My earliest memories of comfort and solace and courage, of overcoming fear, learning something new, and connecting to creation involve my grandparents. Each of my books revolves around multiple generations and depicts a kid overcoming adversity with the help and safe companionship of an old person (“person” being loosely defined as human or horse).
As an adult reader who loves reading to the children in my life, I collect books that show us images of old people as whole people – old people growing and changing, strong and weak, stubborn and easeful, and most of all, engaged and intentional.
There are many examples of how children’s literature portrays the reality and complexity of elderhood in the contexts of diverse cultures and family experiences. Such stories are important because children live their lives in communities and families of people of all ages!
Last fall, while working at United Way, I put together a fun project with insight from VCU’s Department of Gerontology as well as parents, readers, and writers: A collection of ten picture books that promote multi-generational friendships and ideas of families that are inclusive and valuing of old people. In the stories below, elders are not invisible and they are not one-dimensional!
There are so many more books that could be added to this list! What are some of your favorites that you feel respect, honor, and deeply explore aspects of growing old? Leave a comment below with titles and authors who you think really bring depth and diversity to how elderhood is portrayed in children’s literature.