Down Syndrome in Children’s Literature
Books can be a valuable tool for introducing children to human difference. They can also provide them with the opportunity to read about characters who have similar challenges and/or face similar experiences. Adults who select literature for children that provides information about exceptionalities should carefully examine the texts and understand the benefits and disadvantages of each book. Finding the perfect book, one that provides accurate information in a way that is understanding and accepting of diversity, and avoids all negative connotations, is difficult at best.

The following guide was designed to help parents and teachers examine books that present characters who have Down syndrome to young readers. It is divided into eight sections that address the main issues in such texts:

• Reading / developmental level
• Literary standards
• Accuracy of information
• Illustrations / photographs
• Language
• Stereotypes
• Acceptance and understanding
• Inclusion

Each section provides you with details to consider in order to make an overall decision about whether the book meets your own personal standards of acceptability.

Books that contain flaws, such as inappropriate or stereotypical language, may be used to facilitate critical discussions with young readers. Therefore, it is not the intent of this guide to suggest that any book should be ignored or rejected. However, careful consideration should be given to the use and intended audience of any book that could perpetuate discriminatory views.

Instructions:

1. Review the main questions to familiarize yourself with the intent of the guide. (These questions should be completed after you have finished the detailed sections.)

2. Carefully read the book to be reviewed. Record the name of the book.

3. Section 1: Reading level – Four levels of readers are provided, along with detailed descriptions for each. Consider the intended reader, and determine whether the information, story, and illustrations are appropriate for that child’s age or developmental level.

4. Section 2: Literary Standards – this section contains nine sub-questions designed to consider specific elements of ‘good’ writing. Consider each question separately and record your responses. Again, an overall impression is requested at the end of the section. Review your responses to the detailed questions in order to respond to the final statement.

5. Continue with sections 3 – 8, in a similar manner, responding first to the detailed information and then forming an overall impression for the final statement.



From The National Down Syndrome Society:

USE THIS LANGUAGE WHEN REFERRING TO DOWN SYNDROME AND PEOPLE WHO HAVE DOWN SYNDROME:

People with Down syndrome should always be referred to as people first. Instead of "a Down syndrome child," it should be "a child with Down syndrome." Also avoid "Down's child" and describing the condition as "Down's," as in, "He has Down's."

Down syndrome is a condition or a syndrome, not a disease.

People "have" Down syndrome, they do not "suffer from" it and are not "afflicted by" it.

Down vs. Down's - NDSS uses the preferred spelling, Down syndrome, rather than Down's syndrome. While Down syndrome is listed in many dictionaries with both popular spellings (with or without an apostrophe s), the preferred usage in the United States is Down syndrome. This is because an "apostrophe s" connotes ownership or possession. Down syndrome is named for the English physician John Langdon Down, who characterized the condition, but did not have it. The AP Stylebook recommends using "Down syndrome," as well.

While it is still clinically acceptable to say "mental retardation," you should use the more socially acceptable "intellectual disability" or "cognitive disability." NDSS strongly condemns the use of the word "retarded" in any derogatory context. Using this word is hurtful and suggests that people with disabilities are not competent.

- See more at: http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/Preferred-Language-Guide/#sthash.nj8DM1C6.dpuf


Main Evaluation Statements

1. The book is developmentally appropriate for the intended audience.
2. The book is well written (Overall impression of the writing)
3. The information presented is current and accurate.
4. The illustrations or photographs used are positive and add to the quality of the book.
5. The book avoids loaded words and is respectful.
6. The book avoids stereotypes of Down syndrome.
7. The book promotes the acceptance and understanding of people who have Down syndrome.
8. The book provides a positive example of the inclusion of people who have Down syndrome in society.

