Tackling Controversial Topics with Kids in the Library

Librarians and educators are often called upon to serve a young reader going through a crisis—whether it’s family separation, divorce, death, or natural curiosity and confusion about race, sex, gender, and religion. It can be daunting to know what to say in the moment, how much to say, and how to preserve the child's privacy without undermining parents and family. This art-based workshop offers practical strategies for engaging and supporting a child in their own exploration of a tough topic or experience from a place of integrity, compassion, and with healthy boundaries.

In a time of book bans and direct threats to librarians and libraries, responding appropriately to children's curiosity or personal disclosures is a big responsibility. This session offers participants a chance to reflect on forbidden information—whether it’s about us or someone else—by drawing out relevant childhood experiences from our own lives. Using collage alongside directed conversation, the session will help cut through the politicized din and reconnect participants to their instincts when it comes to being a first responder and trusted facilitator of knowledge.

After participating in this workshop, learners will be able to:

  • Respond to a child in need with appropriateness, confidence, and compassion.
  • Use collage and artmaking to create opportunities for the child to explore their questions guided by their own observations and lived experience.
  • Be grounded in their own childhood sense of what worked and didn't when they needed support from an adult for coping with tough topics (presence, listening, regard for the questioner regardless of the questions or their answers).
  • Access a new network of peers with whom they shared this training and from whom they can seek advice in the future.

Anastasia Higginbotham launched her Ordinary Terrible Things children’s book series in 2015 with Divorce Is the Worst. Her award-winning books include Death Is Stupid, Tell Me About Sex, Grandma, What You Don’t Know, You Ruined It, and the international award-winning Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness. Higginbotham makes her books by hand in collage on grocery bag paper, using only recycled materials, including jewelry and fabric. Her books demonstrate a way to cope with change and loss, using the raw materials available to us and drawing on the wisdom of our own lived experiences.

This event will be hosted in Zoom. Automatic captions will be enabled for this event. This event will be recorded, and registrants will receive access to the recording within a day after the event ends.

If you have questions or requests regarding accessibility, contact us at ce@ala.org or at 312-280-5100.