When I was working in social services, part of my job was to help provide resources to children and families that had incarcerated parents. Sometimes it was the mother that was in jail. Other times it was the father or the stepfather. As such, I developed a short list of books that are designed to help young kids deal with such issues. Some of the families that I worked with found the list helpful. With that said, here it is:
Jacqueline Woodson’s book “Visiting Day” is one that I recommended often. It focuses on a child that lives with her grandmother and goes to visit her incarcerated father. I felt that the author handled the subject well. I also liked the illustrations and found it appropriate for preschoolers as well as kindergarteners.
Maria Testa’s “Nine Candles” is another book that you may want to consider utilizing, especially if the children in question are of elementary school age. Its storyline focuses on a young boy who celebrates his birthday with his mother, who is incarcerated. Of course the story also touches on some of the emotions that he is feeling about the situation. Based on my experience, it is better suited for children over the age of 6.
“Mama Loves Me From Away”
Pat Brisson’s book “Mama Loves Me from Away” is worth checking out too. Its storyline focuses on a child whose mother is incarcerated. I found value in it because it touches on some of the ways that children can maintain a relationship with their incarcerated loved ones. I should also note that I know of families that successfully made use of the methods mentioned in the book. Thus, families in similar situations may find them helpful as well. I would recommend the book for elementary school age children.
“A Terrible Thing Happened”
An additional book that I found favor with was Margaret M. Holmes’ “A Terrible Thing Happened.” Its storyline focuses on a raccoon that is dealing with a traumatic situation. One of the things that make it a good book is that it touches on a variety of emotions that children are apt to feel when something bad happens. I also liked how it didn’t mention what the traumatic event was. Thus, it could be used whether the father or mother is the one incarcerated. In my opinion, it is best suited for kindergarten and elementary school age children.
“The Invisible String”
Finally, I would strongly suggest picking up a copy of Patrice Karst’s book “The Invisible String.” Although it doesn’t specifically tackle the issue of incarceration, the storyline does focus on how to cope with being separated from a loved one. Out of all the books on my list, it is actually my favorite because of the way that the author handles the topic. I also believe that many children with incarcerated parents will find it very comforting. From my perspective, it is appropriate for preschoolers as well as elementary school age children.
Source: Personal Experience
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