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Helping Children Understand, Discuss, and Process the Election Through Books

Book list 1

 

A booklist produced jointly by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Reach Out and Read.

Many parents and caregivers have found the task of explaining to children the complex feelings and ideas around the recent election a significant challenge.  On one hand, there is an understandable, deep desire to shield children of all ages from the burdens and divisiveness of the world.  On the other hand, one of the joys of parenting is to equip children to face that very world.  Indeed, even very young children will hear and see things from others, and may not know how to respond.

Some may find helping their children to express their emotions to be a challenge.  Others may be concerned about the presence of bullying and harassment and how to equip their child to respond - and not to participate.  Yet others may wish to teach their child how to be affirmatively kind.  Some may be unsure how to effectively teach respectful listening and tolerance for varied points of view.  Finally, some may be stymied by how to help their child understand the system as it exists and how change can be made.  All of these are likely common concerns for parents, irrespective of where their political beliefs or support lies. 

Reading with your child is recommended by pediatricians, has tremendous benefits, and talking and reading with your child is an important opportunity to nurture their development.  As pediatricians with significant training and interest in these types of issues as well as in children's literature, we believe one route to being able to openly process and discuss these types of issues is through sharing quality children's books with your child.  This can benefit not only younger children, but also up to and including adolescents.  We compiled a list of books by age that you might find helpful as you work to promote your children's healthy development, knowledge, and well-being following this election. 

The lists below are not intended to be comprehensive and certainly other fantastic works are missing, but these are starting points, arranged by broad themes and subdivided by the rough age category they represent.  We would like to add this to the excellent general post-election advice that has been shared already by the American Academy of Pediatrics and others. For general tips on sharing books with your children, please see https://littoolkit.aap.org/Pages/home.aspx

We do recommend adults look at book reviews and consider examining these books in advance of sharing them with your child as there are a broad array of themes and values in these books.  Additionally, while these lists are aimed at books to share with children, it has occurred to us that adults may benefit as well - reading with kids is not only good for children, but helps parents calm down, clear their heads, and learn some new ways to talk to children about complicated topics. 

We hope that this collection will help families to make some sense of recent events and to raise children who are aware of the world around them, curious, valiant, kind, and thoughtful, whether applying that to individuals or systems.

 

"But McBean was quite wrong, I'm quite happy to say,

the Sneetches got quite a bit smarter that day.

That day, they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches,

and no kind of Sneetch is the BEST on the beaches"

                                                -Theodore Geisel (Dr Seuss)

 

Our collective thanks to each other and to colleagues who helped us:

Dipesh Navsaria, MPH, MSLIS, MD, FAAP

Amy Shriver, MD, FAAP

Jenny Radesky, MD, FAAP

Perri Klass, MD, FAAP

Dina Joy Lieser, MD, FAAP

The librarians at the Cooperative Children's Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin - Madison

 

Kindness

Beyond speaking up in situations of injustice, affirmatively teaching kindness to children is an important skill to intentionally build.  This can start with small acts of kindness in younger children, which may start as a desire to please parents and other authority figures but then build to broader, larger concepts and approaches for teens, grounded in higher moral and ethical reasoning.

 

Preschoolers/Early Grades

Stand in My Shoes: Kids Learning About Empathy, by Bob Sornson; illustrated by Shelley Johannes

Those Shoes, by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Kindness is Cooler, Mrs Ruler, by Margery Cuyler, illustrated by Sachiko Yoshikawa

What Does It Mean To Be Kind?, by Rana DiOrio, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch

Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed, by Emily Pearson, illustrated by Fumi Kosaka

Each Kindness, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

The Invisible Boy, by Trudy Ludwig, illustrated by Patrice Barton

Heartprints, by P.K. Hallinan

 

Middle Grades

Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams

Wonder, by RJ Palacio

Kindness: A Treasury of Buddhist Wisdom for Children and Parents, by Sarah Conover and Valerie Wahl

 

Adolescents

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

Rules, by Cynthia Lord

 

Expressing Emotions

For many children, being able to express emotions can be a challenge.  They may see anger, sadness, and loss in parents and other adults in their lives and be uncertain how to respond to this.  Developmentally, younger children may have a difficult time being able to name emotions in themselves, but find it easier to identify with a character in a book.  Older children may be challenged by the difficult of sorting through complex feelings and in some cases may not wish to "burden" adults with their thoughts at a time which is already complicated for the adults.  Books can help children process, clarify, and put a name to their feelings.

