Ashley Hosbach stands behind bookshelf with children's books displayed on top.

Whether It's Bad News or a Pandemic, These Children's Books May Help

Schools, teachers and parents are still dealing with the pandemic’s aftermath. That’s why librarian Ashley Hosbach launched this project.

Anne E. Bromley

"When Sadness Is at Your Door.” “Me and My Fear.” “The Breaking News.” “Sofia and the Shot.” “The Little Cat That Zoomed.”

These are some of the book titles in a unique collection housed at the University of Virginia.

Ashley Hosbach, the University of Virginia’s education and social science research librarian and liaison to the School of Education and Human Development, found an influx of books were published as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but were hard to find. Some of the children’s books focus on death and illness of loved ones. Some cover reactions to disturbing news or the fear of vaccines.

Schools, teachers and parents are still dealing with the pandemic and its effects on children, and that’s where Hosbach hopes this project can help. She and her team developed the first and most comprehensive pandemic-related children’s book collection in the country, with more than 300 titles. “We verified this by searching our title list on WorldCat, the world library catalog,” Hosbach said. “In many cases, we are the only library that has some of these books.”

The collection is located at UVA’s Charles L. Brown Science and Engineering Library in Clark Hall, across from the main Children’s and Young Adult Literature Collection. Hosbach also prepared a guide to the collection to support researchers, educators, administrators, counselors and parents, and to serve as a model for educators and libraries globally.

“The collection website is getting thousands of hits, and we’re getting more requests for consulting and other suggestions,” Hosbach said.

Steve Plaskon, an associate professor of education, asked Hosbach to give a presentation recently to one of his courses on elementary teaching. He called her “a wonderful resource.”

“Often there is a gap between what our [student] interns need to be able to create successful lessons and what is provided in the field,” Plaskon said. “Ashley Hosbach’s collection is unique and unusual, and I don’t think there is another like it anywhere.”

Hosbach said there is a very low number of vaccination books published for children – something she is writing an article on. “The majority of these tend to be from small presses or are self-published by medical personnel. We need more authors and publishers to write books about vaccination for children to help build vaccine confidence.”

She said she also sees it as a collection that “will be referenced historically for research on the pandemic and how public health information during a crisis is communicated to children.”

For instance, “Sofia and the Shot,” written by nurse practitioner Sarah Wilson, features a young girl who is anxious about getting her vaccine. A talking cat, Mr. Whiskers, appears to reassure her and takes her on a journey to explain why vaccines are important.

Hosbach also recommends another feline-themed volume, “The Little Cat That Zoomed,” by Ashley and Eyal Podell, that takes the family cat’s perspective to help children process changes in routine.

Two other titles provide examples of books that tackle more general emotional and potentially traumatic issues: “How to Tame My Anxiety Monster,” by Melanie Hawkins, an elementary arts teacher, and “The Breaking News,” by Sarah Lynne Reul, which Hosbach called “a great book for any stressful situation that helps children focus on the helpers and how they can contribute during a crisis versus just the bad news.”

Hosbach also pointed out that the collection has been “mapped,” or matched, to an educational framework known as the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, as well as the Virginia Department of Education Health Standards of Learning, to help UVA student teachers and others more easily integrate the material into classroom instruction.

Building the collection with funding from the Jefferson Trust, Hosbach hopes to be able to purchase more pro-vaccination books and give them away. She is actively seeking partners in the Charlottesville-Albemarle community to distribute books. Local organizations can connect with Hosbach directly if interested in collaborating.

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