A new project at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is helping young flood survivors heal — page by page, story by story.
Led by Nebraska Extension, Read for Resilience will offer free storybooks with themes of coping with trauma, loss, grief and stress to children across the state. The project is part of the University of Nebraska’s flood recovery serviceship program.
Read for Resilience books will be available online to parents, teachers and caregivers starting July 16. There is no deadline to apply.
“A lot of people, when they think about flood relief, think about physically rebuilding what’s been lost,” said Annabelle Bielenberg, a Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education graduate student working on the project. “Helping kids and adults cope with what they’ve been through mentally and emotionally is just as important.”
Holly Hatton-Bowers and Amy Napoli, assistant professors of child, youth and family studies and early childhood extension specialists, are lead organizers of Read for Resilience. Team members include Lynn DeVries, Jaci Foged, Carrie Gottschalk, Lisa Poppe, Lee Sherry, Jackie Steffen, LaDonna Werth, Tasha Wulf, Karen Wedding and Kathleen Lodl.
In recent weeks, the team selected nine books — from “Once I Was Very Very Scared” to “A Terrible Thing Happened” — for caregivers to choose from. The books cover a range of topics, including dealing with feelings of anxiety and learning how to persevere.
The team has also created story guides for the books, which include questions for the caregiver to ask the child and activities such as making art and practicing deep breathing.
Hatton-Bowers said using reading to heal from trauma is an evidence-based strategy with several distinct benefits. It engages both the child and the caregiver in a developmentally-appropriate way, and it also requires little training or expertise for the caregiver to implement.
“We’re hoping Read for Resilience will empower caregivers of young children to support them as they cope and understand their feelings around loss or grief,” Hatton-Bowers said. “This is another way that Nebraska Extension will be there to help families and communities for the long haul.”
Read for Resilience is relying on donations to send books across the state. To donate, visit the project website.
Caregivers looking for more resources to help children cope can visit the Nebraska Extension Disaster Resources website.