We started a conversation over here a few weeks ago about whether or not there are chapter books with main characters who have intellectual disabilities, and I had a chance to write more about this topic for TIME.
Lots of you offered your thoughts—thank you! After that exchange, I honed in on the question of whether there are chapter books with main characters with Down syndrome. The short answer is yes, but the longer answer is that they are few and far between, even when compared to other books about kids with disabilities. (I also had a chance to talk about this question with Heather Avis on the podcast this week.)
Here’s an excerpt from the TIME essay:
As children with disabilities have integrated more fully into classrooms and other public spaces, so too they have received fuller representation within the pages of books. And yet, in all these stories, the kids have tremendous intellectual ability, even when their disability prevents adults and other children from being aware of it. It is as if their physical disability or neurodivergence is mediated by the presence of intellectual acuity.
But what about the kids whose intellect is not their superpower? Even in a world that is becoming more inclusive, we struggle to receive people with intellectual disabilities as fully human. The r-word is still used as a slur. Bumper stickers make fun of riding the “short bus.” And our children’s literature still seems to prefer stories about people with brilliant minds “trapped” inside bodies that an able-bodied world sees as broken or impaired to stories of kids who learn slowly.
More with Amy Julia:
- TIME: Where Are All the Children’s Books Featuring Kids With Down Syndrome?
- Main Characters With Intellectual Disabilities in Chapter Books
- S6 E3 | Down Syndrome and Belonging with Heather Avis
- TIME: How Disability Changed What Easter Means to My Family
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