What Tweens Read When They’re Feeling Down

by Kari Ness Riedel

Photo credit: Westend6/ Getty Images

Last year, I shared quotes from third, fourth, and fifth grade members of my Bookopolis Book Club in a Brightly post, “Dear Mom, Dad, and Teacher: This is Why I Read,” about the role reading played in their lives.

One student, Samantha, shared that she read when she was sad to keep her mind off of things. I was struck by the power of this comment. I’ve read research about how books build empathy, but I had not thought as much about their role in helping students cope with a common emotion like sadness.

I asked several kids who write book reviews on Bookopolis, a social network and book discovery tool for young readers, about the types of books that helped them feel better when they were sad. I was touched by the honesty and diversity of their answers.

Sad Books

Many students find comfort in reading “sad” books where the main character is having a similar or even harder time than they are. Mason and Audrey, both 10, shared that they liked to read realistic stories where the main character is feeling sad or having a difficult time so that “I know I’m not alone.” They recommended books like Wonder; One for the Murphys; A Mango-Shaped Space; Bud, Not Buddy; or Just Like Me.

Intense Stories

Several students like Kate, 10, Antonio, 10, and Giloh, 9, said they turn to exciting stories with lots of intense action to help them get their minds off of being sad. “I forget about being sad when I get caught up in the action,” said Giloh. Series like The Hunger Games, Ranger’s Apprentice, Warriors, and The Land of Stories were some of their top picks for escape reading.

Heroic Fantasy Tales

Stories of a hero that victoriously overcomes an obstacle, preferably in a fantastical world, are also favorites for many students. Similar to “intense” books, these types of books offer an escape, but kids pointed out that specifically the element of a hero who overcomes a major challenge or defeats a villain provides a needed feeling of hope that everything will be in okay in the end. For Mia, 10, and Isaiah, 8, modern classics like Harry Potter or Percy Jackson fit this need perfectly.

Picture Books

A few tweens, like Ryan, 10, and Beck, 9, said they turn to picture books they loved as a child because it gives them a feeling of comfort and security. Re-reading or listening to audiobooks of childhood favorites like Puff, the Magic Dragon; Corduroy; and The Giving Tree make them feel happy.

Other kids I spoke with said, “I never thought about reading to help me when I’m sad. I’ll definitely try that next time.” As a parent, all of these heartfelt answers serve as a reminder to 1) make sure my kids know that books truly can be like a friend who lifts you up when you’re feeling down and 2) to encourage them to find the type of book that speaks best to them.

What books do your readers turn to when they’re sad? Email me or share in the comments below.