Not sure how to talk to kids about what’s happening in world events? We’ve rounded up some books that provide an accessible way to talk to kids about lessons we can learn from history, and also included some books to use as resources for media literacy. Plus, see below to find journal entry prompts to help your kids process their emotions.
Because talking about current events–especially those involving war–can be a triggering experience for people at any age, it can be a good idea to allow kids to process what they’ve already seen and heard before starting any new conversations. By creating a space for kids to journal, they can start digesting their own emotions and responses. Keep in mind that some children have experienced the effects of war and may feel a personal connection to the Eastern European population closely impacted by Putin’s actions. To provide you with some talking points, we’ve found a list of sources that can help educators talk about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with students.
Sources for Talking to Children About the Attack on Ukraine
Teachers can offer a safe space for students to talk about the war in Ukraine and help them take action – with entry-level talking points for kids at varying ages
Hear what teens have to say about the war in Ukraine – teen posts from the New York Times forum
Journal Entry Prompts for Processing Current Events:
Prompt 1 for early education: Think about the news events that you’ve watched or heard adults talk about this week. What was the news? Do you think it is important? How do you feel about this news?
Prompt 2 for middle graders: Think about the news events that have happened this week. Choose the one event that you think is important, and write a paragraph journal entry about it. What happened? Why do you think it is important? How do you feel about what you’ve heard?
Prompt 3 for high schoolers: Think about the current events that have happened in the world this past week. Choose a specific event that you think is important, and write a multi-paragraph journal entry about it. What happened? Why is it important? Do you feel personally impacted by this? How can you empathize with those affected by the event?
Click the tabs below to view more books in each age category.
THE BREAKING NEWS by Sarah Lynne Reul
When devastating news rattles a young girl’s community, her normally attentive parents and neighbors are suddenly exhausted and distracted. At school, her teacher tells the class to look for the helpers—the good people working to make things better in big and small ways. She wants more than anything to help in a BIG way, but maybe she can start with one small act of kindness instead…and then another, and another. Small things can compound, after all, to make a world of difference.
The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul touches on themes of community, resilience, and optimism with an authenticity that will resonate with readers young and old.
★ “Featuring a multi-ethnic neighborhood of individuals connected—for better or worse—through their shared disquiet, this is a wise and timely book.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“The ambiguous nature of the circumstances makes [The Breaking News] appropriate for many situations children face in today’s never-ending news cycle. An absolute-must for…libraries.” — School Library Journal
“If I could pick one book to hand to every teen—and adult—on earth, this is the one. True or False is accessible, thorough, and searingly honest, and we desperately needed it.” —Becky Albertalli, author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
A former CIA analyst unveils the true history of fake news and gives readers tips on how to avoid falling victim to it in this highly designed informative YA nonfiction title.
“Fake news” is a term you’ve probably heard a lot in the last few years, but it’s not a new phenomenon. From the ancient Egyptians to the French Revolution to Jack the Ripper and the founding fathers, fake news has been around as long as human civilization. But that doesn’t mean that we should just give up on the idea of finding the truth.
In True or False, former CIA analyst Cindy Otis will take readers through the history and impact of misinformation over the centuries, sharing stories from the past and insights that readers today can gain from them. Then, she shares lessons learned in over a decade working for the CIA, including actionable tips on how to spot fake news, how to make sense of the information we receive each day, and, perhaps most importantly, how to understand and see past our own information biases, so that we can think critically about important issues and put events happening around us into context.
True or False includes a wealth of photo illustrations, informative inserts, and sidebars containing interesting facts and trivia sure to engage readers in critical thinking and analysis.
“Great historic examples. Practical solutions. A guidebook to learning from the past with actionable solutions to help you save our future.” —Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, Former Senior Government Official, Famous Hacker, and Information Security Expert
“This is an important and timely book. The straightforward language, geared for readers ages 13 to 18, doesn’t diminish its usefulness for adults. It would also be a good source for teachers leading middle or high school classes in media studies, current events, or critical thinking.” — The Washington Independent Review of Books
Books About Wars in History
The Silent Unseen by Amanda McCrina
On Sale April 5, 2022
A mesmerizing historical novel of suspense and intrigue about a teenage girl who risks everything to save her missing brother.
