According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, it is estimated that 15,780 children (0-19 years of age) are diagnosed with cancer every year. Approximately 1 child in 285 is diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. before their 20th birthday. Every 3 minutes, a child is diagnosed with cancer somewhere in the world . When a child is going through cancer treatment, the challenges extend to the entire family, and librarians can play a crucial role in helping them cope.
Cancer is a disease of high complexity, with demands that go beyond the assistance of healthcare professionals. More than diagnosis and treatment, these children need a long chain of support that includes mental health counseling, encouraging and advising families on how to support the children, specific hygiene care (since children can be immunosuppressed due to treatments), and because children going through cancer treatment will miss their classes, there is a process of learning to adapt and still get their education.
Childhood cancer is not a single disease, but a group that includes blood cancer, such as leukemia—the most common type of cancer in children—and lymphoma; brain tumors; and other solid tumors that occur in organs, bones or soft tissues . Each group is divided into several subtypes. When a diagnosis is received, children have many questions, and families are overwhelmed with their own questions. Books are sources of support during this delicate period and librarians are essential to helping families find the right book.
Some topics to consider when suggesting the right book are:
- Type of diagnosis
- Understanding treatment
- Classroom conversations about cancer
- Self-acceptance and building self-esteem
- Bullying and childhood cancer
Some key questions to determine appropriate book selection could include:
- Does this book fit the age group?
- Is the child undergoing treatment or receiving palliative care? (A terminal diagnosis or lifetime illness may require books that address the topic more specifically)
- Is the book ideal for a specific type of cancer only, or can it fit for others?
Considering context (family beliefs, cosmetic effects of treatment, etc.) and finding a library with a variety of books about childhood cancer is important, and librarians have the skills to assess the books and point out which one best fits the specific needs of the child.
 American Childhood Cancer Organization. US Childhood Cancer Statistics. 2021. https://www.acco.org/us-childhood-cancer-statistics/
 Schmidt CWP. Chemotherapy for Neonates and Infants: Pharmacological Oncology for Children Under 1 Year Old. Springer; 2018.
Our guest blogger today is Carola Schmidt. Carola is a bestselling author of children’s books about cancer and uses her experience as a pediatric oncology pharmacist to write scientific books for Springer Nature. She is in the BookAuthority list of “81 Best Leukemia Books of All Time” with Chubby’s Tale: The true story of a teddy bear who beat cancer, and her latest #OwnVoices book, Tell Me a Story, Babushka, will be released by Reycraft Books in November, 2022. For more information visit her website at kidscancerbooks.com.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
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