On the way to church this past weekend I listened to a radio show on the theme "Telling the Difficult Stories" and specifically a program on StoryCorps, an organization that works on oral history preservation. The commentary was powerful, especially the personal stories regarding 9/11. The program also got me thinking somewhat about the information I share with my own kids and what I don't share.
This time of year is hard for many and marks two devastating events of the past decade, the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina. Ten years ago, when the attacks occurred on 9/11, my children were not even born. My daughter was only a baby when Hurricane Katrina caused such massive destruction on August 29, 2005. However, she did recently learn a little about the destructive nature of hurricanes as Hurricane Irene hit the east coast last week. At what point in their lives is it appropriate for children to learn details of these events -- events that have so greatly impacted our lives in America during this first part of the twenty first century?
A month ago Peachtree Publishers send me a review copy of one of their new books, A Storm Called Katrina. I always read review books to myself and look over the content before reading them to my children. While I truly like how the author and illustrator approach telling the personal side of Hurricane Katrina, I decided that my kids just weren't old enough yet to comprehend the topics in the book. The publishers must have a similar view because they list the book as appropriate for ages 7-11. I do think regarding books on difficult subjects, the child's age is only one factor to consider. Some children are naturally more sensitive to certain topics, despite being old enough to understand. Additionally, if a child experiences a traumatic event for themself, obviously it is best to discuss the event in a cautious and caring manner.
As far as resources for parents, I found a helpful article on PBS called "Talking With Kids About News." The article doesn't specifically reference any particular news event but offers a nice view on how to approach sensitive news topics with your kids. Advice is offered for different age groups. Additionally, a recent Parents magazine blog article provides some recommendations on how to discuss 9/11 with your kids.
In regards to my family, I've decided not to mention the 9/11 anniversary this year. I feel both my daughter and son are still a little too young to fully understand and handle the information. Additionally, I rather doubt they will talk about the issue at school due to her age. If my daughter was even a year older, I think I would certainly have a conversation regarding the anniversary and the memorial.
If you do decide to talk to your kids about either Hurricane Katrina or 9/11, here are a few children's books to consider:
Children's Books about 9/11
14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy, illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez; Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah (Collaborator)
Fireboat by Maira Kalman
The Little Chapel that Stood by A.B.Curtis
September Roses by Jeanette Winter
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein
America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2011, The Day the Towers Fell by Don Brown
Children's Books about Hurricane Katrina
A Storm Called Katrina by Myron Uhlberg, illustrated by Colin Bootman
Molly the Pony by Pam Kaster
Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery, illustrated by Jean Cassels
HuffPost - Ten Books About 9/11 to Share With Kids & Teens