Collection of children’s books change perceptions of developmental disabilities

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Children’s books dealing with developmental disabilities are not new, but the Harold B. Lee Library has a new collection that will provide greater access to these kinds of books.

A collection of children’s and juvenile books that include individuals with developmental disabilities is available in the HBLL, thanks to the work of BYU staff and individuals involved with the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award.

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HBBL’s new collection features children’s books that portray individuals with developmental disabilities.
Tina Dyches, of BYU’s Department of Counseling Psychology and Special Education, is the chair of the Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award. The award honors authors and illustrators of books for children, adolescents and young adults that accurately and authentically portray individuals with developmental disabilities.

Dyches said the way individuals with developmental disabilities are portrayed in literature has really evolved and improved over the years.

“Authors are giving much more depth to characters with developmental disabilities than in the past,” Dyches said. “Instead of authors just including a kid with autism to make a story interesting, they include a kid who has wants and needs and desires and passions and interests like any other kid, and he just happens to have autism.”

Dyches said she uses books found through the Dolly Gray Award in her classes, but wanted a broader population to have access to them. Using a monetary stipend from the Alice Louise Reynolds Women-in-Scholarship award she received last year, Dyches said she decided to purchase books that the Dolly Gray Award has recognized and donate them to begin a special collection at BYU.

Rachel Wadham, education and juvenile literature librarian, said she has been involved with the process of acquiring the books within the award to be available through the BYU catalogue.

“I am very pleased with it,” Wadham said. “I think it will add a great depth to our collection.”

Wadham said the collection will eventually have every book that has been nominated for the Dolly Gray Award and will have more than 300 books. They will be available to BYU students as well as libraries with access to interlibrary loan.

Wadham said she has been involved with the Dolly Gray Award for a few years and said the books within the award represent individuals with disabilities well.

“It represents a really important group of people that are often under-represented in fiction,” Wadham said. “Especially for kids, because they really need to understand the diversity that our society entails.”

Danielle Agle, graduate student in special education from Springville, said these books are a positive reference for students and teachers.

“These kinds of books work well to change perceptions of people with disabilities,” Agle said. “Especially books of this higher caliber give people a greater understanding and empathy toward those individuals.”

Dyches said she and others involved with the Dolly Gray Award hope it will continue to give more positive messages about individuals with developmental disabilities.

“Everybody is different in various ways and we are all here to help each other with our various strengths and weaknesses,” Dyches said.

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