Maya Angelou: the survivor? In very basic, age-appropriate language, this book mentions that as a young girl, Miss Angelou was attacked by her mother’s boyfriend, and she was so traumatized that she did not speak for five years. During that time, she read voraciously. When she began to speak again, she began writing poetry, eventually becoming one of the most influential poets of our time. This is such a touching story about a young woman living, through racist discrimination and trauma, finding her voice through writing.

Check out this book about Maya Angelou here.

Moses – Carole Boston Weatherford

Harriet Tubman was a deeply religious woman, and this book is a deeply religious telling of her story as the Moses of the Underground Railroad, leading fellow enslaved people out of slavery and into freedom.

Although not listed in the book (it is in the author’s note in the back), Harriet suffered from seizures throughout her adult life as a result of a traumatic brain injury. When she refused to turn in an enslaved person who had escaped, her enslaver beat her in the head. Despite her struggles from her brain injury, she never lost any of the people she helped rescue.

This book is another from one of my favorite prolific diverse history authors, Carole Boston Weatherford, and I encourage you to add this one to your list.  

Dark was the Night – Gary Golio

“Blind Willie Johnson” was a singer with a soothing voice and unique sound. The story actually begins long after Mr. Johnson’s death, when his hit song “Dark was the Night” was included on a musical disc sent into space on the Voyager 1, alongside other classic pieces – including Beethoven!

Willie Johnson went blind as a young child, some time after his mother died. The author’s guiding thread throughout the book is the concept of light. After his mother died and then he lost his sight, the light faded, but his new light was his passion for music. As he learned how to play guitar and sing, his light – that is, his joy in life – returned.

Be sure to listen to his song “Dark Was The Night” after you read this book!

illustrated picture of a woman in a wheelchair, surrounded by people with a variety of other disabilities

Fighting for Yes! – Maryann Cocca-Leffler

Judy Heumann was a fierce advocate for persons with disabilities. After having contracted polio as a young girl, she lived out her life in a wheelchair. She faced discrimination and ableism, and she fought back. She fought so hard to hear “yes” in response to her just wanting to live with the basic rights and access as her peers – she even sued the New York Board of Education when they denied her teaching license because she used a wheelchair. She won!

Her fight did not end there. In San Francisco, she led the longest sit-in protest of a federal building, which eventually resulted in the addition of Section 504 being added to the law. Section 504 is a protection of federal civil rights for people with disabilities.

Ms Heumann’s dedication to protect the rights of others was inspiring. This book is a wonderful introduction to her life’s work.

How to Build a Hug – Amy Guglielmo and Jacqueline Tourville

Temple Grandin is an autistic woman. She is a prolific author on animal behavior, and also and educator and advocate about living with autism. She not only learned how to experience the world built for neurotypical people in a neurodivergent way, but she identified different ways that people with autism.

In How To Build A Hug, the author writes about how Ms Grandin wanted to be able to enjoy a hug as she saw neurotpical people do. She experienced far more sensory impact with a hug, so they were not enjoyable for her. She decided to create a machine that provided her with just enough of an experience to be comfortable, while also feeling safe.

Be sure to share this book with any child who might experience the world differently.

an illustrated picture of Temple Grandin inside her hug machine

Are there books that you would love to see added to this list? Please leave me a comment and let me know what to request from the library next!

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