From the Scholastic Bookshelf: How to Talk to Your Child About Death

Help your child manage and process grief with these books and articles.

Apr 01, 2022



From the Scholastic Bookshelf: How to Talk to Your Child About Death

Apr 01, 2022

When your child first learns about death, they may have questions about why it has to happen and whether it’s painful, or they may worry about what will happen to them when you, their parent, dies. 

After your child experiences the death of a loved one, they may feel guilt and anger, in addition to sadness. Death can be difficult to navigate and is full of complex emotions, but there are life-affirming actions you can help your child take to heal, like reading books. Books can be a guide to understanding death and the dying process — a real comfort in confusing times.

For its 100th anniversary, Scholastic spoke with experts to identify a set of books, articles, and tips that make starting a conversation with your child about death easier. These resources are part of a broader initiative, called the Scholastic Bookshelf, created for Instagram to raise awareness around contemporary issues affecting children today.

For more quick tips and book recommendations, sign up for our Scholastic Parents newsletter! 

Books to Help You Talk About Death
The picture book If You Miss Me shows young children that even after loved ones die, the memories they shared live on. Charlie’s grandmother has always told her to look at the moon if Charlie misses her when they’re apart. After Grandma dies, these words become even more precious, but painful, as Charlie learns to cope with loss.

For independent readers in the upper grades, Skeleton Tree is a supernatural story of one boy’s relationship with death. Twelve-year-old Stanley’s interest in the bone growing from his backyard turns to dismay when a full skeleton emerges — with a scythe at its feet. At the same time, the skeleton befriends Stanley’s sister Miren, who becomes sick. This is a powerful but tender novel about family and friendship that your young reader won’t soon forget. 

Articles to Help You Talk About Death

Scholastic has many real-life accounts of adolescent experiences with death that you can share with your child. Relatable stories help messages “stick” — and remind children they’re not alone.

In “Life Without Dad,” from Scholastic Action magazine, readers meet 18-year-old Hamilton, whose father died when he was 12. As a Native American with ancestral ties to the Nooksack tribe in Washington state, Hamilton honors his father by taking up his favorite sport, canoe racing. 

What began as a means of personal healing quickly grows into a source of confidence: Hamilton goes on to create a youth canoe team, and later earns recognition from the White House and former First Lady Michelle Obama for his efforts.

Cody Seward, the teenager at the center of “Why Him? Why Me?” from Scholastic Choices magazine, shares his experience with death as a football player involved in fatal game play. After a routine tackle leaves his opponent, Tyrell Cameron, 16, dead, Seward is inconsolable. His guilt causes him to grow detached. 

To help Seward manage his grief, his coach connects him with Brad Gaines, a former college football player who experienced a similar tragedy during game play. The article concludes with tips for strengthening one’s resiliency — the power to bounce back from tough times.

Seward is not alone in his early exposure to death: As “Dealing With Death” from Scholastic Choices magazine explains, 1 in 5 children will lose a loved one by age 18. Here, five teens recount what it was like to lose their loved one — an aunt, a brother, a father, and friends — and how they managed their grief. Each teen describes the actions they took to honor and celebrate the life of their loved one — small steps that, over time, helped them heal. 

Be sure to visit the Scholastic Bookshelf for more resources on death and other must-discuss topics. If you’re planning to talk with your child about other complex topics and seek tips or book recommendations, visit our Tough Topics hub. You’ll find a wealth of advice from Scholastic editors to help you navigate challenging conversations thoughtfully. Recent topic additions include:

Shop books about death and healing below! You can shop all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.

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