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Maria Salvadore

Reading Rockets' children's literature expert, Maria Salvadore, brings you into her world as she explores the best ways to use kids' books both inside — and outside — of the classroom.

Safe within the pages of books

April 26, 2019

Yesterday, I helped a parent find books for her five-year old whose dog had just died. I suggested Judith Viorst’s The Tenth Good Thing About Barney (Atheneum) in which a child remembers the best things about his much missed and greatly loved cat. I also suggested Dog Heaven (Blue Sky) by Cynthia Rylant, a comforting, sweet, only slightly religious story about the lush places canines find after they die.

I hope these help the child. But I do think it’s important for readers — young and old — to store up experiences safely within the pages of books before it occurs in life, something to draw from when needed.

The classic story that introduces the cycle of life which, of course, includes death, in my opinion, is Charlotte’s Web (HarperCollins). Not only does E.B. White introduce readers to a host of memorable characters, he provides an introduction to real life in the guise of a fantasy. When Charlotte the spider dies, her porcine buddy, Wilbur, must carry on.

I just read a new book for slightly older readers, say 10 or 11 years and up. The Line Tender (Dutton) by Kate Allen made me smile (remember that feeling of liking but not quite knowing where you stand with a boy?) and reminded me that kids and adults grieve similarly. It’s beautifully written with real characters that support and show empathy for each other. They deal with challenges and joys in unique ways giving readers a chance to share different approaches to the same incidents including the loss of a friend.

I’m not talking about bibliotherapy (where books are used to treat mental or psychological issues). Each of these books provides one or more experiences that can be drawn on simply when needed. And pleasure along the way.

books that help kids deal with grief

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"There is no substitute for books in the life of a child." — May Ellen Chase