Now and then, I share books and resources for families to help talk about difficult topics, including scary things in the news. Children may or may not be aware of things like the war taking place in Israel and the recent hate crime against a child in Plainfield. Those who are aware might be trying to understand. Others may be reacting to the emotions of the bigger people around them. And wherever young people fall on that spectrum, I believe the adults who care about them want to help them grow up valuing tolerance and peace.

For a child who is feeling scared or worried, the library offers a variety of picture books, nonfiction books and chapter books that can help teach skills to cope with these feelings.

Book List: Living with Anxiety

The American Psychological Association has advice for adults on how to talk to children about war, plus additional resources related to war trauma and general mental health (scroll down past the blue bar on the first page of their website to find these topics).

For a child who is trying to understand “Why are people fighting?” or the idea of a hate crime and the prejudice behind it, the library has picture books where people tell their family stories, history and historical fiction, books that aim to teach and give advice, and books that try to explain the present day. I also included some books with characters from the affected groups trying to resolve small-scale conflicts.

I know that any list of this kind will seem terribly incomplete. Where one author strives for objectivity and balance, another writes to share a particular perspective. There may not be an exact equivalent of two opposing views in the same format or for a similar age group (both picture books, for example, or both historical fiction). I tried to select high-quality new books and make a list that, overall, showed different perspectives. I recognize that some titles, on their own, may look like they are erasing one side or the other. As a way to try to rectify that, I will follow this list with some tips on searching for additional books.

Book List: Experiencing Conflict, Seeking Peace

To find more books, you can try searching:

  • Antisemitism (this will bring up titles like Linked by Gordon Korman and The Do More Club by Dana Kramaroff, about children dealing with antisemitic incidents at school)
  • Arab-Israeli conflict
  • Hate crimes
  • Islamophobia
  • Israel OR Israeli (NOTE: You will get results with authors and characters with the name “Israel” unless you narrow the search further)
  • Palestinian OR Palestine (The keyword “Palestinian” will also bring up books on Palestinian Americans)

A couple of hopeful and positive books.

Peace Here and in the Middle East, Fountaindale Public Library

How to Change the World in 12 Easy Steps

by Peggy Porter Tierney; illustrations by Marie Letourneau

How to Change the World in 12 Easy Steps was inspired by Eva Kor, a child survivor of Auschwitz. She always emphasized to young audiences that even though they were children, they had the power to change the world. Easy, simple gestures from picking up a piece of trash on the sidewalk, tidying a bedroom and accepting someone who is different, along with other gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness, can make a big difference. The book could also serve as a starting point for a conversation on prejudice. Marie Letourneau’s illustrations capture the warmth at the heart of this book, making it a fun, but life-changing read.

Peace Here and in the Middle East, Fountaindale Public Library

I is for Immigrants

by Selina Alko

What do African dance, samosas and Japanese gardens have in common? They are all gifts the United States received from immigrants: the vibrant, multifaceted people who share their heritage and traditions to enrich the fabric of our daily lives. From Jewish delis to bagpipes, bodegas and Zen Buddhism, this joyful ABC journey is a celebration of immigrants: our neighbors, our friends.

Peace Here and in the Middle East, Fountaindale Public Library

My Grandma and Me

by Mina Javaherbin; illustrated by Lindsey Yankey

In a true tale of a young girl in Iran and her grandmother, this beautiful ode to family celebrates small moments of love that become lifelong memories. It is also a story of interfaith friendships.