World Down Syndrome Day 2022 – our top book choices

Contributed by Lauren Carpenter

Books2All reporter

Fri 25 Mar 2022

World Down Syndrome Day 2022 celebrated its tenth birthday on 21 March!

World Down Syndrome Day advocates for inclusivity and the rights of those with Down syndrome. The United Nations has officially observed World Down Syndrome Day since 21 March 2012. The UN selected the 21st day of the third month to signify the uniqueness of the triplication of the 21st chromosome that causes Down syndrome.

Also known as Trisomy 21, Down syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that affects approximately one in 800 live births, although this figure varies across the globe.

Books, and the stories they hold, are a huge part of a young person’s childhood. But not all books are accessible to children with Down syndrome. Some forms of literature are too complex for those with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) to understand, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have access to the same resources as neurotypical children.

Seeing yourself represented in literature, and having access to the right tools, is hugely beneficial for children’s development. Valerie Bolling, an educator in the US, states that children need to see themselves represented in literature to know their stories matter. We need to show children that their differences are not something to be ashamed of and need to be celebrated.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best books for inclusivity and accessibility.

World Down Syndrome Day 2022 choice 1: Going to Church by Sheila Hollins, John Swinton and Katie Carpenter

All Ages

Part of the Books Beyond Words series, Going to Church tells the story of a young boy who visits his local church for the first time. The community quickly welcome him and he finds his place in the group. This book is a useful tool in explaining how communities can actively consider ways to remove barriers and encourage those of all backgrounds to find somewhere they belong. Katie Carpenter is one of the authors of this book, and she has Down syndrome.

The Books Beyond Words picture stories cover various topics, including grief, lifestyle and relationships. The books are written in collaboration with those who find pictures easier to understand than words, such as those with SEND needs, deaf people, and people who don’t understand the language of the place where they live. The aim is to open up conversations and explore feelings – a valuable tool for anyone who is a visual reader.

Books2All blog: World Down Syndrome Day 2022 – our top book choices
Going to Church published by Beyond Words (2017)

World Down Syndrome Day 2022 choice 2: Rosie’s Glasses by David Whammond

Ages 3 to 7

Rosie’s world is filled with grey and dull objects. Miserable, monochrome clouds follow her everywhere until she finds strange-looking glasses on her way home from school. When she puts them on, her world becomes filled with colour. Everything seems so much brighter now, and she wonders if these glasses are magic! Another wordless book, Whammond beautifully illustrates Rosie’s world through colourful pictures and popping artwork.

Rosie’s Glasses is a great way to introduce the topic of mindsets to your children and help them understand that the way we see the world can impact our experiences day-to-day. Often, children and adults who find it difficult to understand written words are very good at interpreting pictures. This visual literacy makes books without words a great way for these learners to access literature.

Books2All blog: World Down Syndrome Day 2022 – our top book choices
Rosie’s Glasses published by Kids Can Press (2018)

World Down Syndrome Day 2022 choice 3: Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis

Ages 4 to 7

Susan Laughs, which is told in the form of a rhyme, follows the life of a young girl as she navigates through the daily tasks most children undertake. Susan sings, swims, gets angry and sad just like every child. At the end of the story, it is made known to the reader that Susan uses a wheelchair.

Revealing only at the end of the story that Susan has a disability, gives the reader the powerful message that Susan is a child like any other and that those with disabilities are people first.

Books2All blog: World Down Syndrome Day 2022 – our top book choices
Susan Laughs published by Andersen Press (2011)

World Down Syndrome Day 2022 choice 4: My Friend Isabelle by Eliza Woloson

Ages 4 to 8

Isabelle and Charlie are best friends and do lots of things together like playing and drawing. They also like to do things differently, as Isabelle has Down syndrome. My Friend Isabelle tells the story from Charlie’s perspective, who understands and accepts that Isabelle will do some things differently from her. Charlie’s love for her friend, and the fact she never lets Isabelle’s needs become an issue for their friendship, makes this story so heart-warming.

This book teaches children and reminds adults that placing unnecessary barriers to friendship means you can miss the chance to experience something wonderful. Woloson’s tale is a reminder that loving someone for who they are is the perfect foundation for a lifelong friendship.

Books2All blog: World Down Syndrome Day 2022 – our top book choices
My Friend Isabelle published by Woodbine House (2003)

World Down Syndrome Day 2022 choice 5: El Deafo by Cece Bell

Ages 9 to 12

Loosely based on the author’s own experience as someone with a hearing impairment, El Deafo tells the story of a young girl starting at a new school. At Cece’s old school, everyone was deaf, but here things are different. She is convinced the other children can see her hearing aid and are staring at her. But Cece soon discovers this hearing aid gives her superpowers, even enabling her to hear her teachers when they leave the classroom! Cece earns the admiration of her peers and soon finds a true best friend.

Told with a bundle of charm, El Deafo will keep children engaged with its captivating illustrations. Bell reiterates that her experience is only one perspective of growing up deaf, but her story is important, especially for any child with a hearing aid reading this. The story reminds us that disability isn’t something to fear as we all need a little extra help now and then. Every child has the right to fun and exciting experiences growing up, and disability shouldn’t stand in the way of that.

Books2All blog: World Down Syndrome Day 2022 – our top book choices
El Deafo published by Amulet Books (2014)

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