“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Albert Einstein.
School should be a place for all types of learners and thinkers to shine. This year, Learning Village Librarian Sarah FitzHenry learned about the idea of neurodiversity, a term defined by The National Symposium on Neurodiversity at Syracuse University as “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.” In the simple terms that she uses with her students, this means that different brains work differently – and that’s perfectly normal and perfectly okay. Here, she discusses literature for children related to neurodiversity that would make for great winter reads.
The idea is an easy and natural fit for children, and childrens’ literature is embracing neurodiveristy, too. Authors and illustrators are finally starting to incorporate neurodiversity into their characters, and not just in the quirky sidekicks and perpetually furious bullies of yesteryear. Readers of all ages can now celebrate with detectives who have obsessive compulsive disorder, connect with dog lovers on the autism spectrum, and empathize with students learning with dyslexia. Common themes also include supporting a loved one with neurodiversity, like helping a parent with bipolar disorder work through therapy or loving the unique personality of a sibling or cousin with Down syndrome. The wide selection of titles that honor and celebrate neurodiversity create a safe place for children to explore differences and mental health, and are amazing tools for starting family and classroom conversations.
Titles that celebrate neurodiversity teach students that human brains and behaviors work in myriad different ways, and that that is okay. They build perspective and remind readers that all human beings deserve respect. And introducing the idea of neurodiversity through a kid-friendly story (and without the sophisticated vocabulary) helps to build kindness and empathy, making the world just a little bit better!
As a bonus, my readers love exploring stories about children with exceptional minds. Here are some of the most popular titles in our library featuring neurodiverse characters – plus a few young adult novels for good measure.
Where Oliver Fits, by Cale Atkinson
The Princess and the Fog, by Lloyd Jones
A Friend for Henry, by Jenn Bailey
Benji, the Bad Day, and Me, by Sally J. Pla
Be a Friend, Salina Yoon
Baby Dragon, Baby Dragon!, Melissa Marr and Lena Podesta
A Boy Called Bat, Elana K. Arnold (book 1 in a series; here’s book 2 and book 3)
Goldfish Boy, Lisa Thompson
Rain Reign, Ann M. Martin
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, Stacy McAnulty
Fish in a Tree, Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25, Richard Paul Evans (first book in a series – find the rest here)
Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Jack Gantos
Young Adult Books:
History is All you Left Me, Adam Silvera
On the Edge of Gone, Corinne Duyvis
Challenger Deep, Neal Shusterman
Highly Illogical Behavior, John Corey Whaley
The Impossible Knife of Memory, Laurie Halse Anderson
Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X Stork