As an adult, I can look at these challenging times and think how we are currently living through historical events. I have the gift of age and perspective. Although none of us have ever experienced anything like this pandemic, for your children the challenges they face can be particularly difficult to process and understand.
One of the best ways for them to understand and relate to their anxieties and the changes in their world, is through literature. Picture books offer an invitation to you children to talk openly about their feelings, model language where they may be struggling to find words, normalize their feelings of loss and grief and perhaps most importantly, help them know that they are not alone.
Never underestimate the power of a picture book!
Here are 6 picture book suggestions that may be helpful during this unprecedented time.
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A Little Spot Stays Home by Diane Alber
This is a gentle non-fiction book that explains to children what a virus is and why it is important to practice social distancing and good hygiene practices. This book answers many of children’s questions and while using accurate scientific words that children may be hearing on the news or radio or from their parents, the author defines them in child friendly language. This includes information about how viruses spread, why and how to social distance, the value of wearing masks and why people might need to follow a stay-at-home order.
In addition, the book talks about way that children can stay in touch with people that they aren’t able to visit in person and how they can make the best of things by tackling fun new activities. And the book also makes very clear that viruses don’t last forever. It acknowledges their complex feelings and ends on a hopeful note for a more normal future.
Paula and the Pandemic by Dorothea Laurence
This sweet fictional story is about a little girl who loves playing with her best friend Ben. One day, Ben can’t play and soon after, Paula learns that because of a pandemic, she can’t go to school or play with her friends. Paula feels frustrated and sad. She notices that her mother is acting worried. Paula and her mom plant and seed and learn to nurture the plant to help it grow. The author uses this as an analogy for how we must be patient and take good care to be healthy and wait for the restrictions to be lifted. Once again, the book stresses the current situation as temporary and that your children are not alone with their feelings of sadness and loss.
What is Social Distancing? By Lindsay Coker Luckey
This book is another non-fiction book for perhaps a slightly older audience than Alber’s book. This book explains what a virus is and some things that we can do to keep ourselves safe and healthy. The book talks about our medical worker heroes and some ways that we can help them during these challenging times. This book is useful for answering some of the common questions children may have about a pandemic.
Masked Ninja by Mary Nhin
This book is a part of a series using adorable Ninjas to teach children life lessons called “Ninja Life Hacks.” This particular story focuses on how children can be kind by practicing good hygiene to avoid spreading a virus. It is set in the context of the novel coronavirus pandemic. One thing that is unique about this book in the ones I have seen is that it addresses the racism that some Asian people have faced being blamed for the virus. The book reminds children that bullying is never okay and how to ask an adult for help.
If You Can’t Bear Hug, Air Hug by Katie Sedmak
Rather than trying to explain viruses or what a pandemic is, this book is about ways to connect and express love without physically touching. This rhyming book has adorable animals finding alternatives to hugs and high fives. This book really concentrates on reassuring children that they are loved, even when they can’t be physically close to others. It is a way to open the door to a more detailed conversation about staying safe during a pandemic.
6. Lucy’s Mask
When Lucy is bored because she can’t see her friends, she uses her imagination and love of costumes to go on a big adventure. This book is really relatable for kids and it’s a good little science lesson about germs, too. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go to first responders.
There are times as parents and teachers that we are faced with talking to children about very tricky topics. I remember vividly from my own childhood that even when I didn’t ask questions, I was worrying and thinking a lot about different things happening in the world. Turning to literature can help us get those tricky conversations started and find the words when we aren’t quite sure what to say. Books are an invitation to children to talk about those worries and things that they may not understand.
These 5 books are just a beginning. There are more books emerging about wearing masks, social distancing, how to prevent the spread of germs, processing feelings of isolation and loneliness, connecting with people we love, and books about the Covid helpers. They range from scientific explanations to simple stories of love and reassurance. When the world hands us challenges that we need to talk to children about, rest assured, there’s a book for that.
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