Email *
Review Information
Reviewer Name *
Please enter your first and last name
Reviewer Email: *
Please give us an email address where we can contact you if we have questions.
Book Title *
What is the title of the book you are reviewing?
Book author *
Who wrote the book you are reviewing?
Published year *
What year was the book you are reviewing published?
Reason for review: *
Why are you reviewing this book? Have you purchased it for your house or someone else? Is it in your child's school library?
Section 1: Reading level
The book is developmentally appropriate for the intended audience. *
(See descriptions above) Main Evaluation Statement
Section 2: Literary Standards
Is the book well written?
Character Development: Is the character who has Down syndrome: Dynamic (credible, consistent, multidimensional, ever-growing) or Static (does not undergo important change or learn from his or her experiences, unbelievable)? *
Plot: Is the story line: Well developed (interesting and believable) or Forced (dull and unnatural)? *
Theme: Does the book concentrate on Down syndrome, or are other themes present? (i.e.: friendships, family life, animals, community, etc.) [Note themes used] *
Conflict Resolution: Is there a believable solution to the main conflict in the story? *
Tone: Is the overall tone of the story Happy (reflects respect and empathy) or Sad (reflects pity)? *
Style: Is the writing style appropriate? (consider language, humor, and sentence structure) *
Setting: Is the setting of the story Well developed (clear, believable, detailed, and enhances the story) or Trivial (unimportant, not well defined, unbelievable) ? *
Point of View: Is the story told from the perspective of the character with Down syndrome? *
Didacticism: Is the moral of the story presented in a way that is overly Didactic (‘preachy’, forced, overbearing) or Natural (seems well integrated into the conflict of the story) ? *
The book is well written (Overall impression of the writing) *
Main Evaluation Statement
Section 3: Accuracy of Information
Does the book present honest and accurate information about Down syndrome?
Developmentally consistent and believable (Character who has Down syndrome behaves and speaks appropriately) *
Realistic (Character who has Down syndrome is represented in a realistic manner) *
Situations (Character who has Down syndrome is in realistic situations – school, community, family) *
Factual (Medically correct information about Down syndrome) *
Language (Terms used to describe Down syndrome are appropriate) *
Current (Current terminology is used) *
The information presented is current and accurate. *
Main Evaluation Statement
Section 4: Illustrations
Do the illustrations or photographs used add to the quality of the book?
Physically accurate? *
Positive emotional tone? *
Add to story? *
Avoid stereotypes? *
Visually appealing? *
Do not interfere with text? *
The illustrations or photographs used are positive and add to the quality of the book. *
Main Evaluation Statement
Section 5: Language
Is the language used throughout the book respectful?
Language used to describe the character who has Down syndrome should be:

• People-first – (person who has Down syndrome, not Down’s girl, or Down syndrome boy)
• Respectful , not condescending
Look for Loaded Words ( Check words used, enter others that are inappropriate )
The book avoids loaded words and is respectful. *
Main Evaluation Statement
Section 6: Stereotypes
Does the book perpetuate the stereotypes typically associated with Down syndrome?

Check any that you found in the book.
General Disability Related (Bogdan and Biklen, 1977 )
Down Syndrome Specific
The book avoids stereotypes of Down syndrome. *
Main Evaluation Statement
Section 7: Acceptance and Understanding
The book promotes the acceptance and understanding of people who have Down syndrome. *
Main Evaluation Statement
Section 8: Inclusion
Does the book portray an inclusive environment?
The character who has Down syndrome has successes instead of, or in addition to, failures. *
The character who has Down syndrome is portrayed as one of ‘us’ – not one of ‘them’. *
The character who has Down syndrome is a contributing member of society – not just the recipient of charity, patience, and service from others. *
The book shows the character who has Down syndrome in a range of community of settings – not just special ed. classrooms, sheltered workshops, Special Olympics *
The character who has Down syndrome is has a range of relationships – not just with family and/or paid service workers. *
The story elicits empathy from the reader rather than pity. *
The character who has Down syndrome makes his / her own choices. *
Other characters have high expectations for the character who has Down syndrome. *
The character who has Down syndrome interacts with non-handicapped characters *
The story could be to be told in the same way even if the main character did not have Down syndrome. *
The book provides a positive example of the inclusion of people who have Down syndrome in society. *
Main Evaluation Statement
Recommendation
Would you recommend this book to others? *
Follow up questions:
These questions are designed to help us make the evaluation tool better. Your help would be greatly appreciated, but is not required as part of the evaluation process.
1. How would you describe your experience with these types of books prior to this survey?
2. What did you consider to be the most helpful aspect of the instructions on how to use the guide?
3. What did you consider to be the most difficult/ least helpful aspect of the instructions on how to use the guide?
4. What would you change about the instructions that you were given on how to use the guide?
5. What did you consider to be the most helpful aspect of the guide?
6. What did you consider to be the most difficult/ least helpful about the guide?
7. What would you change about the guide itself?
10. Is there anything else about the guide, or books that you would like to talk about?
11. Do you have any questions?
12. What format did you use to evaluate this title?
Brief Review (In your own words) *
A brief review for use on internet sites like Amazon and GoodReads
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