Finding solace in stories
By Morgan on October 19th, 2011
We’re facing a 9.1% unemployment rate in the U.S. these days; there are Occupy protests in cities across the world; funding for literacy programs continues to be cut. It’s clear the economic crises are affecting us deeply, in a multitude of ways. But what do we know about how they’re affecting kids — and what can we do about it?
Kids find comfort in stories, especially in stories that features kids just like them, dealing with the same problems they’re facing. And for children who are keeping their home economic troubles to themselves, those stories can be a lifeline, a way for them to recognize they’re not alone.
Last night, NBC Nightly News aired a story about a little girl in Minnesota and how a book a teacher introduced in class helped her break her silence about her family’s homelessness. We call this bibliotherapy — the idea that books can help you cope with whatever issues you’re facing, and can engender understanding and kindness in other readers. Chris Jansing, the journalist who covered the story, included data from Primary Sources, a comprehensive survey of teachers across the country, which is also worth checking out. (Fun fact: the teacher in the video is Kim Nelson, a Scholastic Book Clubs teacher advisor.)
Take a look at this little girl’s story:
We put together a list of books that deal with the kinds of troubles too many kids today are facing, from poverty to parental job loss to homelessness. If you know of any others that have helped you or any kids you know, please share them in the comments. Let’s continue to get kids the help they need in the ways we can — through books.
- Tight Times by Barbara Shook Hazen: A small boy, not allowed to have a dog because times are tight, finds a starving kitten in a trash can on the same day his father loses his job.
- Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts: All Jeremy wants is a pair of those shoes, the ones everyone at school seems to be wearing. But Jeremy soon sees that the things he has — warm boots, a loving grandma, and the chance to help a friend — are worth more than the things he wants.
- A Shelter in Our Car by Monica Gunning: When her father died, Zettie and her mother left their warm and comfortable home in Jamaica for an uncertain future in the United Sates. Zettie’s mother can’t find a steady job so they are forced to live in their car. But her mother’s unwavering love, support, and gutsy determination give Zettie the confidence that, together, she and her mother can meet all challenges.
- Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting, illus. Ronald Himler: A homeless boy and his father live in airport.
- Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by Dyanne Disalvo-Ryan: A realistic portrait of people who need the soup kitchen to survive, told from point of view of boy whose uncle volunteers there.
Chapter Books / Middle Grade:
- How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O’Connor: Georgina Hayes is desperate. Ever since her father left and they were evicted from their apartment, her family has been living in their car. With her mama juggling two jobs and trying to make enough money to find a place to live, Georgina is stuck looking after her younger brother, Toby. And she has her heart set on improving their situation. (ages 8 and up)
- Ramona and Her Father by Beverly Cleary: In this Newbery Honor Book, Ramona is determined to cheer up her father after he loses his job. She practices TV commercials in hopes of earning a million dollars, but ends up insulting her teacher instead — and getting into a prickly mess with some burrs. (ages 8 and up)
- Hothead by Cal Ripken, Jr: Connor Sullivan is an All-Star shortstop on his Babe Ruth League team, the Orioles. He can hit and field with the best of them, but he’s got one big problem: his temper. To make matters worse, things aren’t much better at home. His dad is having trouble finding a new job after being laid off. Money is tight. Connor’s dream of attending the prestigious Brooks Robinson Baseball Camp this summer seems like just that now — a dream. (ages 8 and up)
- The Not-So-Great Depression by Amy Goldman Koss: Carefree fourteen-year-old Jacki, who wishes for a hamster of her very own, is able to maintain her sense of humor though she is forced to learn some harsh realities about the economy when the recession begins to affect her own family and lifestyle. (ages 10 and up)
- Also Known as Harper by Ann Haywood Leal: Harper Lee Morgan is an aspiring poet, which isn’t surprising, seeing as how she’s named after her mama’s favorite writer, Harper Lee. And life is giving her a lot to write about just now. Daddy up and walked out, leaving them broke. Then Harper’s family gets evicted. With Mama scrambling to find work, Harper has to skip school to care for her little brother, Hemingway. (ages 12 and up)
- Tyrell by Coe Booth: Tyrell is a young, African American teen who can’t get a break. He’s living (for now) with his spaced-out mother and little brother in a homeless shelter. His father’s in jail. Tyrell feels he needs to score some money to make things better. Will he end up following in his father’s footsteps? (ages 14 and up)