Books and Resources about the Current and Past Pandemics

Image: Global NetworkOn distribution lists, blog posts, and social media, librarians and other educators in the U.S. and around the globe have been sharing free ebook and online resources that explain the coronavirus and the current and past pandemics. Nonfiction and informational books as well as fiction can reach readers’ hearts and minds and change our emotional responses and behaviors, too.

Using literature to provide information at this time is critical. Knowing the facts about the current situation and historical parallels can help reduce the fears and concerns that many young people are experiencing. Bibliotherapy originally applied in psychotherapy to treat depression or other mood disorders, may be what many children and teens need at this point in time.

In this post, I am highlighting a few of COVID-19 resources with special thanks to Patricia Sarles, Library Operations and Instructional Coordinator, Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York City Department of Education, for her LibGuide of free ebook sources and the Worlds of Worlds (WOW) Executive Board for their collection of “Resources Around Epidemics and Pandemics,” which includes both fiction and informational books.

From Patricia Sarles’ LibGuide
Patricia’s curation is illustrated with e-book jackets. This helps parents and educators get an idea of the target age level for the information in each title. The books show animal as well as human characters, and all help adults assure children that the grown-ups in their lives are doing all they can to keep people safe and healthy. A number of the ebooks ask for donations that will be used to support others in particular need during this crisis.

The House We Sheltered In” is a well-written and beautifully illustrated poem by Freeman Ng. The poem is a free download available from his website with either color and black and white illustrations. I found hearing the poem read aloud and seeing the multicultural illustrations via the YouTube video very moving.

Since COVID-19 is a pandemic affecting people around the globe, I especially appreciate the work of Christine Borst, Ph.D., who is a therapist (LMFT) and university professor living in Colorado. She wrote and illustrated her nonfiction book What Is Coronavirus? with her own two-, four-, and six-year-old children in mind. Her mother voice shines through in the text. Additionally, she provides .pdf files of her book in Farsi, French, Spanish, and Turkish as well as English. You can access a recording of her book in English and in Farsi from her website. Donations via PayPal are earmarked for families and small businesses in need.

From Worlds of Words
The annotated bibliography “Resources Around Epidemics and Pandemics” on the WOW website includes intermediate and YA historical fiction and science fiction titles as well as informational books. I have not read most of these titles, but I can highly recommend Susan Bartoletti Campbell’s book Terrible Typhoid Mary: A True Story of the Deadliest Cook in America (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2015). This informational book reads like narrative nonfiction or as the annotator notes, “a crime novel.” This book will appeal to many readers who will connect with the historical, social, and political aspects of Mary Mallon’s life and times.

From this page, WOW also linked “Catching a Bug: Reading about Pandemics, Epidemics, and Outbreaks” posted in 2013 on the WOW Currents blog by T. Gail Pritchard, PhD, College of Medicine, University of Arizona. One of the videos she offers is a TED-ed video called “How pandemics spread.” I believe these three blog posts and the resources Gail highlights could be of particular use now and in the future to those currently teaching upper grade students.

Global Perspectives: Empathy
It is logical and critical that librarians and other educators take a global view of the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is arguable that at this current time in our human history we should be aware of our global interconnectedness more than ever before. Our shared realization and understanding of the impact of this virus and the measures needed to contain its spread should be heightened and spotlighted from a global perspective in the resources we share. This is especially important in the U.S. where our information sources have historically taken a U.S.-centric perspective.

If there is a brighter spot in this crisis, it could be the opportunity to develop compassionate empathy for the way daily lives have changed for people all around the globe. Compassionate empathy is an understanding of another’s pain plus the desire to act and somehow mitigate that pain (Skills You Need). Today, we are experiencing the many ways global citizens are acknowledging and responding to the needs of others: sheltering in place, wearing masks and making masks to share, donating and delivering food to those in need, and caring for the emotional and physical needs of our families, friends, students, colleagues, and neighbors–near and far.

Stay safe and well.

Side Note (but no less important): Thank you to the Arizona Daily Star Opinion editor Sarah Garrecht Gassen for your 4/25/20 op-ed: “How we decide which COVID-19 letters to publish, and which we won’t.” As Ms. Gassen wrote: “Our obligation is to the truth, to the facts, and to our shared safety.”

The same could be said to be true for librarians and other educators, children’s and YA book authors and illustrators—at this time and always.

Work Cited

“Interpersonal Skills: Empathy Types.” SkillsYouNeed.com, https://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/empathy-types.html

Image Credit

Altmann, Gerd. “Web Networking Earth Continents.” Pixabay.com. https://pixabay.com/illustrations/web-networking-earth-continents-3079789

This entry was posted in Collection Development, Curation, Digital Learning, Literature and tagged , , by Judi Moreillon. Bookmark the permalink.

About Judi Moreillon

Judi Moreillon, M.L.S, Ph.D., has served as a school librarian at every instructional level. In addition, she has been a classroom teacher, literacy coach, and district-level librarian mentor. Judi has taught preservice school librarians since 1995. She is currently an adjunct associate professor for the iSchool at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She has taught courses in instructional partnerships and school librarian leadership, multimedia resources and services, children’s and young adult literature, and storytelling. Her research agenda focuses on the professional development of school librarians for the leadership and instructional partner roles. She has published four professional books; the most recent is Maximizing School Librarian Leadership: Building Connections for Learning and Advocacy (ALA 2018). (See the book study on this blog.) Judi earned the American Library Association's 2019 Scholastic Library Publishing Award.

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