Picture books are a great way to begin conversations with young children. Books can help children (and their parents or caregivers) process big emotions around major life events, such as, for example, the first day of school or the birth of a new sibling. It can be reassuring to share a book and see our experiences reflected back to us — to know that we are not alone.
Since March 2020, we have all been dealing with what is now an ongoing COVID-19 crisis. We have learned new ways of being in the world: wearing masks, working and learning remotely, and finding new ways to connect while we are apart. We have also faced undue emotional stress, economic uncertainty, and even the death of loved ones.
In other words, there are lot of things to work through in the midst of a global pandemic. Luckily, picture book creators have already risen to the occasion and produced some lovely books that children and adults can both enjoy.
The whiplash speed at which our daily routines irrevocably changed in the Spring of 2020 is still staggering, to be honest. One day we went to work and to school, and then we didn't. For months. Outside, Inside explores how everyone went inside their homes to quarantine from the first wave COVID-19 virus. Inside our homes, we carried on as best we could; outside, essential workers worked to protect and care for the sick.
The book presents diverse family groups from around the U.S. and the world sheltering at home. The illustrations here are great fodder for conversation. Who is doing things to pass the time? Who is working at home? Who cannot do their work at home? How do you think they are feeling?
We went inside, the book says, "because everyone knew it was the right thing to do." We may all be different, and sheltered at home in different ways, but we are all human beings deserving of love, care, and good health.
The caring power of community is central to Sharing a Smile. Sophie notices that everyone is now wearing masks, "not just nurses and doctors, firefighters or superheroes." Her grandpa explains that masks help keep everyone safe. Sophie sees the people in her neighborhood wearing masks while they are out and about, but her friend Jenny from across the street looks a bit scared as she looks out the window.
Sophie has an idea. Together she and her grandpa make personalized masks for the whole neighborhood, including a special one to help Jenny feel brave.
We can check in on our neighbors to show that we care for them. Wearing a mask is another great way to show care for our neighbors. Masks help us not spread germs and viruses to one another. Take it from me and the terrible cold I got from my nieces and nephews before the pandemic. No one got what I had at the time, and I am thankful.
Although our coronavirus story is still ongoing, There is a Rainbow notes that stories do have an end. The in-between is where we are living now: on the other side of a Zoom screen, on the other side of a window, reaching out to loved ones via phone and even letters. In sparse, poetic text very appropriate for even the youngest children, we see that things can and do change for the better, as long as we continue to care for one another.
For more picture books about the COVID-19 pandemic, see the list below. If you are looking for picture books to help young children work through big changes and big events, be sure to talk to your local librarian at an open library branch near you.