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17 books to ease kids' anxiety about coronavirus

Stories can help soothe children who are worried about their world right now.

Friends far away. Schedules disrupted. School, gone.

For a young child living through the coronavirus crisis, it’s not just the fear of illness that’s cause for anxiety. Children thrive on structure and routine, and much of that has flown out the window.

One source of comfort in any crisis is a good story. Several publishers have created free coronavirus books for children that present facts about COVID-19 and explain social distancing. Now’s also the time to pull out old favorites for the comfort of a familiar read-aloud, and explore new titles that address a child’s anxiety head-on.

Coronavirus Books for Kids

1. "Heroes Wear Masks: Elmo's Super Adventure"

Elmo is nervous about starting school, but learns to wash his hands, take deep breaths and wear a mask to keep everyone safe.

2. "The Great Realization," by Tomos Roberts and Nomoco

Roberts' video circulated early during the pandemic as a bedtime story explaining how the world changed in 2020. It's now a picture book that might offer some silver linings.

3. "Coronavirus: A Book for Children,” by Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson, Nia Roberts and Axel Scheffler

With illustrations from the artist behind “The Gruffalo,” this kid-friendly explanation of the coronavirus is free to download. It explains what a virus is, what happens if you catch coronavirus and why we can’t go to the places we normally would.

4. “My Hero Is You: How Kids Can Fight COVID-19,” by Helen Patuck

In this free picture book, developed with public health experts, a girl and her dragon set off to tell the world about the coronavirus and staying safe.

5."Bad Kitty: Wash Your Paws," by Nick Bruel

This free downloadable book explains the importance of hand (er, paw) washing and lets kids color in the pages themselves. Bruel also has been sharing storytimes and drawing videos during the pandemic.

6. "Thank You, Helpers," by Patricia Hegarty and Michael Emmerson

As Mister Rogers would say, in times of crisis, look for the helpers. This book celebrates the doctors and nurses who are saving lives, as well as the teachers, grocery workers and delivery people on the front lines during shutdowns.

Books for kids with anxiety

1. “That’s Life,” by Ame Dyckman and Cori Doerrfeld

This cheery picture book isn’t about anxiety per se, but it’s about accepting life as it comes (in this case, adorably, in a crate). This spirited “Life” isn’t always gentle or easy, but you learn to roll with it. It’s a good lesson for all of us now, and would also make an excellent graduation gift.

2. "Here and Now," by Julia Denos and E.B. Goodale

This meditation in a book encourages little ones to focus on the world around them, noticing the book itself, the chair beneath them, the ground beneath the chair. It's a small introduction to mindfulness, with the power to soothe.

3. “The Good Egg,” by Jory John and Pete Oswald

Your scrambled little ones might relate to the Good Egg, who is so well behaved that he feels responsible for all the closer-to-rotten eggs in his carton. When the Good Egg starts to crack under pressure, he learns how to practice a little self-care and accept his friends – and himself.

4. “I’m Worried,” by Michael Ian Black and Debbie Ridpath Ohi

A worried potato turns to his friends, a girl and flamingo, for reassurance that nothing bad will happen. Through reminders of the hard times they’ve overcome, they show him that worrying doesn’t help.

5. “The Rabbit Listened,” by Cori Doerrfeld

When Taylor’s block castle collapses, a parade of animals have solutions that fail to offer comfort. Only the rabbit sits and listens, which is just what Taylor needs. It’s a reminder to parents of emotional little ones as much as a reassurance to the children.

6. “The Color Monster: A Story About Emotions,” by Anna Llenas

Color Monster’s emotions are all over the place, until a little girl helps the monster describe feelings as colors, and learn to identify different feeling. It's a sweet primer to help children identify their own emotions.

7. “Ruby Finds a Worry,” by Tom Percival

Ruby discovers a worry (in the form of a scribbly yellow creature) and it follows her everywhere. It grows even when she tries to ignore it and pretend everything is OK. It’s only when she notices other people’s worries and talks about them that she starts to feel in control.

8. “Anxious Charlie to the Rescue,” by Terry Milne

Charlie does the same things in the same way every day – a pattern adults will recognize as obsessive-compulsive. When he must vary from his routine, he discovers the rituals aren’t as important as he thought.

9. "Maybe Tomorrow?" by Charlotte Agell and Ana Ramírez González

Elba carries a big block with her that represents her sadness and loss. Norris is surrounded by butterflies. With patience and understanding, he shows her that while she might still have the block, he can help her carry it sometimes.

10. “When Sadness Is At Your Door,” by Eva Bland

Sadness arrives unbidden, but this smart little book shows some easy ways to make peace with it, like finding something you and Sadness both enjoy, taking it outside or letting it know you understand.

11. “How to Make a Shark Smile,” by Shawn Achor, Amy Blankson and Claudia Ranucci

This picture book by two happiness experts teaches basics about having a positive mindset through a dolphin who chooses to be happy. The book’s backmatter includes simple exercises like focusing on your breath and listing things that make you grateful.