ROSEBURG, Ore. — Children's literature is often a reflection of universal teachings a society wishes to pass on to its youth. From being weary of strangers, to sharing, and respecting our elders, we learn many essential life lessons early on from the simple stories we read, or that are told to us.
According to the Associated Press and NPD BookScan, which tracks U.S. retail sales of print books, sales of literature geared towards kids that tackle topics like violence and grief are up.
The market for texts geared towards young readers that tackle trauma and intense emotions has grown for nine consecutive years, with nearly six million copies sold in 2021 alone. The number of books in circulation that tackle these themes has more than doubled since 2012. NPD points to elevated rates of depression among youth, exacerbated by increased violence in schools underpinned by the shooting in Uvalde, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than a third of high school students nation wide experienced poor mental health during the pandemic, according to a report released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The report also highlighted that 44% reported feeling persistently sad or hopeless about the future. While the pandemic undoubtedly took a toll on our nation's mental health, nothing can be said for the stress students face in the wake of a slew of recent mass shootings.
One book, “I’m Not Scared … I’m Prepared,” had to be reprinted multiple times to keep up with demand in the wake of the Uvalde shooting, according to the National Center for Youth Issues—the nonprofit that published the book which is geared towards kids. The story, first published in 2014, features a teacher who shows children what to do when danger strikes at their school.
Another recent release came from right here in Oregon. Author Kindra Neely is a survivor of the 2015 Umpqua Community College shooting that happened near Roseburg, Oregon. A gunman killed eight students and a professor, also wounding nine others. In her graphic novel "Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting" she combines her beautifully detailed illustrations with the gritty reality of a tragedy like the one she experienced.
Her book goes beyond this though, as Neely addresses her experience as a survivor of a mass casualty event. She describes a feeling of helplessness as things are repeated in Las Vegas, Parkland, Buffalo and then again in Uvalde.
The American Psychological Association has been getting involved and is printing its own books. It does this though 'Magination Press which helps authors print and distribute children's books that tackle a variety of themes ranging from depression and trauma to handling emotions and anxiety. One of their more popular titles, "Something Happened in Our Park: Standing Together After Gun Violence" details how the main character, Miles, grapples with the shooting of his cousin Keisha. Miles realizes people in his community can work together to reduce the likelihood of future violence.
'Magination Press says that the book is geared towards, "providing parents with helpful messages of reassurance and empowerment." The book also gives parents tools to discuss gun violence with their kids like sample dialogues and hypothetical scenarios.