 

Preschoolers/Early Grades

Moody Cow Meditates, by Kerry Lee MacLean

That's How I Feel (Asi Me Siento), by Rourke Publishing

Have you Filled a Bucket Today?, by Carol McCloud, illustrated by David Messing

What if Everybody Did That?, by Ellen Javernick, illustrated by Colleen M. Madden

I Was So Mad, by Mercer Mayer

Do Unto Otters:  A Book About Manners, by Laurie Keller

My Many Colored Days, by Dr Seuss

 

Middle Grades

Michael Rosen's Sad Book, by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake

Queenie Peavy, by Robert Burch

 

Adolescents

Don't Let Your Emotions Run Your Life for Teens, by Sheri Van Dijk

A Still Quiet Place: A Mindfulness Program for Teaching Children and Adolescents to Ease Stress and Difficult Emotions, by Amy Saltzman MD

Learning to Breathe: A Mindfulness Curriculum for Adolescents to Cultivate Emotion Regulation, Attention, and Performance, by Patricia Broderick PhD

  

Bullying & Harassment

Bullying and harassment of other children is sadly a common feature of our society. Stirred up emotion and rhetoric may amplify this, especially against particular marginalized groups.  While it is certainly not the same as being victimized, sometimes younger children are repeating language they've heard used by others without understanding the implications of what they're saying.  Those who are harassed (or are worried about being harassed) may have strong fear and anxiety.  Finally, children who are bystanders may not know how to respond, particularly if they fear being bullied themselves.

 

Preschoolers/Early Grades

Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes

The Hundred Dresses, by Eleanor Estes, Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin

Edwardo: the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World, by John Burningham

Say Something, by Peggy Moss, Illustrated by Lea Lyon

Babymouse: Queen of the World, by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm

Bully B.E.A.N.S., by Julia Cook, Illustrated by Anita DuFalla

Confessions of a Former Bully, by Trudy Ludwig, Illustrated by Beth Adams

 

Middle Grades

Stitches, by Glen Huser

To This Day: For the Bullied and the Beautiful, by Shane  Koyczan

Understanding Buddy, by Marc Kornblatt

Loser, by Jerry Spinelli

Veronica Ganz, by Marilyn Sachs

Blubber, by Judy Blume

 

Adolescents

Dear Bully: Seventy Authors Tell Their Stories, by Megan Kelley Hall and Carrie Jones

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson

Freak Show, by James St James

Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli

7 Days at the Hot Corner, by Terry Trueman

 

Listening & Respecting Different Views

A significant challenge for children of all ages is learning how to listen well and respect different views - divisive language and a refusal to consider other points of view have been key features of our political system, to the detriment of all.  While younger children developmentally find it difficult to take the perspective of others, they gain that ability over time.  Older children may be stymied by understanding the reasoning of someone diametrically opposed to their own views.  Books can offer models for engaging with others unlike ourselves in a respectful and productive manner.

 

Preschoolers/Early Grades

When Sophie's Feelings Are Really, Really Hurt, by Molly Bang

I'm the Best, by Lucy Cousins

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor, by Maria Dismondy, illustrated by Donna Farrell

The Sandwich Swap, by Queen Rania of Jordan & Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Tricia Tusa

Junkyard Wonders, by Patricia Polacco

The Conquerers, by David McKee

 

Middle Grades

Zero Tolerance, by Claudia Mills

The Cat at the Wall, by Deborah Ellis

The Three Questions, by Jon Muth

 

Adolescents

This Side of Home, by Renee Watson

 

Understanding Others

Children may be naturally curious about others (particularly other children) who fall into groups other than their own, or about their own identity.  While there are many excellent booklists covering a wide variety of subtopics, this is a brief selection that covers general ideas on how to appreciate differences and the challenges faced by those who are regarded as "different".

 

Preschoolers/Early Grades

I Like Myself!, by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by David Catrow

Red: A Crayon's Story, by Michael Hall

Giraffes Can't Dance, by Giles Andreae, Illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees

Strictly No Elephants, by Lisa Mantchev, Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

Two Speckled Eggs, by Jennifer K. Mann

Willow, by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan, Illustrated by Cyd Moore

 

Middle Grades

Out of My Mind, by Sharon M. Draper

Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhha Lai

The Ordinary Princess, by M. M. Kaye

 

Social Change & Civic Engagement

Some children may be moved to foment change, even at young ages.  Books can help them understand the system in which the election took place as well as broader concepts of social justice and civic engagement.  Younger children can have very "good-and-bad" thinking, but as they get older, children can develop very sophisticated and nuanced moral reasoning.

 

Preschoolers/Early Grades

Grace for President, by Kelly DiPucchio, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

A Chair for My Mother, by Vera B. Williams

Mama's Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation, by Edwidge Danticat, Illustrated by Leslie Staub

House Mouse, Senate Mouse, by Peter W. Barnes and Cheryl Shaw Barnes

Being Me, by Rosemary McCarney, Illustrated by Yvonne Cathcart

 

Middle Grades

Zero Tolerance, by Claudia Mills

Paper Things, by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

The Kid's Guide to Social Action, by Barbara A. Lewis

Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen

The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier

 

Adolescents

The Great Greene Heist, by Varian Johnson

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck

The Plain Janes, by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg

Samir and Yonatan, by Daniella Carmi

The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine

March: Book One, by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

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