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10 Must-Have Books Featuring Characters with Disabilities For Your Class Library

Check out these top picks and find your students’ (or your own!) next read.


Teachers know: Students thrive when they can see themselves in their learning materials. Classroom libraries come to life when the shelves are filled with diverse stories, characters, and authors. Students with physical, mental, or emotional challenges and their peers can learn together how best to understand and celebrate each other's differences. Authentic, representative books can lead the way.

Check out these top picks featuring protagonists with disabilities — and from authors with disabilities! — to find your students’ (or your own!) next read.

Benny Doesn't Like to Be Hugged, by Zetta Elliott

For young readers
Our gentle narrator tells young readers all about her friend Benny — what he likes, what he doesn’t like, and what makes him unique. This touching, rhyming story encourages children to be kind to each other and to respect differences. According to The Book Wars, “…we need more books like Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged – positive, inclusive, supportive books about autism that prominently center and celebrate children of color.”

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, by Sonia Sotomayor

For young readers
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor penned this thoughtful and tender book about the special qualities and abilities that make each of us who we are. As the story’s cast of young characters work together to build a community garden, they learn about each other by asking curious, kind questions. Young readers are invited to do the same: if you want to know more about someone who is different than you, just ask!

My Brother Charlie, by Denene Millner, Holly Robinson Peete, and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

For young readers
From actress and author Holly Robinson Peete and her daughter Ryan comes this heartwarming story based on Holly’s real-life son who happens to be autistic. This book celebrates Charlie for his talents, his interests, and his extensive knowledge on all his favorite subjects, in spite of the things that are a bit harder for him than other kids.

Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

For middle-school readers and older
“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.” For teenage Ally, she’ll find any way she can to hide her dyslexia. But with the help of an intuitive teacher, Ally learns her reading challenges are nothing to be ashamed of and begins to appreciate – even embrace – her fascinating, unconventional mind.

Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick

For middle-school readers
This first book in a 2-part series by Newbery author Rodman Philbrik introduces Max, who has always been seen as dumb and slow, to Freak, who has a little body and a giant brain. Together, they become Freak the Mighty — unstoppable. These two total opposites become best friends and learn to make the most of what makes them special and their friendship a perfect match.

Wonder, by JR. J. Palacio

For middle-school readers and older
This #1 New York Times Bestseller, made even more popular by its adaptation for the big screen, features Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face who teaches his family, friends, classmates, teachers, and his entire community, what it means to be kind, to be accepting, and to see beyond physical appearance.

Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick

For middle-school readers and older
This graphic novel follows Ben, a deaf boy traveling to New York in 1977, and Rose, a deaf and mute girl traveling to New York in 1927. Their stories intertwine as both Ben and Rose seek family and belonging. Their journeys, told in both word and illustration, carry readers through time and space to a complex, captivating ending.

Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School, by Eva Shang and Melissa Shang

For middle-school readers and older
Author Melissa Shang, a wheelchair user herself, crowdfunded this book on Kickstarter with the help of generous booklovers who caught her vision. Why? In her words: “it’s incredibly important to me to see more books or movies with disabled girls as the main character. I never had any role model to look up to who had a disability.” Enter her main character, Mia Lee, a sassy, zany, 6th-grade filmmaker trying to find her way through the perils of high school — including a student body presidential race with a mystery to solve!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

For middle-school readers and older
For insatiable readers who need an entire series to dive into, look no further than Percy Jackson and his many adventures (6 books to date, one more coming this year!). Percy’s battles with ADHD and dyslexia are no match for his quests to defeat monsters, titans, and demigods.

Spot a book you’d love your students to read? Create a project today!

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