Children’s Books about Feelings and Grief
Where do you stand on books for young children on feelings and grief? Do you worry you will make your children upset and morose and avoid them or do you read them as you do any other story in your home?
PudStar yesterday came home with some very sad news about a classmate having lost his daddy that morning. In our house, we have read many books on grief and this morning we packed her bag with these to take to school and share with her classmates. They may or may not read them in class…it’s always a tricky one and will, of course, be up to the teacher’s discretion. My own thoughts on this are based on my personal experiences in the past few years, and I would love to hear from you if you have different thoughts on the issue or if, like us, you read books on these issues in your house.
My family have experienced crushing grief in the last few years with the loss of my brother. Grief and loss can, at times, be overwhelming whilst at other times grief and sadness walk beside a person as a constant companion. I have experienced the full gamut of emotions and through me, my children have also experienced them.
The Chief Bedtime Reader in our house, AKA daddy, lives with chronic back pain which some days is crippling and life-altering and some days is just there as a part of him. He is never pain-free and our children witness this and deal with it and adore him. This morning ChickPea told her friend next door ‘my daddy can kill monsters’ and PudStar replied ‘Yep! Even though he has a bad back!’.
Our house is a happy place – full of laughter and shrieks of joy and screams of excitement, much rolling on the floor giggling with daddy about bodily function jokes. But we do read lots of books about feelings and about grief and far from being morose about it, we include these books as part of our normal day to day reading. PudStar often requests ‘Life is Like the Wind’ – it is gentle and affirming and yes, it’s about death.
In my mind, books about feelings and books about grief develop empathy and help us to navigate our way through tricky situations. Most importantly, books give us the words when we have none. The words in ‘Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between’ have become part of our everyday conversations. Just yesterday on the way home from school PudStar said ‘it’s so sad about the daddy having his ending but I think his lifetime was really good’. These books have given her language to discuss how she feels about grief and the ability to name her feelings – happy, sad, excited, overwhelmed, silly, lonely, and confused. I hope reading these books with my children also helps develop empathy for others.
It’s a similar situation with the news – to have it on or not? We don’t, but I’m more than happy to have PudStar look at some photographs in the paper (quality paper it is not…but choices are limited!) and discuss them with her. The MH17 tragedy has been overwhelming and whilst we’ve chosen to not have the news on, we have talked about the feelings of the families involved. Personally, I think it’s okay to discuss these things with small children in a sensitive way – but of course you have to make a decision about each situation as it arises and the nature of your individual child as no one wants to scare a child and give them nightmares.
Life throws curveballs at all families and communities, and to me books on grief and feelings are an essential part of every home collection. You may not refer to them often, but they are there when needed. To have the words in a book, when you yourself have none to offer seems to me, anyway, just so important.
And now with my teacher librarian hat on…a few years ago now I stopped saying, ‘take this book home for mummy or daddy to read with you’ and started saying, ‘take this book home to read with someone who loves you‘. I cannot know the family situation of every student I come in contact with. I know I can’t shield children from every feeling of sadness but this seemed such a simple thing I could change and it is my hope that every child has someone in their life to who loves them and will read to them.
To add these books to your home, school or library collection, click on book title links or image links.
Children’s Books on Grief
My full review of my all-time favourite book on grief, ‘Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between’ is here. Yes I have an all-time favourite book on grief. I’ve actually been reading this book for years and years…I just think it’s words are so perfect. I have shared this book with so many.
Books on Feelings
(there are hundreds of books on feelings…these are just my current favourites)
‘The Great Big Book of Feelings’ is one I like LOTS. It talks about all feelings and for some feelings it explains the range of that feeling for example a small sadness might be not being allowed to have an iceblock for dinner but a big sadness might be losing someone you love.
‘How Are You Peeling’ I have been using for SO.MANY.YEARS in early childhood classrooms. Vegetables are used to illustrate feelings – sounds odd but it is amazing! I prefer the hardback version here but it is half the price in softback here.
I am embarrassed to say that I dismissed Todd Parr books for a long time (sorry) until I read his one about families and adoption. His books are deserved best-sellers. This one comes as a book and also as flashcards.
So hit me with your thoughts. Agree or disagree with me? Got any other books to add to my list? Any commission raised from sales of books from this post will be going straight to the Cancer Council of Australia. I do use affiliate links because they cost my readers nothing and after paying blog costs, money goes to charity groups which support children’s literacy…or in this case, cancer research.