Reading to teach and heal: More books for 8-12 year olds

Middle-schooler reading book in winter

The holiday season is a time to reflect, find gratitude and show kindness, especially to those who may be struggling. It’s also a great time to escape the chaos and hunker down with a good book.

Why not do both?

Today, there are more and more books about children and teens coping with physical and mental health issues that help young readers empathize with these characters but also relate, especially if they’re faced with a similar condition. We’ve selected five books that will not only make great gifts for the kids on your list, but also will stay with them long after those holiday decorations are put away.


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Isaac’s story: A ‘new normal’ with short bowel syndrome

Isaac stays active with short bowel syndrome

It was the morning after their baby son Isaac had come home from the hospital, and Jennifer and Brian Campbell were performing the same sweet act of bonding as many new parents: giving him a bath in the sink. But as they maneuvered around the room, they suddenly realized something was very wrong. “I fell to the floor and started screaming and crying as formula shot out of his stomach,” remembers Jennifer. “I thought we’d broken him.”

The reality, of course, was that the Campbells were simply adjusting to their new “normal” — something any parent of a medically complex child can understand. Isaac wasn’t a newborn. He had finally been discharged from the hospital after nine months. And his parents hadn’t hurt him. They’d just accidentally pulled out his gastrostomy (G-tube), which provided his body with nutritional support.

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Makayla’s story: Living with Leri-Weill Dyschondrosteosis

Makayla hip dysplasia lead image

Our daughter Makayla was born perfectly healthy on April 5th, 2014, passing all of the usual newborn screenings without issue. From day one, her personality shone through. She was strong-willed and had a smile that would light up her eyes before her mouth even showed a hint of joy. But over the next 3 months, Makayla wasn’t eating well and wasn’t gaining enough weight.  Our pediatrician referred us to Dr. Elizabeth Hait, a gastroenterologist at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Hait would change Makayla’s formula multiple times and put her on medication for her acid reflux. Her pediatrician also tested her for a milk allergy, since her brother had one as an infant, but it was negative. It was recommended Makayla have an upper GI to make sure everything was anatomically correct.

The technician suggested everything looked good, so we left feeling that Makayla was perfectly normal. But a call from her doctor that afternoon turned our world upside down.

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Three simple ways we can all help prevent gun violence

3 ways to prevent gun violence

We are coming up on the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting, in which a young man opened fire on a classroom of first-graders, killing 20 of them and 6 adults — after having killed his mother at home. While nothing can eclipse this tragedy, since then there have been many more tragedies, such as the shooting in Las Vegas, the church shooting in Texas and the recent shooting in Northern California where, thanks to the quick actions of the staff of a local elementary school, the shooter’s attempts to enter the school were foiled. He shot through the windows instead, injuring a child.

In 2014, more than 33 thousand people in the United States died from firearms. For comparison, that’s the same as the amount who died from motor vehicle accidents. Just as we are tirelessly working to keep people from being killed in or by cars, we need to work tirelessly so that fewer people die from guns.

In the wake of Sandy Hook, it looked like we were might have legislation to help prevent gun violence. But quickly we got mired in politics — and a lot of very strong feelings. Clearly, for many people gun ownership is a precious right — and clearly, death from firearms is a complicated problem without easy fixes.

That’s why we need to look for simple ways that we can all work together so that fewer people die. Here are three suggestions.

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