This is what my desk looked like at 3:30 PM yesterday. Why am I showing you a picture of an empty spot on my desk? Because three hours hours earlier, this spot was overflowing with books about mental health: And after middle schoolers got to ‘em, here’s what was left.
Young people are hungry for conversations about mental health.
They are curious and empathetic and desperate to explore the world around them. When they read, they learn that heroes can have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Tourette’s Syndrome. They learn that people with Dyslexia are smart and capable. They learn that parents can both treasure their families and live with Bipolar Disorder. They learn that mental health is a spectrum and that we all live and act differently. They build empathy and perspective and learn that all humans deserve respect.
Books that feature and/or celebrate neurodiversity are a critical part of any inclusive collection. What is neurodiveristy? According to The National Symposium on Neurodiversity at Syracuse University, “Neurodiversity is a concept where neurological differences are to be recognized and respected as any other human variation. These differences can include those labeled with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, and others.” To me, neurodiversity means understanding that human brains can work in myriad different ways, and accepting and celebrating these differences. Exposing students to the concept of neurodiversity (without the sophisticated vocabulary) can better help them to understand the world and make them more empathetic and successful citizens. And as a bonus? Young readers love reading about other kids with exceptional minds!