Books for Children– dealing with disaster.

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Books for children aren’t all about fluffy bunnies and best friends. Yes the preschool group need a simple format to first engage them with reading but they soon progress to much more sophisticated themes as their own awareness opens to the wider world. By the time children are in the middle grades at primary school they are ready for more challenging content.
They’re still young but don’t assume that they’re stupid just because their vocabulary isn’t as big as yours. They are always learning and not just at school. These human sponges are taking in information everywhere they turn, including the news headlines. They hear what the adults around them are talking about. They hear a lot more than most give them credit for.
Writing about some of the scarier things that go on in their world can help demystify these subjects. They see the floods in Queensland and wonder what would happen if their river flooded like that. Where would they go and could they take their dog Sammy with them? Or what if there was an earthquake and their school collapsed where would Mr Jones teach them maths?

Big things get scaled down to how that would affect them in their world. This is the easiest way for them to comprehend such big events.
So don’t shy away from the scarier topics when writing for children. Yes it still needs to be appropriate for young minds, you don’t want to traumatize or give them nightmares, but you can show them with little details of everyday things what some of these experiences are like. Put yourself in the place of the child. What would they see, how might they feel. Remember to show them how it was don’t just tell them. For example:
We’re holding on tight to the chimney on top of our roof. The big brown river keeps throwing whole trees and cars against the house. I can feel it shudder and shake. I hope somebody comes soon to get us.
Instead of : It was really scary waiting on the roof to be rescued. The river had cut us off.
Details bring it to life and stop the reader from imagining far worse things.
Books on more challenging subjects like death and disasters can also help start those conversations that might otherwise be avoided. If adults find it difficult to talk about these subjects then how must the kids feel. Some say ignorance is bliss but I believe open and honest discussion is always appropriate when a child is ready. If you don’t know if they’re ready then books can be the bridge to help you decide. If you allow them the time and give them your full attention they will lead you where they need to go. Fear can often be banished with the light of truth.

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