Fostering Hope with Children’s Literature

    by | February 5, 2024

    A young white male teacher reading aloud has turned around a picture book with a red cover to show his class of mainly African-American K-1st grade children.

    Article: Massey, D. D., Vaughn, M., & Hiebert, E. (2022). Fostering Hope with Children’s LiteratureThe Reading Teacher75(5), 575-582

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    Today, in a world of instantaneous communication, children and young people can be confronted with images and information that are troubling and hard to understand. “Fostering Hope with Children’s Literature” is an essay that draws on scholarship about how literature can give children and young people insight into how people have found unexpected sources of strength and resilience in challenging times.


    Both stories and nonfiction books are part of the literature of hope. Most stories have a plot that involves a resolution of a problem or challenge. Similarly, many nonfiction books describe inventions, journeys, and actions people have taken in dealing with predicaments. From the vast selection of fiction and nonfiction books, teachers should select books that represent diverse backgrounds, experiences, and solutions. Specific books within a collection should be chosen as anchor texts. These are books that merit substantial engagement and can be revisited throughout a school year.

    All roles of books described by Rudine Sims Bishop (1990) should be included over a school year: mirrors (readers see their own lives reflected on the pages); windows (readers get a view of lives and stories that differ from their own); and sliding doors (readers are transported into the story’s world and feel empathy for its characters). Furthermore, the voices and experiences of individuals and groups should include history, present experiences, and a vision of the future.

    Selections of books and plans and actions based on books are described at three levels:

    • Student: Independent reading can give individuals the opportunity to delve into topics and themes of interest.
    • Classroom: Book clubs can be a context for students to share interpretations and questions.
    • Community: Students can explore real-world issues and develop plans of action to contribute to solutions.


    • Individual book titles, lists of books that can serve as anchors for discussions, and collections of books on topics (e.g., food scarcity and production) are included in the essay.
    • Specific writing activities to accompany reading and discussion are part of the ideas for teachers.
    • A graphic describes four steps for reflecting on books and uniquely applies them to fiction and nonfiction: (a) setting goals, (b) making plans, (c) taking action, and (d) specific reflection on hope.

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    Related Resources on

    Webinar: How Words and Literature Support Hope in Classrooms

    with Elfrieda (Freddy) Hiebert of
    In this presentation, Elfrieda H. (Freddy) Hiebert builds on her research on vocabulary and the article “Fostering Hope with Children’s Literature” (The Reading Teacher, 2022), in describing how literature for children and adolescents can create a community of hope in classrooms.
    Register now for this free webinar