Celebrating the IBBY Collection of Books for Young People with Disabilities

Image from Emmanuel's Dream
Category: Bookbug

Every two years the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY) take their collection of books about, and for, young people with disabilities on tour to give different countries the chance to see children’s books from around the world. The book tour aims to highlight the many options available for disabled readers and to showcase the creativity and inventiveness of many of the publications. The project was started in 1981 to celebrate the UN International Year of Disabled Persons with the aim of commending books about disabled people. These books allow for shared experiences across cultural and national boundaries and enable children of all disabilities to recognise themselves in the stories.

'Every child and every young person has a right to enjoy life with books'

According to Tordis Ørjasæter from the Norwegian Institute for Special Education at the University of Oslo: ‘Every child and every young person has a right to enjoy life with books, even those who cannot read or who have great problems with speaking. Picture books can help stimulate language development, help identification and the process of socialisation. They can diminish loneliness and give artistic and cultural experiences and joy.’

There are some fantastic books in the collection that cover a variety of disabilities, from physical disabilities to others such as autism. To make them readable to everyone, they are available in a range of specialised formats; from those with dyslexic-friendly fonts to books with tactile and Braille elements. The full catalogue of books in the collection is available to download but here are a few of our favourites:

Image from Les Chiens (contraires)
Les Chiens (contraires) – available in English as Big Dog, Little Dog (Walker Books) is a beautiful lift-the-flap book with a whole host of stylish and comical dogs in all shapes and sizes. With bold colours and minimal text this book is perfect for a range of children and also accessible for those who have developmental or learning disabilities.

For slightly older children, Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah (main image, above) is the incredible tale of a young boy born with a deformed leg who dreamed of cycling the 400 miles across his home country of Ghana. Full of hope and determination, Emmanuel overcame huge prejudice as he learnt to ride a bike with one leg and make his dream a reality.

For children who are blind or with limited vision, tactile elements of a book can help them make sense of the world through touch - ‘we all have this universal yearning to reach out with our fingers and explore the surface’ (IBBY) and in this way all children can share in the experience. A fantastic example of this is Morgh-e Sorkh-e Pa Kootah (The Little Red Hen - Iran) which tells a story about a hen who finds a seed and her friends help her plant it. The book is made of cloth and uses a variety of textures such as leather and felt to make the story as immersive as possible.

 Find out more about Bookbug's free tactile books for children and families with additional support needs.