What My Kids Are Reading: Talking About Tough Things

The world can be a scary place. As a mom, I wish that I could put my kids in a bubble sometimes and protect them from all the bad things. Unfortunately, that’s not an option, nor is it the right thing to do. Aside from plastic bubbles not having great ventilation, it’s our job as parents, caregivers, and family members to help the kids in our lives understand tough subjects. But we can also help to make the world seem less scary, and to give them ideas of ways they can help and make the world a better place. (I think for a lot of kids, having an actionable task really helps.)

In the past few weeks, we’ve been having discussions about some tough subjects. One specific subject (9/11) and then the more global subjects of how people treat each other. I’m not going to get political in this post, so no worries! But I think we can all relate to finding it difficult when our young children ask really hard questions. We’ve discussed bullying, racism, and equality, to name a few. None of those are easy to talk about, but they are important. It’s a bit heartbreaking to watch my kids discover that the world can be a scary place, and that not everyone is as accepting, loving, and kind as they are.

My 8-year-old found out about 9/11 recently, so we’ve had quite a few discussions about that event lately, and that really spurred my search for some of these books. The books I’m talking about this week have been extremely helpful in offering concrete stories about 9/11, as well as showing ways in which we can all “look for the helpers” in the scariest situations.

I think books, in addition to open family discussions, can be so helpful for kids when it comes to understanding big topics. I’d like to highlight the books that we found the most informative and helpful with our kids, for several tough subjects. Today’s post focuses mainly on 9/11 books (which are pretty hard to find for younger kids), but some of them may be helpful for you! Let me know how you approach difficult subjects with your kids, and what books you’ve found that might be helpful.

I Survived the Attacks of September 11th, 2001

My 8-year-old loves the I Survived series, so this was the first place I looked to find a more tangible way for him to read about 9/11. I was so happy to see there is one, and so was he! It’s about a middle grade boy who ends up in Manhattan on 9/11 (he skips school to visit his dad’s firefighter friend), and the events are seen through his eyes. This was incredible helpful, since it’s from a kid’s perspective, and it’s not graphic at all. While I do not believe in banning books for kids, when it comes to something like this, I think it’s important to find age-appropriate books, and this one is great for 8 and up!

10 True Tales: Heroes of 9/11

My 8-year-old was particularly interested in this one because he had a lot of questions about the people who helped that day, and we always talk about how people can help with terrible things happen, whether it’s a natural disaster or otherwise. This is 10 stories from first responders, military officials, and the story of United Flight 93. The stories are not sugar coated, and some of them are a bit more graphic, so if you have a younger kid, you might want to read this with them or just pick a few of the stories to read aloud. It’s a fantastic way to show how real-life heroes help in tough situations.

Seven and a Half Tons of Steel

This book was recommended to me by Bethany at Mom of Wild Things. I love this one because it is a picture book for all ages, and it focuses on what happens after a disaster. Like, way after. This book, which is beautifully illustrated, tells the story of how a steel beam from the World Trade Center was removed from the rubble and remade into the bow of a navy ship called the USS New York. That in itself is amazing. But the story goes on-the USS New York ended up housing shipbuilders who lost their homes after Katrina, and it continues to work in the ocean today. This is the best book I’ve seen for all ages that shows how good things can come out of the worst situations, with the concrete story of taking a steel beam that might have just been trashed and turning it into a massive navy ship. I highly recommend this one.

Come With Me

Kate at The Loud Library Lady recommended this to me, and it is the most gentle, wonderful book. This one is not about a specific event, but about a little girl who sees scary things on the news and how her parents take her out into the community to show her that not everyone is scary. It focuses on how we can all make a difference in the world, even if it’s something as small as being kind to a new friend or saying hello to everyone, even if those people don’t look like we do. This is a quietly powerful book, and I teared up reading it. I’m very glad it’s in our collection now.

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids

I absolutely love this book, and we’ve had it for awhile. While it does not deal with disasters or scary subjects, it does show kids what it means to be kind to others (filling up their buckets, and by extension your own) and what it does when you’re mean to others for whatever reason (empties everyone’s buckets). I think this goes hand in hand with the other books, because it shows kids a tangible way to bring kindness into the world and make a difference, no matter how small. And for my kids at least, when we read it, they really do think more about how they act (especially with each other…) and what kind of people they want to be in the world. It’s also a great way to open discussions about what they can do at school if they see others not being kind or see someone who needs extra kindness.


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