Reading List: Children's Literature on the Human Body and Disabilities
I walked around the homeschool convention in March struggling to find materials to use with Nathaniel for the 2019-2020 school year. It was not for lack of choices. Marketing to homeschoolers today is like an empire all its own. Hundreds of vendors filled the conference center. There was a pre-packaged curriculum for every philosophy of teaching and every learning style. But nothing fit us.
I had just finished the workshop Comprehensive Literacy Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities and Complex Communication Needs. Little that I saw at the homeschool curriculum booths utilized the research and methods I had learned at the conference. What I yearned for felt simple: something that would grow the foundation I have provided Nathaniel in reading and writing, broaden his understanding of himself, science, and the world, and expand his appreciation for poetry, art, and music. I was also hopeful that the materials would rely on more than verbal expression and fine motor skills, Nathaniel’s weaknesses, to show learning progress. Ok. Maybe my expectations were high. I bought a couple of books that I thought he would enjoy, but left the convention without investing in a curriculum or buying into a publisher or vendor’s notion of what school should look like for Nathaniel.
That same month we started talking with Nathaniel about the two new babies who will be joining our extended family this summer. He is the proud uncle of an almost three-year-old and a five-month-old. That number will double soon. Nathaniel’s sister and a sister-in-law are due to deliver little ones around the time we will start back to school. He hugs their rounding bellies with no inhibition. He talks about babies a lot. He asks questions about himself as a baby. He asks when I will have a baby. Late one evening it occurred to me - why not use what is happening in our family and what he likes to talk about as the topic of our learning?
Our first sixteen week unit for next school year will be about the human body. We will start with babies of course. We will discuss adoption again in hopes of deepening Nathaniel’s understanding of his lived experience. I plan to write social stories and use pictures we received from his foster family to help with this process.
Then we will spend a week discussing each body system, constantly bringing the study back to the babies in his life and his own body. This science piece of our learning will be combined with learning about disabilities. When we learn about eyes and sight, we will read about a day in the life of a guide dog. When we learn about germs and illness, we will read how author EB White’s childhood illnesses were the creative catalyst to the characters in his beloved children’s stories. I want Nathaniel’s first explorations into learning about the human body to be accompanied with examples of what it means to live a full and meaningful life with disabilities.
There are very few “My Friend has Autism” type books on my reading list. Those have a place in children’s literature and on reading lists. This list is generated with a more specific intent than providing disability awareness for an able-bodied child. It is a collection of resources that I hope will instill confidence, purpose, and inspiration in a child who already knows he is a bit different than his peers. However, many of the books I’ve chosen will help any child understand that disability does not limit capability or reduce an individual’s humanity.
The reading list is ambitious. I plan to share over eighty books with Nathaniel in sixteen weeks. Each title was selected with a purpose and fits one of the following categories:
Guided Reading books will be used to teach reading comprehension. These books will be read daily for the week, and I will provide anchor-read-appy lessons. The books stand alone as good stories, but they also tie into the week’s topic. For example, for our intro to the human body week, our guided reading story is about a spider who has to reconcile if the loss of a leg changes his identity.
Children’s Literature books are stories I want to share with Nathaniel simply for the beauty and richness each offers, like the story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah who rode a bike across Ghana to bring awareness to living with a disability. These books will also be read daily for the week they are scheduled.
Science and Social Studies books are exactly as they sound. Science titles are non-fiction books on the topic of the week. Social Studies titles include biographies, community living, and social awareness. These books will likely be read just a few times a week, but will still provide depth to Nathaniel’s learning. For example, did you know that the use of baseball umpires’ hand signals was initiated by a ball player who was deaf? His name was William Hoy, and there is a wonderful biography written about him for children.
Shared AAC Reading books are titles that tie into the study and include repetitive words or phrases that an emerging AAC user could offer on their device during the reading time. Nathaniel catches on very quickly to shared AAC reading. He participates the first time we read the book, but usually not a second or third time. (Been there, done that, Mom!) We will likely read these stories once during the week. But who knows? The book about poop might entice Nathaniel to participate more than once!
Reading List with Category Specifications
Why am I making my reading list available for free? This reading list is very nuanced to Nathaniel and our family. It was curated by a Christian woman for a six year old boy who was adopted, has multiple disabilities, and a global developmental delay. All of that is evident in the titles I chose. There are books from a faith perspective. There are books about tracheostomies, g-tubes, and communication devices. There are books that highlight ethnic diversity because that is important to our family. There are books that are out of print, but have been on my bookshelf for decades. There are books yet to be released, both with publication dates this summer, but I saw enough of their guts to know they belong on my list. There is a book staring Nathaniel’s favorite character, Curious George. If I was creating a list that I intended to sell to others - it would look much different. It would need to be broader in scoop to appeal to the more people, but limited in quantity due to the cost of books. (Thankfully, I have an excellent metropolitan library system close by.) Most importantly, my reading list is free because I believe in collaboration and providing access to resources that improve people’s lives. Use it as written in its entirety or take the bits and pieces that fit your unique needs.
Previews of each book on my list are below. Amazon makes it easy to share these direct links. Disclaimer: I will get a small bit of money towards my future book purchases if someone purchases a book very quickly after clicking on the link. I don’t get anything if someone clicks on the link, but waits a day or more to purchase. Money towards more books is not my goal; this was simpler than taking photos of all the books.
Resources Used Multiple Weeks:
Week 1: Babies
Week 2: Families
Week 3: Introduction to the Human Body
Week 4: Skin
Week 5: Skeletal System
Week 6: Muscular System
Week 7: Respiratory System
Week 8: Heart and Circulatory System
Week 9: Brain and Nervous System
Week 10: Senses, Ears and Hearing
Week 11: Senses, Eyes and Sight
Week 12: Sense of Taste and Digestive System
Week 13: Communication
Week 14: Healthy Eating and Sleeping
Week 15: Germs and Illness
Week 16: Boys and Girls
I hope you found something here that enriches the lives of the children you read to. There are hundreds of books on these topics. Do you have favorites? Please comment - I would love to know of more resources.