How picture books can help to discuss difficult topics
By Samantha Brown
When one of my friends, Katie, was five years old, her dad suddenly died. Not really sure how to explain it to her young daughter, Katie’s mom turned to a picture book. This book introduced Katie to the topic of death and helped her find a way to cope with her sudden loss. Her mom shared the book with other parents of kids in Katie’s class so they could help explain to their children what was happening to her. By sharing this picture book Katie’s mom contributed to Katie’s healing during that time and her friends were able to understand what she was going through.
Stories similar to this aren’t uncommon. Parents are continually faced with sad or uncomfortable situations they need to explain to their children. Friends move away, parents get divorced and sometimes loved ones die. All of these topics are hard for parents to explain, especially when they might be dealing with their own grief. Thankfully, there are now numerous picture books that can help introduce the realities children face in life. These books are perhaps the best introduction and reading them to your child or your classroom can help children better understand difficult or complex issues.
Tiny Owl’s publication, Alive Again, is a perfect book to introduce sensitive topics to younger children at home or in the classroom. Ahmadreza Ahmadi’s beautiful poem explores the themes of mortality and death through trees losing their blossoms in the winter. This conversation between father and son is open-ended and can spark discussions about other types of loss and rebirth with children. Its simple style and sparse narration make it equally relatable for children who have been touched by death and those who haven’t had to deal with the topic before.
Picture books are known for opening up worlds and inspiring children’s imaginations. At the same time, picture books are the perfect way for children to learn and better understand stressful situations in their lives and the realities of the world around them.
Samantha is a former Tiny Owl intern
- Related blog: Opening up discussions on challenging themes such as loss, death and re-birth
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