Kids' Books About Special Needs
Picture and chapter books that teach kids what it's like to have a special need
The cover of Leah's Voice, the award-winning picture book by a local girl with autism
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Interest in kids’ books about special needs has never been higher. Recent bestsellers like John Green’s “cancer kids” opus The Fault in Our Stars, Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, whose teen narrator/sleuth is on the autism spectrum, and RJ Palacio’s Wonder, about the mainstreaming of a boy with an extreme facial deformity, are now widely taught in area middle school reading classes. Younger children connect with the topic through popular picture books like Hooway for Wodney Wat and grade school–skewing fiction like Jack Gantos’ five-book Joey Pigza ADHD series. This trend not only gives kids who share the hero’s challenges a cultural touchstone; it also means that more youngsters than ever are getting a crash course in empathy, as special needs stories and fiction tend to engagingly illuminate the physical challenges, emotional issues and social bullying kids with special needs often grapple with. Here are a few titles worth reading.