Young children with learning and thinking differences may find special meaning in these kids’ books that stand the test of time. Kids may relate to these pint-size heroes and the challenges they face.
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, by Kevin Henkes
In Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse, Lilly cannot wait for recess so that she can show off her new purse and its special contents to her friends. But she won’t stop playing with it throughout the day, and this disrupts her classmates. Lilly’s favorite teacher, Mr. Slinger, confiscates the purse, and, oh, does that make Lilly mad. But in the end, Mr. Slinger helps Lilly understand the importance of following rules, being patient, and giving second chances.
It’s a great book for kids who have challenges with impulsivity, following directions, or self-control.
Wings, by Christopher Myers
It can be hard to be different. No one knows that better than Ikarus Jackson, the new kid in the neighborhood — who has wings. In Wings, other kids stare at and taunt Ikarus when he flies above the buildings. But when one girl stands up for Ikarus and appreciates his unique ability, he begins to see his difference as a positive thing.
It’s a great book for kids who have trouble seeing how their challenges can lead to strengths.
Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus
Leo is a tiger cub. He isn’t speaking yet, and he makes quite a mess when he eats. His dad expresses concern, but his mother reassures them both that Leo will catch up with all the other cubs when he’s ready. Readers of Leo the Late Bloomer are left with a strong message: Everyone develops in their own time.
It’s a great book for kids who have challenges with self-esteem.
Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban
Parents and picky eaters alike will enjoy the willfulness of the stubborn main character in Bread and Jam for Frances. Frances, a young badger, refuses to eat anything except bread and jam, whether she’s at home or at school. Cleverly, her mother indulges her demands and serves her only bread and jam at every meal. Frances ultimately learns the downside of having too much of a good thing.
It’s a great book for kids who have trouble breaking out of routines and those with food-related challenges.
Ira Sleeps Over, by Bernard Waber
Most kids have something they’re afraid of other kids finding out about. That’s the main takeaway from this time-honored classic that centers on a boy’s first sleepover. Ira has been invited to stay overnight at his friend Reggie’s house. But he can’t imagine not bringing his teddy bear. When Reggie reveals that he, too, sleeps with a favorite stuffed animal, Ira feels much less self-conscious and alone.
It’s a great book for kids who have trouble with self-awareness or self-esteem.
When Sophie Gets Angry — Really, Really Angry, by Molly Bang
On the day this book takes place, everything is just plain rotten for Sophie and she’s ready to blow. Her sister takes her stuffed gorilla. Then her mom sides with her sister. And then she trips over a toy. Fed up, Sophie runs outside to wait out her fury alone. The boldness of the illustrations changes with Sophie’s mood as the story develops. Readers can see her emotions shift from out-of-control upset to calm.
It’s a great book for kids who have trouble managing anger and frustration.
Fortunately, by Remy Charlip
When Ned is invited to a party a thousand miles away, he has no idea that he’s in for such a dramatic trip. “Fortunately, a friend loaned Ned an airplane. Unfortunately, the motor exploded. Fortunately, there was a parachute in the airplane. Unfortunately, there was a hole in the parachute.” Kids will love following the ups and downs of Ned’s beautifully illustrated journey in Fortunately. And they might learn that some situations don’t work out as expected — and that’s OK.
It’s a great book for kids who have challenges with flexible thinking.
No, David! by David Shannon
Each page of Oh David! (the first in the Oh David! series) finds the title’s naughty kindergartner in a world of trouble. David picks his nose, runs down the block naked, jumps on the bed, and generally causes mayhem. His mother scolds him over and over. But despite her frustration, she tells him at the end that of course she still loves him. For kids with behavior issues, this book can offer welcome reassurance.
It’s a great book for kids who have hyperactivity, impulsivity, or self-control challenges, or trouble following social rules.
My Many Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss
My Many Colored Days is a vibrant book that introduces the idea of assigning colors to different feelings. “On Purple Days I’m sad. I groan. I drag my tail. I walk alone,” Seuss writes, and pairs his rhyme with an illustration of a purple dinosaur. And on yellow days? “I am a busy, buzzy bee.” Kids may be able to use this short, sweet book to help them express their own emotions.
It’s a great book for kids who have trouble controlling their emotions or naming their feelings.
Frog and Toad Together, by Arnold Lobel
Friendship is a funny thing. Sometimes the two most different people care about each other the most. That’s what readers learn from this collection of simple stories, one in the series of famous Frog and Toad books. Toad is grumpy and sour. Frog is bubbly and encouraging. Together, they have funny adventures and take turns being unexpectedly kind to one another. (Note that the audiobooks are especially entertaining — the author reads each character in an unforgettable way.)
It’s a great book for kids who have trouble making and keeping friends or picking up on social cues.
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About the author
Lexi Walters Wright is the former community manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Elizabeth Babbin, EdD is an instructional specialist at Lower Macungie Middle School in Macungie, Pennsylvania.