Resources to Help Students Process the Russian Invasion of Ukraine

In tough times, people turn to books and the resources libraries offer. Here are some resources to share with kids of all ages that can help them understand the conflict and the people of Ukraine and address mental health issues as the world around them feels unsafe.

Photo of blue and yellow hearts painted on the street near the Ukraine's mission to the EU in Brussels, 8 March 2022.

Blue and yellow hearts are painted on the cobblestones of the street leading to Ukraine's mission to the EU, on March 8, 2022, in Brussels, Belgium. (Photo by Thierry Monasse/Getty Images)


In tough times, people turn to books. Indeed, the president of the Ukrainian Library Association reached out to the world's library community after the Russian invasion began in February. In the letter, Oksana Brui calls libraries a "strategic weapon" of this war.

Children can turn to libraries to help them understand the conflict and the people of Ukraine as well as address mental health issues as the world around them feels unsafe. Here are some resources to share with educators and kids of all ages.


Teaching Resources

The Crisis in Ukraine: How War Changed Rondo
What happens when War rolls into town? How War Changed Rondo was informed by the Ukrainian Revolution of Dignity and the arrival of war in early 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. 

Learning Lesson of the Day: "The Invasion of Ukraine: How Russia Attacked and What Happens Next"
The New York Times Learning offers a lesson on the history, invasion, and implications with questions for writing and discussion.

Teaching about Ukraine
Rethinking Schools has resources and the ability for educators to share what the are doing with each other.

The Choices Program | The Ukraine Crisis
Brown University's resources allow classes to explore the current situation in Ukraine and its historical origins, analyze political cartoons that depict the Ukrainian crisis, identify the techniques used by cartoonists to express political opinion, and monitor the Ukrainian crisis and consider international responses.


Fiction in Ukraine

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner. Orbit/Redhook. ISBN 9780316483254. 
This lyrical fairy tale of two sisters in a small village in Ukraine is a book to be savored rather than devoured. The slow pace, rich character development, and descriptions of village life and the surrounding forest bring the fantasy atmosphere to life. 

My Real Name Is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih. Mandel Vilar Pr. ISBN 9781942134510. 
This debut historical novel is a brilliantly rendered memorial to survivors of the Holocaust. Masih tells the story of Hanna Slivka, a teenage girl living in a small integrated community in Ukraine in 1941.

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman. Viking. ISBN 9781984837356. 
It is 1986 in Pripyat, Ukraine, and fifth grade classmates Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko are sworn enemies. At home, Oksana’s father physically abuses her and rails against Jewish people, and at school Oksana bullies Valentina, who is Jewish. But when a reactor explodes at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant where both girls’ fathers work, they find themselves thrown together in the tumultuous evacuation.

The Bombs That Brought Us Together by Brian Conaghan. Bloomsbury. ISBN 9781619638389. 
Told from the perspective of 14-year-old Charlie, this book brings light to communities where teens are struggling under a repressive government or regime pressured by a larger neighboring nation. Recommended for classroom discussion and for those interested in realistic fiction about a world in turmoil.

Louder Than Words by Kathy Kacer. Annick. (The Heroes Quartet: Bk. 3). ISBN 9781773213552. 
The third installment in “Heroes Quartet,” a series that follows the real-life stories of unsung heroes who risked their lives to save Jewish families during World War II. When Mama goes to work after their father’s death, Dina Sternik and her two younger sisters must adjust to life with a housekeeper named Nina. One day, the Nazis invade their Ukrainian town and the family soon learns the pain and humiliation of anti-Semitism. Nina makes a promise to stay and help. How much will she risk in order to keep the Sternik family safe?

[READ: Children’s Author Michael Sampson Helping Ukrainian Refugees in Poland]

Nonfiction in Ukraine

The Displaced: Refugee Writers On Refugee Lives by Viet Thanh, ed Nguyen. Abrams. ISBN 9781419729485. 
Edited by the Pulitzer Prize–winning author and Vietnamese American professor, this heartbreaking collection of essays humanizes the refugee experience. Contributors describe harrowing escapes, economically driven evacuations, and wartime disasters that forced them out of many countries, including Ukraine.

Carry On: Poetry by Young Immigrants. Owlkids. ISBN 9781771474160. 
In this haunting collection of poems and portraits, new students at a high school in Outremont, Quebec, share their experience of immigrating to Canada. This collection offers a compelling look at the lives and feelings of student immigrants who originate from countries, including Ukraine.


Books for Tough Times

What to Do When the News Scares You: A Kid’s Guide to Understanding Current Events by Jacqueline B Toner. illus. by Janet McDonnell. Magination. (What to Do Guides for Kids). ISBN 9781433836978. 
This very timely book should prove enormously helpful to parents, teachers, librarians, and especially children. Designed to be shared between a trusted adult and a child, the book deals with topics like identifying and investigating scary news to figure out what’s happening, understanding different types of news, understanding how reporters make news sound more exciting, identifying viewpoints offered, determining the reliability of sources, and asking questions to make sure your ideas are accurate.

The Breaking News by Sarah Lynne Reul. illus. by author. Roaring Brook. ISBN 9781250153562. 
While the bad news that begins this story remains a mystery, the anxiety that this family of color faces is clear. With simple language that names emotions, this narrative identifies the helplessness children feel when something happens that they are too small to understand or change. The ambiguous nature of the circumstances makes this title appropriate for many situations children face in today's never-ending news cycle. An absolute must for most libraries.

Love, Hugs, and Hope: When Scary Things Happen by Christy Monson. illus. by Lori Nawyn. Familius. ISBN 9781938301605. 
This book was written after the Sandy Hook tragedy in Newtown, CT. The subtitle says it all. This title would be useful as a starting point for parents at a loss for answers to children's questions, but its limitations keep it from being a first purchase.

See also: #ArmMeWithBooks List Offers Titles for Resilience, Empathy, and Compassion


For Educators

Chris Barton Explains How to Discuss Tough Topics with Children. The author of the book All of a Sudden and Forever: Help and Healing After the Oklahoma City Bombing talks about how parents, educators, librarians, and authors can discuss difficult topics with young children. 

Reading in Uncertain Times: In isolation, our readers turn to books—and a little show bingeing. “What are you reading?” seems benign enough a question, under normal circumstances. These days being anything but normal, editor in chief Kathy Ishizuka wondered if the books that called to readers now offered them comfort, inspiration, or escape.

Reading Joy in the Time of Coronavirus. Many of us struggle to find the motivation to read during difficult times. Here are some ways to spark your desire—and your ability to concentrate—for reading.

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