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Books for young children

Four titles for the very young that feature Disabled characters with different degrees of prominence. 

Books for young children

  • One. Two, Three… Jump! By Carol Thompson
  • One. Two, Three… Run! By Carol Thompson
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb By Marina Aizen
  • Zeki Can Swim By Anna McQuinn And Ruth Hearson

Children of any age may be disabled or have family members with impairments and it is important that all children see disability as part of everyday life. Literature is a powerful way of enabling children to reflect on their identities and become familiar with those which may differ from their own. Whatever their age, they deserve to see both themselves and the full diversity of humanity in the stories they read.

Here are four titles that are suitable for the very young and feature Disabled characters with different degrees of prominence. They are about playing and having fun with family and friends but all of them also place disability in the context of a broad spectrum of difference. We’ll talk more about books that focus on celebrating diversity itself in the next section.

One, Two Three… Jump! is part of a series of beautifully illustrated picture books – with a couple of words of text on each page – that explore a range of different movements (running, crawling, climbing etc). They can be used both as early readers and alongside movement games to build confidence and have fun. As well as jumping, this title includes related activities such as falling over (“bump!”) and demonstrates that you can jump while sitting down or holding onto something to help you balance. Included in the pictures, children may notice leg splints, a cochlear implant, and a safety helmet as might be worn by a child with epilepsy, haemophilia or balance disorders. 

This is a title toddlers will happily return to many times. You could just enjoy it with them or, sometimes, notice the full range of differences on display – from the multi-ethnic cast of characters to the range of clothing and hats – alongside those related to ability. 


  • How many different ways can you move from one place to another?
  • What can help you to move?

One, Two Three … Run! features just two children, one of whom has Down’s syndrome. It is rare to see a book in which Down’s children (as well as their siblings and friends) can recognise themselves and, as such, it is a powerful aid to inclusion. Use it just as you would the other titles in the series and don’t feel you need to point out the protagonist’s identity. Some children will notice it straight away, others may ask about it and some may see it but feel no need to mention it. Either way, using the book signals that people with a range of impairments – and none – enjoy and excel at many of the same things.

Mary Had A Little Lamb is a small board book with cut out pages and has more text than the others in this section. It builds on the traditional rhyme and you can read it with children although the pictures tell the story clearly as well. By the end of the book, Mary seems to have acquired quite a lot of lambs!

This is a nice example of implicit, intersectional inclusion. As well as a child who uses a wheelchair (and also appears elsewhere without it), there are others with a hearing aid and arm splint. The book also includes a range of accessibility aids such as a hearing loop and textured pavements. It speaks to the social model – here is a world aware of inclusive practice – and you can ask if children have seen these things elsewhere and how they could be useful. 


  • How do some pelican and puffin crossings make it easier for people with visual impairments to cross the road safely?

Can Swim is part of a beautifully illustrated series about Zeki and his family. Today Zeki’s Dad is taking him swimming so cue lots of splishing, splashing, kicking – and being a baby fish. Children may notice that one of the toddlers joining in with the fun has a shortened arm. This is just one of many ‘differences’ to be found in the pictures – including both male and female carers.

Child's drawing

The Full Story

How books for early years and primary age children can be used to promote disability inclusion.

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