Are the Kids Okay? at ALA Virtual Conference

I attended a session at ALA Virtual Conference today called Are the Kids Okay? How Librarians Can Use Literature to Help Kids Navigate Socioemotional Stress. The moderator was Kelly Jensen, and the panelists were three young adult authors who have all experienced mental illness and write about teens with mental illness.

I. W. Gregorio has written None of the Above, and her new book is This Is My Brain in Love.

Ashley Woodfolk has written The Beauty That Remains, and her new book is When You Were Everything, about a friendship break-up.

Adib Khorram has wrtten Darius the Great Is Not Okay, and his new book is Darius the Great Deserves Better.

The panelists were asked what influenced them to write books dealing with mental health.

IG: She saw her 10-year-old daughter dealing with some of the same things she had. She wanted to write a story about anxiety and depression that has a pathway to joy. People before diagnosis think they aren’t depressed enough to seek treatment if they’re not suicidal.

AK: He, too, wanted to write a story about living with depression without being suicidal. He doesn’t like calling books “light” or “heavy.” Like life, books run the gamut of experiences and can have plenty of both.

AW: She experienced many friendship break-ups and didn’t have language for it. She wanted to give kids who experience that a place to land. It turns out “Best Friends Forever” isn’t so easy to achieve.

Then there was some general talk about what librarians can do to help kids understand their own mental health.

The answers involved giving kids language to talk about what their feeling and resources to help give them language.

Also raise awareness, bring in experts. And raise awareness with parents, too. Help guide kids to resources passively so they don’t have to explain themselves.

IG: “Librarians are stealth therapists.”

Also, be honest with young people. Encourage journal-making and art — especially during these stressful times.

I liked this idea: For quarantine TikTok videos, challenge kids to do an interpretive dance of their favorite book!

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