3 Picture Books That Can Benefit Typical-Developing Kids AND Kids with Special Needs

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Once children experience how reading allows quality time with a person they admire and love (whether that’s at 6 months old or 6 years old) while learning or being entertained, most love flipping through a book.

The same is true for kids with special needs. Though “special needs” is such a huge “umbrella” term and encompasses many kinds of needs, I’ve noticed a few picture books capturing the attention of typical-developing children and kids with special needs together.

Three Picture Books for ALL Kinds of Kids

  • Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueira, Illustrated by Poly Bernatene (Knopf, 2013)Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueira

I happened upon this book in a small bookstore this summer. When I first began reading it, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it.

But then I read the ending.

And it’s my son.

With his exuberant personality and his severe expressive speech delay, sometimes his way of “making friends” manifests as running up to hug someone without warning or by copying their motions or sounds. Some kids think it’s fun and play along with him, but some kinds (understandably) hesitate and just aren’t sure what to do.

In Ribbit!, the animals all around this “odd-sounding” pig can’t understand why he does what he does or–worse–think the pig is mocking them. It takes the wisdom of a new perspective to see that’s not the case at all.

I love this book. And better? My son loves this book. He giggles at the pig obviously not making “normal” pig sounds. Typical-developing kids will love it for the same reasons, plus we all (adults included!) get the added benefit of learning to view someone’s actions from a different perspective.

This book is geared towards preschool to early elementary ages.

I bet you’ve read this one. I absolutely recommend getting the full hardcover version rather than the board book version. (The board book is shortened!)

Mr. Brown is quite talented with his vocal skills. Kids of all abilities learn about some real animal sounds and some make-believe sounds, along with rhythm of reading (and speaking) and rhyming words.

For kids with speech delays, this might be a good book to elicit speech sounds! Because it’s an exciting, entertaining, and energizing read, many kids want to imitate some of those same sounds Mr. Brown makes. My son will give a few consonant sounds a try with this book when he sometimes won’t try those sounds otherwise.

This book is especially entertaining for toddlers and preschoolers.

We love this book! With a sweet story that captures many hearts, Katie Loves the Kittens focuses on nurturing friendships and expressing emotions in ways that help others. Katie, the family dog, is excited when her family brings home new kittens…so excited she just can’t keep her wiggles and howls in! But those wiggles and howls scare the kittens. How can she make friends?

The illustrations are fun to explore, bringing attention to the dog’s emotions extremely well. The author/illustrator draws from varying angles, putting the reader in the girl’s perspective as well as the dog’s perspective. Any animal-lover will likely love this book.

For my son and many other kids with special needs, this book emphasizes the need to sometimes harness certain expressions of emotions, or at least figure out different ways of expressing intense emotions like excitement. We can pretend play using this book’s story, and we can discuss Katie’s way of making friends when my son needs ideas on how to connect with a new friend.

This book is geared towards preschool and elementary ages.

This list shares just three books, but, of course, there are many more.

Like lists like this? Let me know in the comments, and I hope to include more book lists with “accessible” books for a variety of kids. What book(s) would you include in a future list?

About Caroline Flory

Caroline is a wife, homeschooling momma to two undeserved blessings (one of whom has special needs), writer, picture book fanatic, decaf coffee drinker, former public school teacher, and major library advocate. In addition to writing posts on special needs here at The Library Adventure, she blogs about family, faith, and books at Under God’s Mighty Hand. (including free printables!), contributes monthly to a couple of other sites, and loves to connect on Twitter.


  1. Love this list, thank you! Ribbit is hilarious, but I’ve never read the other two books. Can’t wait to check them out! Two books I’ve recently found both send a great message – everyone is good at different things. Spoon by Amy Krauss Rosenthal and No One Saw by Raczka.

    • Ooh, thanks for the book recommendations! I’ve read several books from Amy Krouse Rosenthal, but I haven’t read “Spoon” yet! I’ve just written both those on my to-read list. Thanks for adding your suggestions!

  2. We love “Mr. Brown Can Moo” we just have the small version though. Will definitely have to look into the larger version! Pinning this to my Occupational Therapy tips board here: http://www.pinterest.com/goldenreflect/occupational-therapy-tips/
    Thanks for sharing!!

    • I didn’t even realize there WAS a longer version until I just happened to look at the paper pages version (rather than board book) at a bookstore one day. I’m so glad I did! We really enjoy the longer version of Mr. Brown Can Moo!
      Glad you found this list useful! And thanks for pinning it. 🙂

    • Thank you for pinning, Heather! 😀


  1. […] If you’re looking for some great picture book recommendations, check out these three books I’ve discussed at The Library Adventure today. These three books are especially helpful for both typical-developing children and kids with special needs. Add your book recommendations on that post, too, and I’ll do more lists like this one in the future! […]

  2. […] mentioned this book in one of my recent posts here, but this book is another good one for enticing both normal and “made-up” speech […]

  3. […] you have typical-developing children, these activities are great for preschoolers to practice budding gross motor and speech […]

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