Is there a better way to nurture empathy and compassion than through books? That’s the question we address in this episode with special guest, Courtney Westlake.

Courtney’s daughter, Brenna, was born with a skin condition that makes her appear “different” to many people.

On today’s show, Courtney shares not just her family’s experience, but also how we can teach our kids kindness and understanding when it comes to differences.

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • how to help kids grow in empathy
  • how books help us walk in another person’s shoes
  • our favorite books for teaching about differences and disabilities

We’ve got a list of RAR-recommended books that feature differently-abled characters below, and you can also find Courtney’s excellent book recommendations in her guide, Celebrating Our Stories.

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Listener Guide

Use the time stamps below to skip to any part of the podcast:

1:20Good questions to ask our kids about books
4:26Creative narration ideas
6:45Meet Courtney Westlake
9:12‘Stories – the way we make sense of life’
11:28Practicing empathy
12:26‘A Different Kind of Beautiful’
15:09‘Celebrating Our Stories’
17:47Books that feature differently abled kids
21:37Middle-grade and chapter books
24:16Picture book biographies
26:33Differences, quirks and uniqueness
30:28Courtney’s pick
32:57Let the kids speak

Links from this episode:

Quotes to remember:

“Recent research shows that kids who read a lot of stories (or who are read to a lot as children) end up growing up and being more kind, empathetic adults. And in fact adults who continue to read fiction tend to be more kind, empathetic humans than those who don’t.” – Sarah Mackenzie

“There is no normal, there’s no perfect. There is no ‘ideal.’ My daughter is certainly not the different ones simply because her appearance is noticeably unusual. What an incredible world it might be if we could show our children how to recognize that others are truly people first despite any differences.” – Courtney Westlake

“Stories, the way we make sense of life …” – Katherine Paterson

Books mentioned in this episode:

Episode 139
Wonder
The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures
A Different Beautiful: Discovering and Celebrating Beauty in Places You Never Expected
Different is Awesome
Happy in Our Skin
Let’s Talk about It: Extraordinary Friends (Mr. Rogers)
Don’t Call Me Special: A First Look at Disability (A First Look At…Series)
Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability
The Snow Rabbit
We’re All Wonders
Fish in a Tree
Soar
Wish
Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match / Marisol McDonald no combina
Not Your Typical Dragon
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon
Chrysanthemum
Whoever You Are (Reading Rainbow Books)
Zero
One
Melissa Parkington’s Beautiful, Beautiful Hair

RAR favorites featuring differently abled characters:

Get the printable list:

BOOKS FEATURING DIFFERENTLY ABLED CHARACTERS

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Episode 139-RAR recommendations
The Secret Garden
Wonder
Thank You, Mr. Falker
Raising a Hero
Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
The Snow Rabbit
We’re All Wonders
Chrysanthemum
Whoever You Are (Reading Rainbow Books)
Only You Can Be You: What Makes You Different Makes You Great
The Black Book of Colors
Be Good to Eddie Lee
Beautiful
Dad and Me in the Morning
The Art of Miss Chew
We’ll Paint the Octopus Red
When Charley Met Emma
McKenna (American Girl)
Rescue and Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

You’ll also enjoy:

Get the printable list:

BOOKS FEATURING DIFFERENTLY ABLED CHARACTERS

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