A Few Kids’ Books Recommendations
from an Elementary School Libarian
by Erin Wasinger
My friends and I have survived a couple days now of homeschooling our public-school kids, the first of many thanks to the COVID-19 crisis. In my school library I typically see about 375 elementary-aged students each week, my idea of a dream job. Judging by our in-school panic last Thursday and Friday, today would’ve been more of the same: kids acting out, showing us what they know about living with anxiety and looking to adults with few answers.
I would have read the following books. Since I can’t read them to my students, I want to share them with you. Even if you can’t find these books at your now-closed library, you can support a local bookseller who’d love to hook you up, or mine the fast-growing collection of adults reading kids’ books online.
- The Breaking News, written and illustrated by Sarah Lynne Reul (Roaring Brook Press, 2018). I can’t recommend this book enough, especially when the news is loud in an outsized way. Here’s why: when a child experiences breaking news, they’re often looking at the faces of their adults to gauge what their reaction should be. This book, which opens with a vague reference to “breaking news,” does a fair job at naming what it looks like when adults project anxiety or despair (“Dad can’t stop checking his phone”; a child tries to cheer up the adults, but “the grown-ups don’t feel like laughing”). But the story pans from the news (which is never named), to adults’ responses, to the kids’. Theirs is what I encourage my listeners to follow. Like many of us, the main character wants to help — in a “BIG way” — but by the end it’s tiny pots of flowers that brings color back into her world. Even my most jaded students said, “Whoa,” at the last spread.
- The Don’t Worry Book, written and illustrated by Todd Parr (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019). Yes, this is the Todd Parr whose text looks like it was written in Sharpie on super colorful pages, who writes in simple language that feels almost juvenile for a read-aloud in elementary school. Read it anyway! The anxious brain can be soothed by his easy pacing, sensible advice, and compassion.
- What’s In Your Mind Today? written by Louise Bladen, illustrated by Angela Perrini (Beaming Books, 2018). We’re working hard at our school to “think about our thinking,” or to be aware of the thoughts in our brains. This one’s an exercise in doing just that, with a focus on taking breaths to name those feelings as we watch the feelings float by.
- On the recommendation of my school psychology friend: If you’re concerned your child’s worrying has ratcheted up past normal, give Dawn Huebner’s book a try: What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety (What-to-Do Guides for Kids). Published in 2005, it’s been in heavy rotation in our house for a while.
What books are you picking off shelves during this unusual, stressful time? Leave them in the comments below!
EDITOR’S NOTE: If you have small children, Englewood Christian Church is broadcasting Singing Time with Mr. Larry, weekdays at 9am ET on Facebook Live (via our Early Learning Center page). [ Today’s episode ]
It’s a lot of fun, kinda like Mr. Rogers for the Coronavirus age!
Erin F. Wasinger is a writer, speaker, and an elementary school “library lady," as well as our Contributing Editor Specializing in Books for Young Readers. Erin’s also the cofounder of Spark Writers of Southern Michigan, blogger for MadeleineLEngle.com, and author of The Year of Small Things: Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos, 2017). Find her online at: ErinWasinger.com