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Using Books to Support the Healthcare Experience of Children and the Whole Family

Dad and son reading books together

Not sure how to explain cancer to your child?

Not sure how to explain positive coping?

Not sure how to explain grief and loss?

A developmentally-appropriate and non-threatening way is through a children's book!

Books are great conversation starters with children about how they are feeling about stressful events, and often answer and create questions. They are not only great companions, but also great teachers. Children experience a wide range of emotions, but do not have the cognitive and communication skills to verbally share them. Using books can be a therapeutic experience to help children find resonation and validation when seeing characters in stories experience similar situations and feelings.

Why is this important?

Oftentimes, children can distance their own worries and concerns. However, utilizing a book and other characters can support children to explore more emotional or sometimes painful topics that are more difficult to face directly. This helps child life specialists, parents, and caregivers to create a safe space for assessment and conversation with children. Another benefit is simply the modeling and teaching of healthy coping strategies. This helps to guide children through problem-solving in developmentally-appropriate and healthy ways.

What books to choose?

Books can be easily found in bookstores, through online stores such as Amazon, and for free at your local library. Many people also post read-alouds and reviews on Youtube or personal blogs to aid one’s selection. Consult a child life specialist regarding what, when, and how to utilize books to support you in helping your child understand or process a specific topic. Child life specialists are trained child development experts to help children and families navigate healthcare encounters and utilize books often as a therapeutic intervention or resource.


We have listed a few book suggestions to help you start tackling difficult conversation topics:


1. Cancer Party! by Sara Olsher