Tough Topics: Collections on Loss, Anxiety, Bullying, Sex & Other Childhood Issues

In my library we have a small but well-used collection of parenting materials in the Children’s Library. We have “grown-up” books (meaning titles that are written for parents and caregivers in mind) as well as “issue-based books” for children (meaning they are written for children, but designed to be shared and discussed with an adult.)

The issue-based books for children are slightly separated and color-coded with spine labels so that parents and caregivers can browse with relative ease and privacy. For example, not every parent might feel comfortable asking a librarian where the divorce books for children are shelved. Instead, we have signage indicating the “special topics for children” section and a color-coded chart so that parents may navigate the shelves independently, if they so desire.

We collect on the following “special topics”: Divorce and Separation, Grief/Loss, Puberty/Sex Ed, Adoption, New Baby (specifically books that address sibling concerns about a new addition to the family,) Bullying, Stranger Danger/Personal Safety, Potty Training, Special Needs (specifically books that are designed to explain various special needs to children and how to help a sibling or friend with special needs.)

We also have an “Other” sub-section that allows us to add special topic books for children as needed. After the Newtown incident this past year, we purchased books on anxiety and coping with tragedy. We also supplemented our physical collection with handouts listing local mental health resources for parents and children. Finally, by reaching out to local therapists, we were able to host several family discussion sessions on coping with the Newtown tragedy. Parents were able to ask the professionals for their advice and guidance on assuaging the fears of their children. On our end, we were able to build relationships with our local mental health providers. When a particular issue crops up, we can reach out to them for resources and book recommendations.

While some of the books in our “special topics” section can also be found throughout our picture book collection (especially books on getting a new brother or sister or books about children who have special needs) we make sure to populate this particular section with books that are expository in nature and do not lend themselves to a typical read-aloud. They are books that should be discussed before, during, and after the reading. They are conversation starters.

Do you have a Parenting section in your Children’s Library? How is it organized and how to you find new materials for it? What special topics do you have?


  1. Heidi

    This would most likely go under Grief/Loss, but I remember vividly when a patron came requesting picture books about miscarriage. There was very little we could find to add to our collection on that topic. Though most of those tragedies occur before a young child would be aware of a pregnancy, it is still common enough that there is a need for books on losing an infant…particularly with the focus on a child that has not been able to be met but where there may be prenatal bonding, as in the case of miscarriage or stillbirth.

  2. Kiera

    Hi Heidi,

    That’s indeed a tough one. Although not specific to your question, I have found it useful to have books in this collection that cover a wide range of problems. My favorite example is A Terrible Thing Happened (http://www.worldcat.org/title/terrible-thing-happened/oclc/42391509&referer=brief_results.) In this book, the “terrible thing” is never named. We just know that the character witnessed something awful and is having feelings of anger and fear about it. A kind therapist helps the main character work through those feelings and get better.

    Books like this can be applied to many tough situations. And what is nice is that the focus is on the healing process. I just wish there were more like them available. Hint, hint publishers!

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