Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Talking About the Concept of Death Through Children's Books

Yamini Vijayan writes about the difficulty of explaining the concept of death to children, and ways in which reading books can help. In this article she also examines questions that children ask parents, how parents talk about death with their children as well as books being aids to talk about this topic.

As someone who has been heavily moulded by literature, I do believe that stories can be powerful tools when it comes to helping children interpret the world around them. Explaining death to children can be quite daunting and often, you’ll find that it’s easier using stories as a starting point for discussion. While several children’s books contain traces of death, I have tried to include books in which death has had a stronger presence.
Let me begin with the death of animals and birds, a common theme in children’s literature. Several teachers and parents I’ve spoken to feel that this is perhaps a gentler way to ease children into the reality of loss.

While speaking to a friend of mine – an expert librarian – about this subject, she pointed out to another aspect of loss I hadn’t yet deeply thought about: seeing your loved ones cope. To illustrate this painful aspect, she read aloud this passage from Ruskin Bond’s Angry River in which a girl learns about her grandmother’s death: “But even as she spoke, she knew that Grandmother was no longer with them. The dazed look in the old man’s eyes told her as much. She wanted to cry – not for Grandmother, who could suffer no more, but for Grandfather, who looked so helpless and bewildered; she did not want him to be unhappy.”

Yamini also adds our own book 'My Two Great-Grandmothers' to the list of books that can be used to talk about death. She states that it is "An evocative book filled with lush descriptions and vivid illustrations, this is about a child’s relationship with her two great-grandmothers, one from Norway and the other from Gambia." (disclaimer : Yamini works with Pratham Books). Find her entire list here.

Additional reading :
Consolation for Life’s Darkest Hours: 7 Unusual and Wonderful Books that Help Children Grieve and Make Sense of Death

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