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3 great books to help your kids navigate difficult subjects


Wonder (by RJ Palacio) is a book about an ordinary kid with an extraordinary face. And while his “facial difference” has prevented him from going to school for his initial 10 years, he is about to enter fifth grade, and the “normal” world of middle school life, for the first time. This book is the story of that extraordinary year and how everybody in the school community is affected.

It deals with bullying, fear-of-other, the “popular” group, kindness, empathy, and learning how to recognize and cope with difficult, challenging and conflicting feelings. It is also beautifully written, funny, moving, and incredibly entertaining. Middle school kids can read it alone, but it’s also a great read aloud for slightly younger kids. It has instigated so many important conversations in our household… Anything that helps provide kids with the tools they need to navigate those tween years with grace is a welcome addition to our arsenal.

a long walk to water by Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story tells the intersecting stories of two 11 year old kids living in Sudan, one from 1995 and the other from 2008. It is a story of survival, friendship and resilience that humanizes the politically complicated refugee situation that continues to be a part of the news today.

And while on the one hand, the refugee crisis feels very remote, it is so important for us to help our kids to understand all of the complex and not-so-great things that are happening in the world these days. Encountering these difficult subjects through stories helps to create a safe place for the potentially difficult topics to be digested. And hopefully we help foster a more empathetic future through understanding.

Lillian';s Right to vote by Jonah Winter and Shane W Evans

Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter and Shane W Evans is a beautifully illustrated picture book that tells the story of Lillian, an elderly African-American woman, and her walk up a steep hill to the voting booth in her town.

During her climb, she remembers the stories of her enslaved great grandparents, her uncle being forced to take absurdly difficult qualification tests in order to vote, and her own memories of being chased away from voting booths by angry mobs. The hill becomes a metaphor for the struggle that African Americans experienced during their fight for the right to vote.

The book is a celebration of the Voting rights Act of 1965, which is currently under fire again in many states. The right to vote still needs protection and this book helps us remember how central this right is to being a citizen of a democracy like ours.

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  1. khatbm

    I don’t have kids yet, but I’m definitely saving this book to read to my niece, and kids if I ever have. Thanks!