Hopebridge-Approved Inclusive Storybook Options for Kids
Books are magical in opening the minds of children. Reading books to kids can help them develop basic language and concentration, stimulate their imagination and maybe most importantly, expand upon their understanding of the world.
To celebrate our love of books and reading, we developed a list of some of our favorite stories related to autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and individuals with differing abilities.
Some are more direct on the subjects and disorders, whereas others subtlety touch on the themes. Some are geared toward those with autism, some are for those with loved ones who have special needs, and others are intended to teach children about individuals who may be “different” from them … but all can be entertaining and educational for all kids (and their parents)! No matter which route they take, these choices are great additions to a home library or classroom collection.
13 Books for Kids that Discuss Autism and Special Needs
- The Boy with Big, Big Feelings, by Britney Winn Lee
Meet a boy with feelings so big that they glow from his cheeks, spill out of his eyes and jump up and down on his chest. When a loud truck drives by, he cries, but when he hears a joke, he bursts with joy. This book is relatable for any child, but is especially helpful for children who experience anxiety and extreme emotion, including those with ASD. Intended for ages 4-8 years old.
- My Brother Charlie, by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
This story is about a boy named Charlie, who happens to have autism. Actress, Holly Robinson Pete, wrote this book alongside her daughter, Ryan, about their son and brother. Written from a twin sister’s point of view, this book gives helpful insight into what it is like to have an autistic sibling, as well as examples of their many similarities and strengths that go beyond their differences and challenges. Intended for ages 6-10 years old.
- All My Stripes: A Story for Children with Autism, by Shaina Rudolph
Zane the zebra feels different than others and is worried his friends and classmates will make fun of his “autism stripe.” With help from his mom, Zane learns that having autism is just part of the many unique strengths that make him special. Intended for ages 5-8 years old.
- Sesame Street’s We’re Amazing 1, 2, 3! A Story About Friendship and Autism, by Leslie Kimmelman
While many of Sesame Street’s books and episodes focus on inclusivity, this is the first of the brand’s books to focus on autism. In this story, Elmo introduces his friends Abby and Julia, who has autism. He explains that she has ASD and sometimes does things a little differently, but Abby soon learns they have a lot of things in common. Intended for ages 3-7 years old.
- When Charley Met Emma, by Amy Web
This book teaches kids that “different is ok.” This story highlights a boy who meets a girl at the park who has limb differences and uses a wheelchair to get around. While not focused specifically on autism, it explores kids’ reactions, thoughts and education around disabilities, kindness and how to behave when they meet someone who may have differences. Intended for ages 3-5 years old.
- Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, by Sonia Sotomayor
Feeling different can be tough, as United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor learned as a child with juvenile diabetes. Using her own experience with a diagnosis that made her feel different, this best-selling book celebrates children with various conditions and disorders, as well as their abilities. It asks questions of the readers to get them thinking and encourages them to “just ask” others if they have questions. Intended for ages 4-8 years old.
- The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin, by Julia Finley Mosca
This book is the first in a series about amazing real-life scientists from throughout history, starting with Dr. Temple Grandin. It outlines her life and achievements, starting as a baby, in a way that children can relate, while also explaining some of the autism-related challenges she had to overcome. The book also includes a note from Dr. Grandin. Intended for ages 5-10 years old.
- Noah Chases the Wind, by Michelle Worthington
This award-winning book is about a curious young boy with autism who sees, hears, feels and thinks in ways others do not always understand. The main character, Noah, loves science and is full of questions, until he finds one he can’t use a book in which to find the answer. Intended for ages 3-8 years old.
- Tacos Anyone? By Marvie Ellis
This is a great option for bilingual families, but can be enjoyed by everyone. The award-winning book tells the story of two brothers, Michael and Thomas, in both English and Spanish. The older brother does not understand his younger brother’s behavior and can’t figure out how to play with him until a therapist explains autism to him. The story shares how the two learn to better relate to each other. Intended for ages 4-7 years old.
- Hello Roar, Little Dinosaur, by Hazel Reeves
Like children on the spectrum, little Roar thinks about things in a different way, but she also realizes that this is what makes her special. Roar uses her unique qualities and abilities on her adventures, but knows it’s ok to take a break sometimes, too. Intended for ages 3-8 years old.
- My Three Best Friends and Me, Zulay, by Cari Best
About four girls in first grade, this story is centered around Zulay, a girl who is blind but does not let that slow her down. She sets her goals high and sometimes surprises people with her ambitions and successes, like when she wants to run a race during Field Day. Intended for ages 4-8 years old.
- A Friend Like Simon, by Kate Gaynor
This children’s book serves as a helpful introduction to autism for neurotypical peers or siblings. It covers the story of an autistic child who joins a typical classroom, where he faces a number of challenges. It encourages others to be patient and mindful of their autistic peers, while also learning about the many ways a person with autism can positively contribute to a friendship and community. Intended for ages 4-8 years old.
- Bennie and Brave, by Kat Hardin
This book aims to teach children the characteristics that will define the leaders of the next generation. It highlights empathy, inclusion and awareness, and showcases that differences are good and should be celebrated. Bennie and Brave explores themes of inclusion and kindness through the the character “Brave,” who has autism spectrum disorder and Down Syndrome. Intended for ages 6-8 years old.
What’s on your child’s reading list? We’d love to hear your favorites, so please feel free to share with us and other families on Facebook and Instagram.
In the meantime, if you could use more information for your family regarding autism, check out our posts on the impact autism has on siblings and support resources for families.