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Using Storybooks to Help Children Cope with Crisis

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it."
  --Helen Keller

When a crisis, such as Hurricane Sandy, shakes a child's life, it is often up to teachers to recognize and identify signs that the child is suffering from continuing stress and to help parents make appropriate decisions regarding next steps. Although teachers cannot provide therapy to children, they already have the tools they need to help children cope: storybooks.

With the effective use of a few literature-based activities and ideas, you can help promote children's ability to cope and heal. The following excerpt from After the Crisis by Cathy Grace and Elizabeth Shores expands on the popular children's book, It's Mine! by Leo Lionni. In It's Mine! three young frogs spend a lot of time arguing and bickering with each other. When a real crisis occurs, they realize that cooperation makes more sense than arguing.


Discussion Starters

Use the following prompts to encourage the children to talk about their experiences, either in the context of the book or in the context of a traumatic experience.

For 3- to 8-Year-Olds

Are the frogs friends?

  • How do you know the frogs are friends?

For 5- to 8-Year-Olds

  • What is the frogs' shelter in the storm? How does it keep them safe?
  • Who protects the frogs from the rising water? How do they do that?
  • Where did you stay in our hurricane (or other disaster)? Did you feel safe?
  • Look of Leo Lionni's artwork:
    • The animals, rocks, and plants look like cut paper.
    • Some of the cut paper has paintbrush strokes on it.

Art Center Activities
For 3- to 8-Year-Olds

  • Experiment with cut paper pictures.

For 5- to 8-Year-Olds

  • Make a picture using Leo Lionni's technique.

Writing Center Options
For 3- to 8-Year-Olds

  • Dictate or write a sentence or story about how you made your picture.
  • Dictate or write a sentence or story about our storm (or other disaster).

For 5- to 8-Year-Olds

  • Dictate or write a list of ways people can be rescued.


After the Crisis: Using Storybooks to Help Children Cope is the companion book to Preparing for Disaster: What Every Early Childhood Director Needs to KnowAfter the Crisis also helps address other crises that can affect a child, including earthquakes, epidemics and mass-casualty incidents, fires and explosions, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and major storms, shelter experiences, and volcanic eruptions.

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