Sad Is Important, Too

Lara Schopp Articles, Children & Families, Congregational Care, Connect, Joe Walker, The Well

By Rev. Joe Walker, Minister of Congregational Care

Recently, one of my favorite writers, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña, published an op-ed in Time, “Why We Shouldn’t Shield Children From Darkness.” He related an experience where his daughter saw his wife cry. “I couldn’t help thinking,” he wrote, “a fraction of her innocence had been lost that day. But maybe these minor episodes of loss are just as vital to the well-adjusted child’s development as moments of joy. Maybe instead of anxiously trying to protect our children from every little hurt and heartache, our job is to simply support them through such experiences. To talk to them. To hold them.”

It is hard enough to talk to adults about sadness, loss, death, and confusing social interactions. And, it is even harder to talk with children about these topics. Here are four books that I highly recommend for young (and not-so-young) readers. They are available in The Well and I have a copy of each if you would like to flip through them.

Be Kind, Pat Zietlow Miller, Jen Hill (Illustrator)
When a classmate spills purple juice on her dress, our young protagonist tries to be kind, but her gesture does not produce the result she expected. She sets off to explore what it means to be kind. (3 – 6 Years)

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, E. B. Lewis (Illustrator)
A new girl joins our protagonist’s class. Day after day our protagonist passes up opportunities to show the newcomer a little kindness. Then, one day, the opportunities are gone. (5 – 8 Years)

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, Christian Robinson (Illustrator)
From the author of the beloved classic Goodnight Moon comes this story about children playing in a park and discovering a dead bird. The children act on the natural human inclination to honor the life that has been lost through ritual. (4 – 7 Years)

Love by Matt de la Peña, Loren Long (Illustrator)
Gentle prose accompanies our little one from infancy to independence, illuminating love along the way. “And in time you learn to recognize a love overlooked. A slice of burned toast that tastes like love.” (4 – 8 Years)

In a companion piece in Time, author Kate DiCamillo mused on “Why Children’s Books Should Be a Little Sad.” A friend told DiCamillo that when she was young she read Charlotte’s Web over and over, “I knew for a fact that it wasn’t going to turn out differently… And I found out that I could bear it… That was what I needed to hear. That I could bear it somehow.”