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What is an Adapted Novel?

Student reading an adapted novel in the classroom

At a Glance

Exploring the concept and significance of adapted novels for students.

Highlighting the importance of making literature accessible to all students and its benefits for students in doing so.

Offering strategies for selecting suitable adapted novels based on individual needs.

Welcome to our adapted novel series, where we will be taking a closer look that can make our great works of literature more accessible while also offering a variety of opportunities to engage with the text. In part 1 we will cover what constitutes an adapted novel and what qualities you might want to look for in a good adapted novel. 

Later in the series we will share some examples of adapted novels, some benefits and goal setting opportunities related to adapted novels, and additional adapted novel resources you can explore. 

If you have a favorite adapted novel or wish there were a certain type of adapted novel we covered more in depth or offered in our store then we would love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at and in the meantime we will cover some adapted novel basics!

What is an adapted novel?

The term “adapted novel” can cover a huge range of modifications to original stories and it’s reasonable to wonder what exactly qualifies as one. A great place to start is with the term ‘adapted,’ which is covered in a variety of pieces discussing adapted books. 

In their guide to making, TechACCESS of Rhode Island defines adapted books as “books that have been modified to make reading accessible to individuals with disabilities.” They further elaborate on some of the ways books or stories can be modified to accommodate specific abilities. While we certainly think the books included under this definition are correct, if you’ve heard us speak to accommodations in the past then you might be able to guess that we would advocate for an even more inclusive definition.

We are personally big fans of the Adapted Book Club ’s definition, which states that “Adapted books are any book that has been modified to better fit the needs of your students.” This might sound like an arbitrary distinction on the surface, but they more directly later in the same paragraph that “adapted books are beneficial for any child, not just those with special needs.”

The bottom line is that if a story is modified for the benefit of students who are not able to engage as closely with the unmodified story, then it has been adapted.

The second part of the equation is “novel,” which for our purposes is a classic or modern narrative that could reasonably be considered book length. The adaptation itself does not necessarily need to be so long, but the core distinction we are drawing here in focusing on novels is to focus on works of fictional literature. Whereas an adapted book might cover a whole range of topics, an adapted novel is meant to focus on a particular story.

Why use adapted novels?

We will be going a little more in depth into some of the benefits of using adapted novels later in this series, but looking at the bigger picture offering adapted novels to students offers a means of connecting to a given work of fiction that might not have otherwise been possible with the unmodified original version. 

As enriching as the original texts can be, it is the things we take away from a story that give the story its meaning, and not necessarily that we deciphered the original wording in the correct way. It is worth remembering that engaging with a work of literature in lots of different ways can be valuable to bolstering a true understanding of the story, and that nothing is precluding students who are highly interested in a particular story from moving on to the original text if they feel it is an experience that would benefit them.

Stepping away from the practical benefits for a moment, we also believe that literature is one of the great gifts of humanity and that everyone should have the opportunity to access our greatest works and discover those meanings for themselves. 

Adapted books are above all a way of ensuring that those opportunities are available, and that there is a mechanism for making new adaptations available when the existing library does not fit someone’s needs.

How do I know which novels are right for my student?

Given how many types of adapted novels are out there and the huge variety of needs they can cover, it can certainly be a tricky question figuring out exactly which ones are the right fit for a given student. 

Later in this series we will be sharing some starting points including some examples of adapted novels and some adapted novel resources that can help jumpstart your research process, but the universal guidepost for this question will always be your student’s individual needs. 

Some students might require an abridged or simplified version of the text to focus on the beats of the story. Others might require more visuals or an audio version. Some might benefit from added textures and others still might benefit from activities that help enforce the feeling of what is being described on the page. 

One component of the determination you make can be from what you already know about your student’s needs, but another helpful approach is to work collaboratively with your student on determining what works and what doesn’t work, what offers additional clarity and what just makes things more confusing. 

You may not find a pre-published book that checks every single box, but working collaboratively it is often possible to find options that come close and further modify them on your own to meet an individual’s need.


If you have an experience related to adapted novels that you’d like to share, whether it’s trying to find one to fit a given student’s needs, your experience using them yourself, or a topic related to adapted novels that you wish we would cover then we would love to hear from you! Just drop us a line at and we will be back next week to explore some different examples of what adapted novels can look like.

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