When political change happens, and especially divisive change, it can be difficult to know what to say to children and young people. We’ve pulled together some suggestions below of how our books and resources can help structure discussions at home or in the classroom, with littlies all the way up to teens.
Stress, fear and lack of control
After a major political change, expressions of dismay or panic on social media or protest on the streets may result in young people experiencing feelings of stress and fear. It’s important to give them a chance to express these emotions. Our brilliant Andy Stanton book The Story of Matthew Buzzington reminds us that young children are relatively powerless. When his parents uproot the family to take up new opportunities in the big city, Matthew observes, ‘When grown-ups say they have “great news”, it almost always means the news is only great for them. It almost always means trouble for anyone else.” Our resources for Matthew Buzzington include an ‘Awful Adults’ section encouraging discussion of this idea.
Frank Cottrell Boyce explores the polar opposite situation in Ted Rules the World, a laugh-out-loud story in which one boy’s opinions, ideas and whims suddenly end up influencing government policy. Ted is a great way to explore the idea of law-making and to discuss principles and values with young people.
A sense of perspective
When young people are stressed and afraid, it is worth emphasising that politics should not be allowed to triumph over our daily lives. If we carry on calmly and rationally, take positive actions and contribute to our communities, we can remain ourselves. Our values remain our values.
You might like to read and discuss Terry Deary’s War Games with 8-12s. The book brings together two stories of sport as a constant in the lives of two children affected by war.
Keeping things in perspective for kids means leading by example too – it’s OK to tell a child that you are disappointed and worried by an election result but dial back on doomsday scenarios and predictions. It’s worth asking yourself whether those whose lives have been seriously affected by war or political instability would wish to panic their children or to help them remain calm.
My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner is a picture book for the youngest readers, published in May on our Bucket List imprint. It follows the journey of a young child and his mother, and at every step of the way the mother does her best to keep her little boy safe and happy. We’re really excited about this one; here’s a sneak peek of two beautiful spreads.
Developing empathy and taking action
14+ readers can be really passionate about politics and we publish many of our Bucket List titles with this in mind. Alpha is the story of one man’s epic journey from West Africa to Paris via
people trafficking, refugee camps and many more harrowing experiences. Michael Morpurgo says it is “a book we should all be reading, young and old, of whatever country and continent, of whatever religion, or of no religion, of whatever political persuasion or of none”.
Find extensive materials at www.thealphabook.org to help you explore the book with students. Resources include a brilliant BBC Authors Live broadcast, a print-and-play boardgame, teachers’ notes and an extended discussion guide focused on the political context of Alpha. The book is endorsed by Amnesty and young people can get involved at www.amnesty.org.uk/youth