Here’s more good news for children who read. A Study by the New School for Social Research in New York revealed that reading quality fiction improves empathy. ( Novel Finding: Reading Literary Fiction Improves Empathy.) Of course, this will not come as a surprise to avid readers.
Both Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff and Rain Reign by Ann B. Martin are books about special needs children. . Both books are narrated from the child’s viewpoint. These books will encourage children to empathize with others. These are good books for children in fourth through sixth grade.
As Albie shares his story in Absolutely Almost, it be comes obvious that his parents are busy people with limited time for their son. His father tells him that his grades are “unacceptable,” Albie is baffled because he tries so hard but his work is never good enough.
Albie also struggles with his peers. He knows that he is not a “cool kid.” A brief period of “popularity” followed by rejection by the same crowd only leaves him feeling more dejected
His babysitter, Calista, is more accepting of Albie. As a newcomer to New York City, she insists that Albie show her around. For all his academic troubles, Albie is very confident navigating New York City. She affirms him for the things he does well. Calista also finds ways to help him study more effectively, teaches him about drawing and counsels him on the social dynamics of fifth grade. Unfortunately, Calista often forgets that she is working for Albie’s parents and makes some unwise decisions.
Albie is a likeable character, resourceful and kind. When Calista breaks up with her boyfriend, Albie sneaks downstairs to buy her ice cream. He takes the blame for vandalism in his classroom to keep his friend Betsy from getting in trouble
The reader can’t help but root for Albie. There are no simple solutions but his story ends on an optimistic note. His parents are beginning to appreciate Albie’s unique qualities.
Rose is the narrator of Rain Reign. She has Asperger’s Syndrome. She is assigned a full time classroom aide to monitor her behavior and when necessary remove her from the classroom.
She is obsessed with homonyms, prime numbers and rules. Her single dad lacks patience and finds her annoying. Rose is very close to her Uncle Weldon and her dog, Rain.
A huge hurricane disrupts life for everyone and Rain goes missing in the storm. Rose and Uncle Weldon begin a search for Rain among the shelters in their area. (While I was reading this, I kept looking over at my beagle, Maggie, snuggled next to me on the couch glad that I knew exactly she where was.)
Rose shows great maturity and character when she must make a decision about Rain’s future. (semi spoiler) This is not one of those dead dog books.
Rose also begins gaining her classmates respect as they all recover from the hurricane. She becomes closer to a classmate whose mother’s art studio was destroyed in the storm.
Like Absolutely Almost, there are no easy solutions, only a more hopeful look at the future.