Written by Sonia Sotomayor, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

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This book features 13 different kids living with a variety of disabilities or other differences from “average” kids. The beautiful illustrations show a diverse array of races and genders of children, and it’s extremely positive and upbeat. Instead of a continuous story, the book features each character, really briefly explains their disability, then shows something about that character that your child can probably relate to. 

This is really valuable because children’s brains are constantly taking in so much new information about the world, so their brains are designed to categorize new information to make it quicker to learn and make connections. This is great, but can be a problem with the social categories they automatically make–for example, a child may categorize all people who have a certain disability together and believe that every single person with that disability shares a certain set of traits, or that those people are totally fundamentally different from themselves. So helping children to see how there are plenty of differences between kids in the same category (like the two kids with autism in the book), or how they personally are similar to kids in other categories from their own perceived category (which the book provides plenty of opportunities to see) can really help them to have not only more accurate ideas of the people around them, but to also be more compassionate with everybody.

During the reading: 

  • Actually have your child answer the questions each page poses! Don’t be afraid to stray from the story for a while. This will actually help your child to love reading time and bond you, as well as help you to see the way in which your child thinks and sees things around them. 
  • If you know your child has a classmate or a friend with one of the disabilities you read about, ask them about that kid and point out the ways in which they are similar to or different from the kid in the story with that same disability – once again, helping them expand their idea of that disability. 
  • Your child may go on thinking about what they’ve learned in the book (it quickly covers a lot of disabilities they may not have understood or even heard of before!) so really reinforce the last page of asking if they have questions. You can ask if they have questions about different disabilities periodically as you go along (pay attention to how they look/react to the different kids to try to identify if they’re still confused about something). If you don’t know an answer to a question, honestly say that you’re not sure, but you’re going to find out and then talk to them about it later. It’s helpful if you can give them a time you’ll be able to talk (it can be as vague as later tonight, or tomorrow), so that they trust that their question will be answered. Just be sure to actually look it up and stay true to your word so you don’t break that trust!
  • You can foster perspective taking by asking your child how they think the characters feel about their different disabilities. All the portrayals are super positive, but it’s okay to point out that sometimes it’s hard to do things like the Sonia pricking her finger because of her diabetes, or Madison not being able to see. 
  • When you’re out and about later, you can point out things you see like ramps to buildings and show how that’s helpful for people like Anthony that can’t walk and need to get around in wheelchairs! 

Themes: Autism Spectrum Disorder, bravery, differences, disabilities, empathy, speaking up, understanding others

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Have you tried any of these ideas? Comment below to share how they worked for your family!