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About Diversity Children's Literature Collection

The Diversity Children's Literature Collection is in development as of 2020. Materials include those related to many areas, incluing disability.

Disability in Children’s Literature is a collection of various children’s books that feature disability. This collection showcases some of the early attitudes and children’s texts that fostered the Disability Rights Movement in the United States and in England, such as Juliana Horatia Gatty Ewing’s book The Story of a Short Life that inspired the Victorian children’s charity for ‘crippled boys,’ the Guild of Brave Poor Things. These books about children with disabilities offer readers a window into an underrepresented historic population. Many children with disabilities were barred from public representation because of social stigma, risk of poverty, and inaccessibility. For example, Ugly Laws penalized people with disfigured or noticeably disabled bodies from navigating public spaces and ‘disturbing’ onlookers. This history is painful, but scholars can use this research to ask questions about how to create a more accessible future.

Many of the children’s books in the Baldwin demonstrate a moralistic, simplistic, or incomplete view such as portraying young people with disabilities as God’s innocent, longsuffering saints. Furthermore, much of the vocabulary within these books is outdated: ‘lame,’ ‘dumb,’ ‘idiot,’ ‘mute,’ ‘cripple.’ However, many of these myths or stereotypes about disability still exist today, and these historic texts can help disability and literature scholars chart out a genealogy of disability representation (for better or worse) across time. Certain books in the Baldwin even point to early accessible technologies, such as books with raised letters, pop-up or tactile elements, and pull-out sign language alphabets. These books hint at an early model of inclusive, novel design that often goes under-recognized in children’s literature scholarship.

This growing subcollection builds on the important work of previous library staff and faculty who have previously organized books with tags such as “children with disabilities.” Disability in Children’s Literature creates new connections and conversations between these existing texts while making them easier for patrons to find.

This digital collection is part of the Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature and its Digital Collections in the Department of Special & Area Studies Collections at the University of Florida 's George A. Smathers Libraries. Search all of the Baldwin Collection's digital materials.