Blog, Children's Picture Books, Middle Grade Fiction (ages 8-12), Special Needs

8 Kids Books to Teach Autism Awareness and Acceptance

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Everywhere I go, it seems, I spot a child who appears to have autism. Maybe having a child of my own on the spectrum makes me more in tune to the signs and symptoms. At the same time, my observations could be a reflection of the new normal for neurodiversity. According to the CDC, in only sixteen years the amount of children being diagnosed has significantly grown from 1 in 150 in the year 2000 to 1 in 68 in 2016.

Thankfully, with more children on the spectrum, there are more therapies, resources, and supports for our kids to succeed than ever before. Books, TV shows, and even movies now highlight people with autism, creating an atmosphere for acceptance.

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With April being Autism Awareness Month, here are eight books that will help teach kids to have greater understanding, empathy, and acceptance for those on the spectrum.

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Smokey the cat after his annual summer shave

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome by Kathy Hoopman

Our Maine Coon cat, Smokey, doesn’t like to be touched, on the tummy especially! He hears every little noise and loves to squeeze under things (like my bed). Wait, do cats have autism? Could be… The amazon.com best selling book, All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome compares cats to kids on the spectrum and the funny thing is, there are a ton of similarities.

Lucy and Andrew

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete

Founder of the HollyRod Foundation, both singer and actress, Peete now adds author to her list of credentials. Having a son with autism inspired her to write about the power of the sibling bond. A sister who has a twin brother with autism recognizes his struggles along with his unique talents and strengths.

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Don’t Call Me Special by Pat Thomas

This book, written in the first look at disabilities series, introduces children to those growing up with special needs. But that’s the thing, being “special” means being singled out. Highlighting the things all kids have in common can be a positive way to help them relate to kids who have physical or learning differences.

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Sensitive Sam: Sam’s Sensory Adventure Has a Happy Ending! by Marla Roth-Fisch

Sam’s sensory sensitivities cause him all sorts of trouble. Witty and engaging, this story is sure to build understanding about the sensory issues involved in having autism.

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Different Like Me: My Book of Autism Heroes by Jennifer Elder

This book takes a look at different people throughout history who had learning differences that lead to amazing discoveries and lasting impacts on the world. Included are Temple Grandin, Lewis Carrol, and Albert Einstein.

BLICK ART CONTEST PAINTING

 Art by my fifteen-year-old, April Griese

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

This National Book Award winner tells the story of Caitlin, whose sensory sensitivities and difficulties communicating affects her ability to grieve the loss of her brother. Dealing with both the challenges of being a tween on the spectrum and the tragedy of losing her brother through a school shooting, this middle grade novel brings up some heavy realities with grace.

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Styrofoam found in a box helps my son with autism look at the camera

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Children try to figure out the world through observation, by seeing what works and what doesn’t. Catherine keeps a list of rules for her brother with autism to help him to be more normal, but she also keeps unwritten rules for herself. How do you really define what’s normal and what’s not? And, depending on how you look at it, maybe out-of-the-ordinary could mean extraordinary.

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Temple Grandin: How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World by Sy Montgomery

If you’re looking for a pictorial biography of Temple Grandin, look no further. This book shares how a simple girl with autism grew up to change the world. It may inspire both parents and children to reach for the stars.

 

Blog, Children's Picture Books, Easy Readers, Middle Grade Fiction (ages 8-12)

Meet the Mewest Addition to Our Family & 10 Beloved Dog and Cat Books

dog and catThe most amazing thing happened! After teaching a class in Sunday School, I drove home from church later than the rest of my family. Right there in front of our door was a plate full of cat food.

“Did you find a cat?” I stepped inside and let the door shut.

My husband hugged me. “Some kitten ran right into April’s arms. She left food for it.”

A stray kitten friendly enough to spring into my teenager’s arms? “That cat must be special. Where is it?”

“Gone, I guess.”

Then lo and behold a plaintive mew behind the door. “The cat came back.”

I opened the  door and a little striped kitty jumped in. “Catch her!” I chased the kitten, but my teenage girl pounced on the four-legged intruder before me. “Put her in the bathroom. She might have fleas.”

