As parents, we’re wired to seek safe, healthy environments for our littles. When disaster strikes, whether it’s a pandemic, a fire, or a hurricane, it’s deeply unsettling. A little support can go a long way.
This month, we’ve expanded our recommendations to include books that explore mindfulness, humor, learning and nostalgia. Our main choices nudge us toward more resilient outlooks while illuminating what might be the most important thing to remember in moments of crisis, that the worst of times has a way of bringing out the very best in people.
Below, you’ll find books about the benefits of breathing, mindfulness, awareness and gratitude, as well as books that can be an escape hatch. Silly books lighten the mood (Gerald and Piggy never disappoint) use those liberally. Or build a bridge to your childhood self, rereading a classic together. Many are as fresh today as when they debuted.
You’ll also find volumes to help us to move and connect during downtime. Pore over a cookbook and bake delicious things together, learn to play the ukulele, or make castles out of Legos with inspiration from how-to or architecture tomes. And if you need a break, and you will surely need a break in light of non-stop news coverage, school closures, quarantines, social distancing and Lego castle-building, there are great read alouds for kids online.
We’re all weathering this storm together and community is vital. We welcome your experiences, book suggestions, stories and coping strategies in the comments below or on our Facebook page — we’d love to hear from you and your littles!
Breathing techniques can be lifesavers when things get stressful or when it comes to managing anxiety. My Magic Breath works on both fronts, as a preparation ahead of time, so kids know how to breathe powerfully, and by demonstrating simple, age appropriate techniques for managing sad or scary thoughts. Bay Area illustrator Michelle Polizzi’s colorful drawings help kids visualize and concretize complex ideas like thought replacement, plus, they’re fully adorable.
Also Great: The Water Princess, Wemberly Worried
Comic Relief: Circle, Square, Triangle
Learn Something: Feed Our Small World Cookbook
From the Vault: Make Way for Ducklings
Getting curious can help kids regain a sense of control in troubled times, the trick is keeping it age appropriate. With its blend of fiction and informative nonfiction, If You Were a Kid Surviving a Hurricane juxtaposes the story of two kids and a lost dog during a hurricane with facts about the properties of a storm and the best ways to handle tough situations. It’s pitch perfect for first graders — thoroughly informative without being scary.
Also Great: In My Heart: A Book of Feelings, Daniel’s Good Day
Comic Relief: The Book with No Pictures, Shhh, We have a Plan, Don’t Blink
Learn Something: Human Body Activity Book for Kids
From the Vault: The Monster at the End of this Book
Stomach pain, bad dreams, fear — all of these symptoms are common when we’ve lived through a trauma. So many books begin and end with the trauma itself, but Something Terrible Happened explores the aftermath of an unnamed trauma. Readers follow Sherman through bouts of anger and stress and learn about ways to cope though awareness, talking to others, even art therapy. There’s also a sweet note to parents and caregivers with tips on helping kids talk through their feelings after a trauma.
Also Great: Dear Girl, Baditude
Comic Relief: The Wolf the Duck and the Mouse, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole
Learn Something: Disney Hits for Ukulele: 23 Songs to Strum and Sing
From the Vault: The Secret Garden
Adapted from a story by Leo Tolstoy, the deceptively simple three questions of the title — when is the right time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do? — pack a powerful philosophical punch as the story unfolds. When the questioner finds himself caught in a storm, the importance of living in the moment and caring for others becomes poignantly clear to readers of all ages.
Also Great: Turtle in Paradise
Comic Relief: The BFG, The Vicar of Nibbleswick
Learn Something: Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes
From the Vault: Charlotte’s Web
Janice Tarshis invented the I Survived series for her boys, who were (emphasis on past tense) reluctant readers. Each volume takes a moment in history, such as the San Francisco Earthquake, The Children’s Blizzard, or the eruption of Mount Saint Helens, and places a child at the center of the action. The stories are universally empowering and uplifting, making them a safe bet for all but the most fearful readers. They’re especially great as gateway books for boys who might not reach for a book on their own, but girls love them as well.
Also Great: I Escaped the California Camp Fire
Comic Relief: Full of Beans
Learn Something: Draw 50 Animals
From the Vault: The Chronicles of Narnia
Think of astronaut Mark Whatney as the MacGyver of Mars — there is no problem too large to troubleshoot. The Martian is survival literature at its best, fast paced, funny and a marvel of human ingenuity and fortitude in the face of disaster. Parents will love that it’s packed with real science wrapped in a story that stands with the classics. The adult version is chock full of f-bombs and adult concepts so it’s worth getting the adapted version, which remains fast moving enough to keep just about everyone in the family turning pages. Fast.
Also Great: Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere. Wildfire, Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: The Donner Party
Comic Relief: Funny Girl
Make Something: The Lego Architect
From the Vault: Holes
On a lovely night in May, as neighbors and families gather to watch a meteor pass by, the unthinkable becomes real. After the meteor knocks the moon closer to earth, catastrophes of all kinds ravage the planet. The World As We Knew It unfolds in the journal entries of Miranda, a high school sophomore, and, thankfully, isn’t reliant on the usual disaster story tropes. Instead, the story goes quiet, real and deep.
Also Great: The Last Survivors series, Impyrium
Comic Relief: Lumberjanes
Make Something: Pretty Simple Lettering
From the Vault: The Never Ending Story