|NINE WAYS TO EVALUATE CHILDREN'S BOOKS THAT ADDRESS DISABILITY
1. CHECK THE ILLUSTRATIONS.
Look for stereotypes. Stereotypes generally carry derogatory implications. Children's books should not perpetuate any stereotypes. They should show
children with disabilities in the same classes as their non-disabled peers, and participating in the same activities.
Look for tokenism. Tokenism overgeneralizes minorities so that they are no longer individuals. Each individual in a book should have distinctive
Who's doing what? The illustrations should depict children with disabilities in leadership roles and action roles as often and children without
disabilities. They shouldn't only be observers, while children without disabilities are the doers.
2. CHECK THE STORY LINE.
Standard for Success. To gain acceptance and approval, the child with a disability should not have to exhibit extraordinary qualities, such as
exceptional memory or math skills. S/he should not have to walk or run with his/her friends to be accepted by them.
Resolution of Problems. The person with a disability should not be considered part of the problem of a storyline, neither should his/her disability.
Where appropriate, the reason for the disability should be explained if possible.
Role of the Person with a Disability. The achievement of the child with a disability should be based on his/her own initiative, intelligence, etc. The story
should be told in the same way even without the disability.
(A note from Cathy: The child with a disability should not have to transform into a person without a disability in order for there to be a happy ending to
3. LOOK AT THE LIFESTYLES.
If the person with the disability is depicted as “different,” no negative value judgments should be implied. The illustrations and text should offer genuine
insights into another person.
4. WEIGH THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHARACTERS.
Neither the children with disabilities nor the children without disabilities should possess all the power, take all the leadership roles, or make all of the
important decisions. Neither should solely serve in supportive or subservient roles. There should be a clear balance of roles.
5. CONSIDER THE EFFECTS ON A CHILD'S IMAGE.
Norms should not be established which limit any child's aspirations and self-concept. By continuously bombarding a child with a disability with images
of "typical" or "normal" children as the ultimate in beauty, cleanliness, and virtue, we are harming children's self-images. In each story, there should be
at least one or more persons with whom a child with a disability can readily identify as a positive and constructive role model.
6. CONSIDER THE AUTHOR'S OR ILLUSTRATOR'S BACKGROUND.
Analyze the biographical material on the jacket flap or the back of the book. Look for qualities that the author or illustrator may have that would help
them understand and contribute knowledgeably to a specific theme or topic.
(Note from Cathy: Also consider the year the book was written.)
7. CHECK OUT THE AUTHOR'S PERSPECTIVE.
No author can be entirely objective. All authors write from a cultural as well as from a personal context. Children’s books in the past have traditionally
come from authors who were white, non disabled, and who were members of the middle class, with the result being a single ethnocentric perspective
dominated children’s literature in the United States. With any book in question, read carefully to determine whether the direction of the author’s
perspective substantially weakens or strengthens the value of his/her written work.
8. WATCH FOR LOADED WORDS.
A word is loaded when it has offensive undertones. Examples of loaded adjectives specific to children with disabilities are "slow," "retarded," "lazy,"
"docile," "backwards," "crazy," "feeble-minded," "cripple," "idiot," "dumb," and even sometimes "special."
9. LOOK AT THE COPYRIGHT DATE AND TARGET DATE.
There are not many books written about children with disabilities. The limited number that are available are dated and use language that is not “people
first” (a child with autism, instead of an autistic child) or may now be considered offensive, such as the term “retarded.” Most newer books use “people
first” language, however, make sure to check all books for people first language because some authors may not be as familiar with the importance of
Some books state that they are intended for very young children, but in fact they are not written for children as young as the authors claim. Before
reading a book to a class make sure it is developmentally appropriate for the children to whom you are going to read it.
|For lists of children's books that deal with disability, go to the National Information Center for Children and Youth With Disabilities (NICHCY) website:
http://www.kidsource.com/NICHCY/literature.html. Additionally, a page on this website.
**If you own, have read, or READ one of the books listed on my website, please go to the contact me link and let me know how the book
was -- if it was appropriate and helpful. THANKS.
|Check out the bibliotherapy stuff,
THEN look at the disability laws.