Poland, July 1944. Sixteen-year-old Maria is making her way home after years of forced labor in Nazi Germany, only to find her village destroyed and her parents killed in a war between the Polish Resistance and Ukrainian nationalists. To Maria’s shock, the local Resistance unit is commanded by her older brother, Tomek—who she thought was dead. He is now a “Silent Unseen,” a special-operations agent with an audacious plan to resist a new and even more dangerous enemy sweeping in from the East.
When Tomek disappears, Maria is determined to find him, but the only person who might be able to help is a young Ukrainian prisoner and the last person Maria trusts—even as she feels a growing connection to him that she can’t resist.
Tightly woven, relentlessly intense, The Silent Unseen depicts an explosive entanglement of loyalty, lies, and love during wartime, from Amanda McCrina, the acclaimed author of Traitor, a debut hailed by Elizabeth Wein as “Alive with detail and vivid with insight . . . a piercing and bittersweet story.”
“Taut, twisting, and eloquently gritty, The Silent Unseen brings the shifting realities of post-war Europe to harrowing, heartbreaking life.” —Sharon Cameron, author of The Light in Hidden Places and Bluebird
“The Silent Unseen is a historical fiction that is both incredibly immersive and well researched. McCrina has spun a haunting and captivating tale.” —June Hur, author of The Silence of Bones, The Forest of Stolen Girls, and The Red Palace
Amanda McCrina’s Traitor is a tightly woven YA thrill ride exploring political conflict, deep-seated prejudice, and the terror of living in a world where betrayal is a matter of life or death.
Poland, 1944. After the Soviet liberation of Lwów from Germany, the city remains a battleground between resistance fighters and insurgent armies, its loyalties torn between Poland and Ukraine.
Seventeen-year-old Tolya Korolenko is half Ukrainian, half Polish, and he joined the Soviet Red Army to keep himself alive and fed. When he not-quite-accidentally shoots his unit’s political officer in the street, he’s rescued by a squad of Ukrainian freedom fighters. They might have saved him, but Tolya doesn’t trust them. He especially doesn’t trust Solovey, the squad’s war-scarred young leader, who has plenty of secrets of his own.
Then a betrayal sends them both on the run. And in a city where loyalty comes second to self-preservation, a traitor can be an enemy or a savior—or sometimes both.
“Alive with detail and vivid with insight, Traitor is an effortlessly immersive account of a shocking and little-known moment in the turbulent history of Poland and Ukraine—and ironically, a piercing and bittersweet story of unflinching loyalty. I think Tolya has left my heart a little damaged forever.” —Elizabeth Wein, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author of Code Name Verity and The Enigma Game
“This riveting WWII novel starts with a literal bang. . .Crisp writing plunges readers into a brutal world rife with deception, betrayal. . .and occasional glints of compassion. . .To dig much deeper into specifics would detract from the pleasure of this novel’s hairpin twists, which begin early and continue to the final pages. An intricate depiction of a region whose complex history is likely to be unfamiliar to many in the United States.” —Publishers Weekly
Fallout by Steve Sheinkin
New York Times bestselling author Steve Sheinkinpresents a follow up to his award-winning book Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, taking readers on a terrifying journey into the Cold War and our mutual assured destruction.
As World War II comes to a close, the United States and the Soviet Union emerge as the two greatest world powers on extreme opposites of the political spectrum. After the United States showed its hand with the atomic bomb in Hiroshima, the Soviets refuse to be left behind. With communism sweeping the globe, the two nations begin a neck-and-neck competition to build even more destructive bombs and conquer the Space Race. In their battle for dominance, spy planes fly above, armed submarines swim deep below, and undercover agents meet in the dead of night.
The Cold War game grows more precarious as weapons are pointed towards each other, with fingers literally on the trigger. The decades-long showdown culminates in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the world’s close call with the third—and final—world war.
A Shelf Awareness Best Children’s Book of 2021
A Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Book of 2021
A Horn Book Fanfare Best Book of the Year
“Throughout, the highly charged narrative maintains a strong perspective and keen attention to detail, rounding out the figures involved—such as the American pilot Gary Powers, who flew U-2 jets to spy on Russia—with character and personality.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
Bomb by Steve Sheinkin
Perfect for middle grade readers and history enthusiasts, New York Times bestselling author Steve Sheinkinpresents the fascinating and frightening true story of the creation behind the most destructive force that birthed the arms race and the Cold War in Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon.
