Using fiction to cope with changing world

By Katelyn Schubert

The world is changing, and at times it seems there is no escaping it.

I wish I was talking about the fact that it is almost Halloween and change means people will becoming someone or something different in costume, or the fact that its autumn and the weather is slowly getting colder, but unfortunately this change is something much more serious.

It didn’t hit me until parents of young children began asking me for books to read to their children that will help them better understand our changing world. Whether it is politics or extreme weather, it seems even children are being affected by the changes in our world. This got me thinking a lot about libraries and their purpose. This is one of those times when a library truly is a safe haven and a place people go to in order to learn and understand; something the internet can’t necessarily help you with.

The requests took me a little by surprise and I started to get worried. Did we have materials like that? Did they make such a book called ‘How to Better Understand Living in 2017: Children’s Edition’? We may think the answer is no, but the truth is, these resources exist and have been around for a very long time.

I started thinking about fantasy books. ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘The Wizard of Oz’, and ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ are just some of the titles that come to mind that could assist your children in their journey to understand our changing world. Let’s think about it: all of these books have characters from different factions, with different species ranging from elves to wizards to monsters, and with varying levels of social class. As adults, it's easy to make the comparisons between these themes and our real-life world, and it is the perfect way to introduce our children to these concepts without so much putting the fear in them with things adults should just worry about.

Children have the capacity to understand differences and the fantasy genre is great for building on that concept. Characters often have to face struggles with forces bigger than them while still conforming to a social standard; Harry Potter had to defeat Lord Voldemort and was placed in Gryffindor House, the Pevensie children learned they were royal in 'The Chronicles of Narnia' and had to break the walls between the lower class and the upper class, Dorothy had to battle the Wicked Witch of the West and learned to appreciate the differences in people. All of these approaches are wonderful and attainable for a small mind to learn and it’s a way we can teach them valuable lessons but still keep their imagination intact.

My advice as a librarian is to find the balance somewhere. We can’t control what our children hear on the school playground, or what they see on television or social media, but we can promote amazing literature that has both adventure and wonder, as well as lessons that will help them when they enter the ‘real world’ in the future. But the best thing to take away from books like these is the sense of hope…and that is something that is just as priceless as a library card.

Visit the Petawawa Public Library today to check out any of the books I mentioned and lots more to help your children better understand our changing world.

Katelyn Schubert is the children and teen services librarian at the Petawawa Public Library 

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