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

There’s nothing better for a child than to read or be read to — especially when there’s a personal connection with the material. Here, a collection of children’s books that relate to ADHD and learning differences — along with take-away activities for you and your kids. Read on!

We’re in a golden age of children’s literature. Variety, creativity in both text and art, and specialization of subjects give kids today amazing opportunities to learn about themselves through the books they read. And we, as parents, can learn about our children from them, as well. There are some wonderful books geared specifically toward kids with ADHD and learning challenges, helping to ease fears about doctors and school, and letting them know they’re not alone. The books on the following pages all feature characters with ADHD or dyslexia, and for many I’ve created value-added family activities that will help reinforce the themes for your child. I promise they’ll comfort and inspire your children as they enter this school year.

ADHD books

Shelley the Hyperactive Turtle
by Deborah M. Moss (Woodbine House, 1989); $12.95
ages: 4–8
topics: hyperactivity/impulsive behavior, understanding ADHD, visiting the doctor, taking medication

“I want to be good more than anything in the world, but by the time I think about what I’m going to do, I’ve already done it,” says Shelley, the star of this preschool page-turner. Shelley’s journey from jittery behavior in school to his ADhD diagnosis and treatment will resonate with young ADHD children, helping to ease fears about doctors, medicine, and being different.

Shelley demonstrates how isolating ADHD can be. Since he’s portrayed as a turtle — an animal that is usually mellow — children can see how they resemble the mellow members of their family in some ways but are different in other ways.

ACTIVITY: At the zoo or when watching a movie about animals, point out slow-moving creatures to your kids (turtles, elephants), then point out animals that move at a quicker pace (cheetahs, monkeys). Initiate conversations about how a slow monkey or fast turtle might stand out from their family but still be part of the group.

Otto Learns About His Medicine
by Matthew Galvin (Magination Press, 2001); $14.95
ages: 4–8
topics: understanding ADHD, visiting the doctor, taking medication

What child doesn’t have fears about doctors and medicine? You can help alleviate these concerns by reading about Otto, a fidgety young car. The author compares a hyperactive child to a car in need of a tune-up to run at the right speed. Otto can’t remember important information, and he can’t focus long enough to learn to drive. Sound like anyone your child knows? The metaphor of the tune-up offers a non-threatening way for children to learn about check-ups, and they’ll also see how medication can help them “run” better.

ACTIVITY: Use one of your child’s toys to role-play at the doctor’s office. To make the visit less frightening, ask the doctor to examine your child’s favorite stuffed animal first, while your child observes. When it’s his turn to be examined, he’ll be less likely to feel scared.This approach is also helpful for parents, as it can help you understand why your child fears going to the doctor.

Taking A.D.D. to School
by Ellen Weiner (Jayjo Books, 1999); $11.95
ages: 5–9
topics: school, taking medication

As a parent of a child with ADHD, you need to help him accept his condition, and also spread awareness to others. This book, from a series about topics ranging from autism to cancer, explains what’s going on inside a child with ADHD. The main character, Ben, shows kids how to talk about their conditions, and to embrace medication in managing their lives.

ACTIVITY: Ask your child’s teacher to read one of these books to his class — or arrange to be a guest reader yourself this fall. The stories will help your child’s classmates understand when and why he’s having a tough day, opening the door to discussion — and an atmosphere that’s both accepting and forgiving.

Phoebe Flower's Adventures (series)
That’s What Kids Are For
Phoebe’s Lost Treasure
Phoebe’s Best Best Friend
Phoebe’s Tree House Secrets
by Barbara Roberts (Advantage Books, 1998); $5.95 each
ages: 6–10
topics: school, girls and ADHD, friendship

Young girls will relate to Phoebe Flower, an energetic, creative student who struggles in class and has difficulty making friends. In That’s What Kids Are For, she — like so many girls — is never diagnosed with ADHD. Phoebe learns the hard way that choices have consequences, but also that risk-taking offers rewards. The series follows her on her journey through diagnosis and treatment, and sheds light on what it’s like to be a young girl with ADHD.

Eagle Eyes: A Child’s Guide to Paying Attention
by Jeanne Gehret (Verbal Images Press, 1992); $16
ages: 8–12
topics: positive ADHD traits, understanding ADHD, taking medication

What a great confidence builder for kids! Children with ADHD are usually compassionate, creative thinkers. They’re keen observers with great senses of humor. But these positives are often overshadowed by the challenges they face. Eagle Eyes focuses on the upsides of ADHD. As the story opens, Ben is discouraged by his inability to concentrate. But he learns to appreciate his “eagle eyes,” a trait common in ADHD kids, when he rescues his injured father.

ACTIVITY: Read this book with your child and discuss what Ben is good at. Then have him make a list of his own strengths. Keep a copy of this list at home and in your child’s school notebook, so he can refer to it when he feels frustrated or overwhelmed.

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