Book Smart

A comprehensive collection of children's books that relate to ADHD and LD — along with take-away activities for you and your kids.


Filed Under: Learning Disabilities

Book Smart, Part 3

Josh! A Boy with Dyslexia
by Caroline Janover (Waterfront Books, 1988); $11.95
ages: 9–12
topics: dyslexia/learning disabilities, school, special education, teasing

If your child has a tough time with transitions (what child doesn’t?), introduce him to Josh, a 10-year-old with dyslexia, who becomes a hero. Josh’s family is moving, so he must leave the school where he feels safe and start all over again. In his new school, he becomes the victim of a bully. This inspiring book shows that sometimes underdogs emerge victorious.

My Name Is Brain Brian
by Jeanne Betancourt (Scholastic, 1996); $4.50
ages: 8–12
topics: dyslexia/learning disabilities, school, special education, friendship

Want a glimpse of what it feels like to be dyslexic? Meet Brian, a sixth-grader who has always struggled in school. Brian didn’t learn to read until long after his peers, and his handwriting is hard to decipher (as you’ll see). As he narrates his story, he casually weaves in truths about dyslexia that kids can understand (“Words don’t appear in the right order, they dance off the page”). Despite struggles in dealing with his dad, also dyslexic, and with a rebellious friend, he undergoes some amazing changes during the school year.

How Dyslexic Benny Became a Star: A Story of Hope for Dyslexic Children and Their Parents
by Joe Griffith (Yorktown Press, 1998); $12.95
ages: 8–12
topics: dyslexia/learning disabilities, school, sports

When fifth-grader Benny Whitley messes up a football play by passing the ball to player number 81 instead of 18, Coach Watkins realizes that Benny has dyslexia — just like him. Readers learn about dyslexia as Coach explains it to Benny, and to his father, who thinks the boy is simply lazy. When his dad finally allows Benny to get special help at school, the youngster earns his best grades ever, his self-esteem improves — and his relationship with his parents changes forever.

Thank You Mr. Falker
by Patricia Polacco (Philomel Books, 1998); $16.99
ages: 4–9
topics: dyslexia/learning disabilities, school, special education, teasing

Sometimes just one teacher can make a difference. That’s how it plays out for Tricia, a girl with dyslexia and the star of Thank You, Mr. Falker. The book is set in 1950, but today’s kids can still relate. Tricia wants to read but she can’t. She’s teased by her classmates, and starts losing faith in herself — until Mr. Falker works with her and helps her learn to read.

ACTIVITY: A recurring theme in children’s books is that special connection between a student and the teacher who helps him reach his true potential. After reading this book, help your child identify the teacher who makes a difference in his life, and think about how you can foster the relationship.

Just Juice
by Karen Hesse (Hyperion Books for Children, 1998); $15.95
ages: 9–12
topics: dyslexia/learning disabilities, school, family

Juice’s story starts as she’s about to start third grade for the second time. A resilient tomboy who can’t make sense of words and letters, she stays home with her unemployed Pa nearly as often as she goes to school. Hesse writes about tough topics, such as poverty, unemployment, and learning disabilities, in gentle, inviting prose that makes the reader feel like a member of the large, warm Faulstich family.

Egg-Drop Blues
by Jacqueline Turner Banks (Houghton Mifflin, 2003); $4.95
ages: 9–12
topics: dyslexia/learning disabilities, school, siblings, friendship

Like ADHD, dyslexia affects the whole family. A child’s siblings make a big difference in how he perceives his limitations, as we are shown by two very different twins in Egg-Drop Blues. Judge has dyslexia, Jury doesn’t. The brothers are at odds because their mom wants both to change schools, so Judge can get extra learning support. Jury blames his brother for ruining his life, and so Judge negotiates a deal: If he does well in a science project competition, which involves an egg-drop, both can stay put. But they’ll have to work together to win.

Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You
by Barthe DeClements (Puffin Books, 1995); $5.99
ages: 9–12
topics: dyslexia/learning disabilities, school, friendship, special education

Many kids struggling with learning disabilities hide their problems. They memorize books they hear, or fly below the radar in class by being quiet. Their fears of being “discovered” or repeating a grade are very real, and they need to learn that it’s okay to need help. Your child can learn this along with Helen, a student who fears she’ll be in sixth grade forever.

Yellow Bird and Me
by Joyce Hansen (Clarion Books, 1991); $6.95
ages: 9–12
topics: dyslexia/learning disabilities, friendship, teasing, school

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is hardly a new theme, but in a story about a child with dyslexia, it’s an important one. Doris doesn’t like Yellow Bird, but when she signs on to tutor him and help him learn his lines for the school play, she becomes his friend — and later his advocate. Ultimately, she helps Yellow Bird’s teachers realize that he has dyslexia. And when he lands the lead role in the play, Doris and other classmates start to see him as the unique, talented person he is.

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