Welcome to Picture Books for All

Children of all abilities should see themselves in the books they read. That's what makes reading fun. There are many picture books that include characters with disabilities; some are excellent in terms of their portrayal of these characters, some are pretty good, and some miss the mark. This blog features these picture books and evaluates them based on standards for quality in children's books that portray characters with disabilities. For more information, see the first post entitled "Welcome to Picture Books for All." (Click here) Welcome to Picture Books For All

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book #16 Talking About Disability

The reason I am including this book in the blog is that I found it prominently displayed in the children’s library in Lexington, Massachusetts last month, March 2013, which was National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. This means that librarians, parents, and teachers might have thought it was a good starter book to share with children on the subject of disabilities, yet it is so outdated in its language that it is actually a detrimental way to introduce the subject of disability to children. Of course the author and the publishers meant well, and in 1999 and 2001 when the book was published, it may have been considered acceptable and even beneficial. Today, it would not be.  In the 1999 version of this book, which was the one on display in my library, people with disabilities are referred to as “disabled people,” making them sound like a separate category or a “sub-class” of people. People with disabilities are referred to in this book as “they,” again making them separate and somehow not as worthy as people without disabilities. Children need to understand that people with disabilities are people first who are not defined solely by their disabilities. This book does not do a good job of communicating that. While the book has some positive messages, the fact that it is still being displayed means that the people guiding children’s reading may not be aware of how outdated it is in its language.
We need more children’s authors to write good books that respectfully approach the subject of disability and the portrayal of characters with disabilities. These books should contain people-first language, emphasize the positive, and show that people are more alike than different. The standards in the second table below provide guidelines for authors interested in writing quality books about people with disabilities or about the subject of disabilities.

Related Information
Talking About Disability
Original title was changed to What do we think about Disability?
Jillian Powell
This book has photographs taken by different people.
Originally:  Raintree Steck-Vaughn Publishers (1999)

Hodder Wayland Childrens (2001)
This was one title in a series called “Talking About . . .”

Title changed to What do we think about Disability?
Year of Pub:
1999  then 2001
ISBN:     (ISBN-13)
(ISBN-13) 978-0750232524
Age range
Type of Disability
Disability in general
Heavy emphasis on physical disabilities
Fiction or Nonfiction
Category:  A

A) books that provide factual information about a disability

B) books that provide information about a disability in a story format in which the character with a disability is integral to the plot

C) books that provide stories that have a character with a disability who may or may not be integral to the storyline and who has been added to the story to achieve diversity and reflect reality

D) books that include a main character with a disability but whose focus is not necessarily the disability

Annotation:  This is a non-fiction, informational book that covers various disabilities, most of them physical. It is geared toward children at the preschool and elementary school levels. Many of the photographs show people in wheelchairs. There is a glossary at the end and a section called “Notes for parents and teachers.”
Link to publisher:
I could not find a website for Raintree Steck-Vaughn publishers. The newer title was published by Hodder Wayland Childrens in Great Britain. This publisher has published workbooks for enrichment study in the elementary grades, but it does not seem to be a mainstream, commercial publisher.
Links to professional reviews:



Standards for Quality Portrayal of Characters with a disability
1. Promotes empathy not pity

2. Promotes acceptance, not ridicule
Attempts to

3. Emphasizes success rather than, or in addition to failure

4. Promotes positive images of persons with disabilities or illness
5. Assists children in gaining accurate understanding of the disability or illness
6. Demonstrates respect for persons with disabilities or illness
In a very outdated manner

7. Promotes attitude of “one of us” not “one of them.”
Very outdated. People with disabilities are categorized as “they.”
8. Uses people-first language
Not consistently
This is a major problem with the book. Somehow, calling them “disabled people” and “they” makes them sound like aliens. It is difficult for children to relate to the people they see in the photographs when they are referred to in this demeaning way.
9. Describes the disability or person with disabilities or illness as realistic (not subhuman or superhuman)
10. Depicts people with disabilities as more similar to than different from other people
Not consistently
11. Shows peoples’ strengths and abilities along with their disabilities
Attempts to
12. Represents characters as strong, independent people who others can admire or learn from
13. Represents people with disabilities from different racial and cultural backgrounds, religions, age groups, and sexual orientations
Photographs include people from different ethnic groups
14. Shows people with disabilities in integrated settings and activities

15. Shows people with disabilities in valued occupations and diverse roles.

16. Shows people with disabilities in reciprocal relationships
Hard to tell from the photographs; the relationships of people with disabilities are not emphasized in the text.
17. Main character develops and grows emotionally as a result of what happens in the story
There is no main character

No comments:

Post a Comment