One of my new quests is to find excellent books for our Young Ladies Book Club. So I must spend time browsing online for books – one of my favorite activities. Lucky me!
I discovered Rules by Cynthia Lord and immediately felt that this was a book my daughters (and our Young Ladies Book Club!) should read – right away! Most of the girls in the group are in 3rd and 4th grade, with two in 2nd grade this year. It means we have a variety of reading levels in one group and that can add to the challenge of finding a good book for discussion that is accessible to all. I thought that Rules could prove to be a challenging book, but one that is worth the challenge. At its core, Rules is a book about family, unconditional love between siblings, making mistakes, and growing up in a world filled with amazing, interesting, and unique people.
In searching online, the reading level of Rules comes up as everything between 3rd and 7th grade. The concepts of the book can be challenging, especially for young readers who have limited experience with special needs kids or autism in general. Be prepared for a lot of questions about autism. Here is what I found – my nine year old sailed through the book without too much trouble, but she had a few questions about autism and she needed a bit of help of understanding a couple of Catherine’s rules. My younger daughter needed even more help reading, and she had a lot of questions about autism and what it means to be a special needs child. I realized that what we were missing was a text set (What is a text set?) dedicated to helping the girls understand more about autism, special needs, and what day-to-day life is like for kids with disabilities. One of the girls in our group has a younger sister with Williams Syndrome (a rare neurodevelopmental disorder – for more about Williams Syndrome read this information at Wililams Syndrome Association). Because of Anna’s experience with her sister, she has a different perspective and a great deal of knowledge about life with a special needs sibling. Two girls in our book club have a cousin with Asperger Syndrome (for more about Asperger Syndrome, read here). Each girl will bring her own experiences to the book club discussion but the text set will help all of us with some important background knowledge and provide for some excellent opportunities to make text connections as we read.
In searching for a variety of information/reading for our text set, I found an overwhelming number of books, essays, and writing about autism and special needs. Keeping in mind that I was searching for writing that would provide different perspectives as well as provide information about children with special needs, I selected several books to help meet those goals. There are a multitude of wonderful books to help teach children about autism and other special needs. Here are the highlights from my search:
A great, easy-to-understand and printable guide to autism (published by the Autism Society of America), including tips for how to be a friend and additional resources
My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete
My Friend Isabelle by Eliza Woloson *about two young girls, one of whom has down syndrome
In Jesse’s Shoes by Beverly Lewis
Everybody is Different: A Book for Young People Who Have Brothers or Sisters with Autism by Fiona Bleach
A Friend Like Simon by Kate Gaynot
Can I Tell You About Asperger Syndrom? A Guide for Friends and Family by June Welton
Views from Our Shoes: Growing Up With A Brother or Sister With Special Needs by Donald Meyer *a collection of short essays
Our book club discussion is approaching and I am excited to hear what the girls think of the book. I am anxious to hear their thoughts on Catherine, David, and Jason. I will add an update soon!
Update 12/14: I am pleased to report that all of the girls really liked the book. They particularly loved Jason’s book of words (and they had a great time brainstorming words and images that could be added to his binder!). I am also particularly pleased that the girls were quite optimistic about the future for these characters. Even though they felt that Ryan was a bully and did not understand David, they were positive that Catherine and Kristy would be able to help Ryan learn more about David and that Ryan would be more understanding in the future. The girls made many text connections and discussed the “lessons” they learned from the book, particularly about being friends and understanding others. Great success!
What books have you read about children with autism and other special needs? Have you read Rules? Or other similar books?