Resources to help students deal with the Russian invasion of Ukraine

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

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 difficult times, people turn to books. Indeed, the President of the Ukrainian Association of Libraries reaches the global library community after the start of the Russian invasion in February. In the letter, Oksana Brui calls libraries a “strategic weapon” in this war.

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

Educational resources

The Crisis in Ukraine: How the War Changed Rondo.
What happens when war comes to town? How the 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 The learning offers a lesson in 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 they are doing with each other.

The Choices Program | The Ukrainian crisis
Brown University 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, monitor the Ukrainian crisis and consider international responses.

Fiction in Ukraine

The Winterwood Sisters by Rena Rossner. Orbit/Hang up. ISBN 9780316483254.
This lyrical fairy tale of two sisters in a small Ukrainian village is a book to be savored rather than devoured. The slow pace, rich character development, and depictions of village life and the surrounding forest bring the fantastical atmosphere to life.

My real name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih. Mandel Vilar Prof. ISBN 9781942134510.
This first historical novel is a brilliantly rendered memorial to Holocaust survivors. Masih tells the story of Hanna Slivka, a teenager living in a small integrated community in Ukraine in 1941.

blackbird girls by Anne Blankman. Viking. ISBN 9781984837356.
It’s 1986 in Pripyat, Ukraine, and fellow fifth-graders Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko are sworn enemies. At home, Oksana’s father physically abuses her and rebels against Jews, and at school, Oksana bullies Valentina, who is Jewish. But when a reactor explodes at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant where the two 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 shines a light on communities where teenagers struggle under a repressive government or regime under pressure from a larger neighboring nation. Recommended for class discussions and for those interested in realistic fiction about a world in turmoil.

louder than words by Kathy Kacer. Annick. (The Quartet of Heroes: Book 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 mom leaves for 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 to ensure the safety of the Sternik family?

Non-fiction in Ukraine

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

Continue: Poetry of Young Immigrants. Owlkids. ISBN 9781771474160.
In this haunting collection of poems and portraits, new high school students from Outremont, Quebec share their experience of immigrating to Canada. This collection offers a fascinating look into the lives and feelings of immigrant students from countries including Ukraine.

Books for hard times

What to do when the news scares you: A children’s guide to understanding the news by Jacqueline B Toner. illus. by Janet McDonnell. Magination. (What to do guides for kids). ISBN 9781433836978.
This very timely book should prove extremely useful for parents, teachers, librarians and especially children. Designed to be shared between a trusted adult and a child, the book covers topics such as identifying and investigating scary news to understand what is happening, understanding different types of news, understanding how which journalists make the news more exciting, identifying the points of view offered, determining the reliability of sources and asking questions to make sure your ideas are accurate.

The last news by Sarah Lynne Reul. illus. by author. Roaring stream. ISBN 9781250153562.
While the bad news that begins this story remains a mystery, the anguish facing this family of color is clear. With simple language that names emotions, this story identifies the helplessness children feel when something happens that they are too young to understand or change. The ambiguous nature of the circumstances makes this title appropriate for many of the situations children face in today’s endless cycle of news. An absolute must for most libraries.

Love, Hugs and Hope: When Scary Things Happen by Christy Monson. illus. by Lori Nawyn. Family. 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 in need of answers to children’s questions, but its limitations prevent it from being a first purchase.

See also: The #ArmMeWithBooks list features titles for resilience, empathy and compassion

For educators

Chris Barton explains how to discuss difficult subjects with children. The author of the book All at once 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: isolated, our readers turn to books and a bit of entertainment. “What are you reading?” seems like a pretty benign question, under normal circumstances. These days being anything but normal, editor Kathy Ishizuka wondered if the books that appealed to readers now offered 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 boost your desire and ability to concentrate for reading.