Then I went to work, scrubbing the cat and dousing her with flea treatment. April and I made a make-shift litter box out of a large Rubbermaid container and we used extra food and water bowls from our other kitty, a Maine Coon named Smokey.

I quarantined the kitten in the bathroom until I could get her to the vet, so she wouldn’t pass on any sicknesses she caught from being outside to Smokey.

“We’re keeping the cat?” asked my husband. Mind you, he makes jokes about turning our Maine Coon into a fur rug.

“She’s a special kitty. I just know it. You said she ran right into April’s arms?”

My husband scratched his chin. “I don’t normally spend much time in the front yard, but I spotted a blue heron and had to get a picture of it. That little kitten was frolicking near the pond across the street. She took one look at April and charged ahead.”

“The cat found her girl and you know it. She’s a gift from above.” I patted his arm. “April has had a rough first year of high school. Our girl needs this cat and this cat needs our girl.”

My husband didn’t argue. He knew there was something special about this kitten. So, now she’s ours and her name is Lizzie.

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Whether cat or dog, pets hold a special place in our hearts. And books about the bond between pets and their owners can be some of the best books for kids. The following are ten pet books that have touched my children’s hearts.

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1. Biscuit by Alyssa Satin Capucilli.

This easy reader series is about the adventures of an adorable puppy named Biscuit. My five-year-old girl can read these stories all on her own. The text is repetitive for easy reading and yet the stories are fun and engaging enough for children to read again and again.

2. Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion.

Having younger children who aren’t especially fond of taking baths, they can totally relate to the story of Harry who doesn’t want to get clean. In the end, Harry decides he’d rather take a bath than be unrecognizable. This classic is sure to be a staple on your child’s bookshelf.

For a version read-aloud by Betty White, click here.

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Cynthia Rylant, the quintessential children’s author on pets, takes fan mail seriously. When my teenage girl was little, she wrote a letter to Mrs. Rylant and one day this postcard appeared in the mail.

3. Brownie and Pearl  series by Cynthia Rylant.

My five-year-old loves this series about a girl named Brownie and her kitty, Pearl. The illustrations are bright and cartoon-like, perfect for capturing the attention of our littlest readers. Brownie and Pearl’s antics had her giggling with each turn of the page.

4. The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant.

This story had me teary. An old woman lived all alone. She had outlived all her friends. She named her car, her chair, and her house because she refused to name anything that would not last as long as her. Then she met a lost puppy who helped her to open her heart again to love.

5. Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant.

Mudge is the perfect name for an enormous dog who slobbers and loves on a little boy named Henry. This easy-reader series tells about the adventures a gentle-giant of a dog can have with his boy.

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6. A Traveling Cat by George Ella Lyon.

Boulevard the cat sauntered into her girl’s life and for a time stayed. A touching story about the quick bond between a child and a found feline and learning to accept when a pet runs away and doesn’t come back.

7. Stay! Keeper’s Story by Lois Lowry.

Only Lois Lowry, author of The Giver series, could write a believable story from a dog’s point of view. Sweet, sweet story of the trials and triumphs of being a dog.

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8. Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo.

Opal finds a dog in a Winn-Dixie store, or did the dog find her? Being from the south, I can relate to all the quirky characters in this story. And, Winn-Dixie (the dog) reminds me so much of my dog, Molly who also was found fully grown, smiled like a human, and ran away during an occasional thunder storm.

9. Green Dog: A Mostly True Story by Suzanne Fisher Staples.

This little middle grade fiction novel stole into my heart. For those who’ve had difficult pets that they loved anyway, this book is sure to steal your heart, too.

10. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.

Reading this book is a rite of passage for any child. There’s a reason why dogs are called man’s best friend. The bond between a boy and his dogs can be just as strong and true as for human friends.

Having owned many cats and dogs growing up, reading books like these to my children brings back nostalgic feelings about all those furry friends of mine who hold a special place in my heart. Reading these stories can grow compassion for all God’s creatures and a sense of responsibility to take the best care of them. Isn’t that a marvelous thing about a good book? They truly help our kids grow!