This short article considers books to use with children dealing with bereavement.
In a school not too far from me the children, parents and staff are dealing with the loss of a well-loved teacher. She was a delightful lady; a real-life Miss Honey. Hers is a loss that will be felt for many months to come. Sadly, their experience is not unique. I know of too many other schools that have had to face this awful pain. I am by no means qualified to offer bereavement advice and am not going to attempt to do so here. But as homage to a teacher I knew well, and who I know loved children’s books with a heartfelt passion, I can offer some suggestions of books to use with children experiencing loss.
Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley
This gentle and poignant book was written to help young children deal with death. It’s a sensitive but honest portrayal of passing which leaves the reader with hope for the future. By looking at the positive influence that badger had on all of his friend’s lives, the reader is left understanding the legacy that loved ones leave, long after they have passed away. A beautiful book.
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book
Written after the death of his son Eddie, this beautifully honest book deals with the deep, all-consuming sadness that can affect us after the loss of a loved-one. Particularly helpful for those children experiencing despair. One for the older children.
Charlotte’s Web by E B White
My go-to text for dealing with loss is Charlotte’s Web. Chapter 21 deals with Charlotte’s passing but also with her legacy: her unborn children who will ensure her memory lives on, and the lengths to which she went for her friend Wilbur. It is in this chapter that Charlotte utters these most beautiful words that resonate with all of us who experienced friendship that transcends death:
Grandad’s Island by Benji Davies
I adore this book. It evokes the special bond that exists between grandparents and their grandchildren. The story begins with the sort of joyful adventure that only grandparents seem able to provide. It ends with Grandad taking a journey that he must take on his own, and from which he cannot return. A bright, vibrant book aimed at younger readers but suitable for all.
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers
This gentle picture book examines what happens when we bottle-up our feelings after the loss of a loved one. An accessible text for those children struggling to let go of their pent-up emotions.
To my colleagues experiencing the loss of their dear friend, she may have gone but she’ll never be forgotten. Just like Charlotte the spider and Susan Varley’s Badger she has left a legacy;a school full of books and literature at the heart of all that you do.
Rachel Clarke: Director – Primary English Education.
There are a great many more children’s books that deal with death and loss. For further ideas, I recommend this Guardian article by Holly Webb.
I have begun to curate a collection of PSHE books on Pinterest that you may also find useful.