Credit: Jerry Wang, Unsplash
As parents, we try to create stability and security for our kids. But in a year like 2020, the best we can do is teach our kids to cope with change and uncertainty. Fortunately, we don’t have to do it on our own. There are lots of great books that help kids understand some of the circumstances we’re facing this year, as well as books to help kids cope with the anxiety those circumstances produce. We’ve worked with the Seattle Public Library’s children’s librarians to come up with a few recommendations.
“Isn’t It Scary?” features an African American family exploring the natural environment. When a rabbit dives down a scary-looking hole, the mother helps her two children connect the natural habitats of animals with the comfort and security of their own home and family.
Dan Santat, author and illustrator of the beloved picture book “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend,” gives the Humpty Dumpty tale a new twist. In “After the Fall,” the famous egg has to get back up again to face his recently acquired fear of heights in order to return to his favorite pastime of bird-watching.
This bilingual (English/Spanish) picture book playfully explains why masks are helpful instead of scary, and encourages kids to become mask-wearing superheroes themselves.
This pre-pandemic picture book introduces little kids to the basic how-tos of hygiene that are instrumental in stopping the spread of germs. It covers healthy precautions such as coughing into an elbow, handwashing and the proper disposal of tissues.
Even when this picture book’s illustrations depict frightened faces, its bright colors create a cheery, uplifting impression in this book about dealing with things that make kids worry. “The Don’t Worry Book” doesn’t actually admonish kids for worrying about scary news or first days of school, but rather, it suggests ways to find comfort and joy despite one’s fears.
Girls living in rural Vermont in the year 1918 are not encouraged to become doctors. But when the influenza epidemic hits Margaret’s community, she must use what she has learned from watching her doctor father practice medicine to protect herself and others. Set against the backdrop of a remote war, this story features strong family ties, the validation of a girl’s dream and young people discovering agency in their response to the challenges posed by the epidemic.
Aside from the usual fourth-grade troubles of fitting in and a bothersome big brother, Ryan Hart has a lot to deal with. After her father loses his job, her family is forced to sell their second car and move into a smaller house. But this irrepressible Ramona-like heroine has a talent for making sunshine out of setbacks.
Jason Reynolds’ novels depict young people — especially African American boys — finding the courage to face overwhelming challenges. This book, which is written in verse and is not a novel, reminds readers that no matter how many times a dreamer is defeated, it’s still okay — and even necessary — to keep dreaming.
With its graphic novel format, “Plagues” makes epidemiology accessible to elementary school students. Kids will meet the germs behind history’s worst diseases and learn about the mechanisms of infections and immunity, as well as the incredible technology that helps humans resist and treat infectious diseases.
Few people alive can remember a year as chaotic and challenging as 2020, and it will probably define our kids’ generation. But it’s not the first time the world, or even America, has faced so much all at once. Martin W. Sandler’s nonfiction book introduces tweens and young teens to an earlier America grappling with some very familiar issues: racism-fueled violence, an epidemic, war abroad and widespread protests.
More great reads
Brand-new titles include “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” by Eric Walters, a novel for tweens about a young girl whose parents are essential workers during the current pandemic; and “The Whatifs” by Emily Kilgore (illustrated by Zoe Persico), a picture book about a girl who faces her worries in advance of an important piano recital.
For reading specific to the pandemic, try Book Riot’s list of six free e-books on the coronavirus or the New York City Library’s collection of free e-books about COVID-19. If you’re looking for books to help understand protests and institutional racism, try some of the books from The Seattle Times’ list of books for kids and teens about race, racism and police violence.