A Newbery Honor book
A National Book Awards finalist for Young People’s Literature
A Washington Post Best Kids Books of the Year title
In December of 1938, a chemist in a German laboratory made a shocking discovery: When placed next to radioactive material, a Uranium atom split in two. That simple discovery launched a scientific race that spanned three continents.
In Great Britain and the United States, Soviet spies worked their way into the scientific community; in Norway, a commando force slipped behind enemy lines to attack German heavy-water manufacturing; and deep in the desert, one brilliant group of scientists was hidden away at a remote site at Los Alamos. This is the story of the plotting, the risk-taking, the deceit, and genius that created the world’s most formidable weapon. This is the story of the atomic bomb.
“This superb and exciting work of nonfiction would be a fine tonic for any jaded adolescent who thinks history is ‘boring.’ It’s also an excellent primer for adult readers who may have forgotten, or never learned, the remarkable story of how nuclear weaponry was first imagined, invented and deployed—and of how an international arms race began well before there was such a thing as an atomic bomb.” —The Wall Street Journal
Strongman by Kenneth C. Davis
From the bestselling author of the Don’t Know Much About® books comes a dramatic account of the origins of democracy, the history of authoritarianism, and the reigns of five of history’s deadliest dictators.
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year!A Bank Street College of Education Best Book of the Year! A YALSA 2021 Nonfiction Award Nominee!
What makes a country fall to a dictator? How do authoritarian leaders—strongmen—capable of killing millions acquire their power? How are they able to defeat the ideal of democracy? And what can we do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
By profiling five of the most notoriously ruthless dictators in history—Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Saddam Hussein—Kenneth C. Davis seeks to answer these questions, examining the forces in these strongmen’s personal lives and historical periods that shaped the leaders they’d become.
Meticulously researched and complete with photographs, Strongman provides insight into the lives of five leaders who callously transformed the world and serves as an invaluable resource in an era when democracy itself seems in peril.
* “A fascinating, highly readable portrayal of infamous men that provides urgent lessons for democracy now.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Strongman is a book that is both deeply researched and deeply felt, both an alarming warning and a galvanizing call to action, both daunting and necessary to read and discuss.” —Cynthia Levinson, author of Fault Lines in the Constitution
Chance: Escape from the Holocaust: Memories of a Refugee Childhood by Uri Shulevitz
“Harrowing, engaging and utterly honest.” —Elizabeth Wein, The New York Times Book Review
“A captivating chronicle of eight turbulent years.” —The Wall Street Journal
From a beloved voice in children’s literature comes this landmark memoir of hope amid harrowing times and an engaging and unusual Holocaust story.
With backlist sales of over 2.3 million copies, Uri Shulevitz, one of Farrar, Straus and Grioux’s most acclaimed picture-book creators, details the eight-year odyssey of how he and his Jewish family escaped the terrors of the Nazis by fleeing Warsaw for the Soviet Union in Chance.
It was during those years, with threats at every turn, that the young Uri experienced his awakening as an artist, an experience that played a key role during this difficult time. By turns dreamlike and nightmarish, this heavily illustrated account of determination, courage, family loyalty, and the luck of coincidence is a true publishing event.
Winner of the SCBWI Golden Kite Award for Illustrated Books for Older Readers
A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2020
A New York Times Best Children’s Book of 2020
Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2020
Booklist Best Books of 2020
Horn Book Fanfare 2020 Booklist
Chicago Public Library Best of the Best 2020
Jewish Journal Twenty of the Best 2020 (Non-Holiday) Jewish Books for Kids
A National Jewish Book Award 2020 Finalist for Middle Grade Fiction
A 2021 Golden Dome Book Award Selection
Nonfiction graphic novels designed to educate, entertain, and empower the citizens of tomorrow
Authors: Beka Feathers, Ally Shwed, Ian Rosenberg, Mike Cavallaro, Kasia Babis, Dan Rather, Elliot Kirschner, Tim Foley, Cynthia Levinson, Sanford Levinson, Daniel G. Newman, George O’Connor