Natural disasters can be scary topics for young children, but reading together about these events in books is a great (and less-frightening) way to discuss them. And, it allows for great conversations about what to do if one occurs.
How Reading Can Help
Reading books about storms and emergency situations can help children better understand and prepare for them in the following ways:
- Thinking through emergency scenarios. By seeing how characters model safe behaviors and think through actions in advance, children are better equipped to respond to and cope with an emergency situation.
- Correcting false beliefs. It’s common for children to feel guilt after a major disaster (i.e., I hit my brother and then there was a big storm − it’s my fault). However, reading and learning basic facts about weather and storms can help them understand that storms are natural events and not anyone’s fault.
- Learning about resilience. Through stories, children can witness how characters were resilient and helped others during and after emergencies. This includes characters demonstrating healthy coping mechanisms, such as being with friends, helping others, or engaging in stress-relieving hobbies such as art or sports.
- Expressing and handling emotions. Instead of reliving a scary moment in their own lives, children can have more open conversations about the characters’ experiences, thoughts and feelings.
Natural Disaster Books for Children
Here are a few books from Save the Children® and the American Library Association’s Reading to Ready Booklist that will help you introduce the topic of natural disasters:
- Clifford and the Big Storm by Norman Bridwell (2-4 years)
- How Do Dinosaurs Stay Safe? by Jane Yolen (3-5 years)
- Stormy Night by Salina Yoon (3-5 years)
- Flood by Alvaro F. Villa (5 years and up)
- Ready, Set … WAIT! What Animals Do Before a Hurricane by Patti R. Zelch (5 years and up)
Engage Your Child in Safety Discussions While Reading
When reading together, engage your child in additional discussions about natural disasters and how to prepare for them with the following suggestions:
- Have your child explain what’s happening in the illustrations and make sound effects (i.e., wind, rain) together to represent the weather in the story.
- Ask your child questions about safety and emergency preparedness, such as “How did the characters keep themselves safe?” or “How do you think the characters felt?”
- Reinforce what the characters did and did not do with respect to safety, evacuation, sheltering and planning.
- Remind children that disasters can be scary – and it’s normal to be scared! But by having a plan and practicing it, we can learn how to be safe.
- During these discussions, remember to reassure children that many caring adults will be there to keep them safe during an emergency if one occurs.
Looking for tips and resources to help your family prepare for emergency situations? Read more on teaching children about disasters, complete the three Prep Steps as a family and find additional safety-related content on the Pointers for Parents blog. For more family conversation starters, check out our book suggestions on Pinterest.