When I think back to my adolescence, my clearest memories are around books I read and how they helped me through certain challenges in my life. When faced with wearing a back brace at 11, Deenie by Judy Blume prepared me for the doctor appointments, the looks from other kids (and adults), and the loneliness of being the only person in my school who had to deal this kind of situation. When my only brother left home to pursue an acting career, Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White helped me realize that change is inevitable and unexpected joys can result, like trips to New York City. When I was starting to do things separate from my parents and make my own decisions, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by e. l. konigsburg gave me the courage to trust my instincts and branch out a bit in search of truth as well as a bit of adventure.
Now that I am a mother, I find that books are helpful to me in bridging the gap with my girls on many different subjects. Books are a great way to explore the world safely and create dialogue with children about tough subjects. Here are a few of my favourites you may want to recommend or read to your own children:
Gregor the Overlander (Gregor the Underland Series) by Suzanne Collins is perfect for those readers not quite ready for The Hunger Games and provides a wonderful commentary on family and friendship, as well as the futility of war. We started these books when my youngest was in Grade 4 and read the entire series as a family.
Words that Start With B by Vikki VanSickle and Ida B by Katherine Hannigan are both great books that tackle the subject of parents with cancer. Words also has a very realistic scene about what to do when your ‘monthly visitor’ first arrives during school.
The Underneath by Kathi Applet may be sad, but it is an inspiring tale of the resilience of the soul against abuse and neglect. The characters are animals, but connections can be drawn for children and adults as well.
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper and Mine for Keeps by Jean Little explore the world of children with disabilities trying to fit into school and peer structures for the first time. Great books to help kids realize that what they see on the outside isn’t always the same as what is going on inside a person.
Undergrounders by David Skuy and Outside In by Sarah Ellis both have characters who are homeless, but for different reasons. Set in current times, these books help start discussions around homelessness in today’s world.
Shooting Kabul by N. H. Senzai is about a boy fleeing Afghanistan but his sister is left behind. A powerful book with themes of guilt, prejudice, perseverance, and courage. The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis (along with many of her other books) explores what it takes to stay in a war-ravaged country.
What are some of books that helped you start a conversation about a difficult subject with your child?