Even in an age of technology, books can help children feel less alone in their conditions and more connected to the world. Books that detail the experiences of characters with anxiety, autism spectrum disorder, dyslexia, and other conditions can also help entire classrooms of students to better understand their classmates. Fiction books, in particular, have been shown to help children more strongly develop empathy for others. (1) Here are 10 books for children from preschool to young adult that may help promote confidence and understanding at home or in the classroom:
This is a beautiful book aimed primarily at young children, but beneficial to anyone at any age. Authored by Susan Verde and illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds, who is known for his collection of meaningful children’s books, I Am Peace simply and gently encourages readers to live in the present moment.
This is an ideal book for early education and elementary classrooms. In this Sesame Street book, Elmo helps Abby understand that even though autism spectrum disorder means Julia thinks in a different way, they still have more in common than not in common. This book explains ASD to young children in a clear, easy way.
Aimed at middle grade students in fifth to eighth grades, Fish in a Tree is a New York Times bestselling book by Lynda Mullaly Hunt that tells the fictional story of a young girl with undiagnosed dyslexia. This book has been a favorite of classrooms since its release in 2017.
A novel geared toward middle and high school age students, Out of My Mind is an award-winning, fictional novel by Sharon M. Draper that gives readers an insight into the experiences of a young girl with cerebral palsy. The character’s difficulty communicating with the world outside of herself is the central theme of the book and one that will feel familiar for students with a variety of special needs.
This is a humorous series of books about a child who just has too many exciting things going on inside of her mind to focus on school. For parents and teachers, the Clementine series will bring back memories of classics like Ramona Quimby. For elementary students with attention struggles, Clementine feels relatable and refreshing.
This book by Wesley King is targeted to children in late elementary to middle school, but students of any age with anxiety will likely relate to the characters and the honesty of this award-winning novel. Daniel, the story’s protagonist, is struggling with undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder while dealing with the challenges of school — and the mystery of a girl with special needs who seems a little too much like him.
This novel by popular young adult novelist John Green is another accurate, moving tale of anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Turtles All the Way Down will especially appeal to students in high school and college, but adults can also gain understanding by getting inside the mind of the story’s main character.
Written by Elana K. Arnold and geared toward elementary school students, autism spectrum disorder is just one part of the life of a young boy whose veterinarian mother brings home a skunk.
This is a relatable, gripping story for late elementary and middle school children, but likely equally enjoyable for high school children and even adults. The protagonist, Willow, is highly intelligent, but thinks differently than others. The book touches on anxiety and grief in heartwarming ways.
This book about a child with a facial difference promotes kindness and compassion for all ages. Students with special needs can find comfort in the character of Auggie. Preschoolers might enjoy the companion book, We’re All Wonders.
If you’re looking for a book to read while your child checks out these books, take a look at our previous list of 5 valuable neurobehavioral books, including Dr. Vincent P. Culotta’s School Success for Kids with Emotional and Behavioral Disorders.
- Chiaet, J. (2013, October 4). Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/novel-finding-reading-literary-fiction-improves-empathy/