Books are an Excellent Tool to Help Children Cope with Trauma or Loss

By FCPS & Fairfax County Government
Healthy Minds
February 13, 2018

Parents and caregivers often ask if there are any books that can be recommended for their child as a means of helping to respond to trauma or loss. Rightfully so, as books are an excellent tool to use with children who have experienced difficult times. Reading (or being read to) and talking with adults can assist children in beginning to understand and cope with their feelings in a healthy manner. Reading offers additional benefits to the recovery from a traumatic experience through connecting with your child and reinforcing a sense of normalcy and security.

The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) offers these suggestions for parents and caregivers who share books with children after a tragedy or loss:

  • Let the characters and story help your child understand how to cope. Discuss ways to feel less anxious or nervous about what is happening.
  • Be willing to answer your child’s questions simply, at their level of understanding.
  • Let your child know that it is normal to cry, feel scared, or want comfort during difficult times.
  • Provide your child with opportunities for that emotional closeness, as needed.
  • Remind your child that you are there for them, and that you are always willing to help him/her when times are difficult.
  • Use the power of ritual to help teach your child how people in your family or social group remember those who have died.
  • Encourage your child to identify simple plans of action to take each day to re-engage in normal activities with others.
  • Help your child develop simple ways to remember good things about those who have died. Your child might share a story, draw pictures, or remember occasions enjoyed with the person(s) who have died.
  • Let your child know that they are loved and cared for. Reach out to other family members or close friends who could also support your child.

The following is a list of books recommended by NASP based on feedback from grief and crisis experts working with children. These books are primarily suitable for elementary aged children. Many websites offer an overview of the books that you can read beforehand to see if a book may be appropriate for your child’s situation. Librarians are also a great source for feedback on these books or in seeking out additional ones.

Picture Books

  • Always and Forever by Alan Durant - Preschool - grade 2
  • Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley
  • Bear's Last Journey by Udo Weingelt
  • Dead Bird by Margaret Brown Wise
  • Everett Anderson's Goodbye by Lucille Clifton
  • Goodbye Mousie by Robie H. Harris
  • The Purple Balloon by Chris Raschka
  • Remembering Crystal by Sebastian Loth
  • Rudi’s Pond by Eve Bunting
  • Sammy in the Sky by Barbara Walsh
  • The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic
  • Six Is So Much Less Than Seven by Ronald Himler
  • Someone Special Died by Joan Prestine
  • Where Do People Go When They Die by Mindy Avra Portnoy
  • Where The Tomorrows Go by Manoj S. Abraham

General Books

  • A Terrible Thing Happened - A Story for Children Who Have Witnessed Violence or Trauma by Margaret M. Holmes
  • Bird—Zetta Elliott (more appropriate for older children)
  • Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories by Audrey Penn (more appropriate for older children)
  • The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages by Leo Buscaglia
  • Good-bye, Sheepie by Robert Burleigh
  • Her Mother's Face—Roddy Doyles (more appropriate for older children)
  • I Miss You: A First Look At Death by Pat Thomas
  • The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
  • Jenny Is Scared: When Sad Things Happen in the World by Carol Shuman
  • Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie Page
  • The Next Place by Warren Hanson
  • Old Pig by Margaret Wild
  • Pearl's Marigolds For Grandpa by Jane Breskin Zalben
  • Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corrine Demas
  • Sometimes I'm Scared by Jane Annunziata
  • When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Krasny Brown

Healthy Minds is for parents, educators, and community-based providers who are interested in supporting student mental health and wellness. It represents a collaboration between FCPS’ Office of Intervention and Prevention Services and the Fairfax County Government. SUBSCRIBE to Healthy Minds and receive a monthly digest of our most recent articles. 

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