Ask the Expert: How Books Can Treat Growing Pains - Student Resources

Ask the Expert: How Books Can Treat Growing Pains

girls reading in front of a bookshelf

Being a child is sometimes tough. As children develop emotionally, they sometimes face conflicts that we, as adults, have long forgotten. Overcoming insecurities, abandoning fears, and learning how to interact with peers often present challenges that children have a difficult time verbalizing and coping with on their own. Books can often be invaluable in assisting children with obstacles that, in one way or another, they will inevitably encounter during the period of their lives commonly referred to as “growing up.”

Many titles on Kumon’s Recommended Reading List (RRL) have these challenges in mind, and the authors have worked on behalf of their reading audience to alleviate issues that are commonly symptomatic of simply being a child. From a new sibling, to the comfort of a teddy bear, to being the middle child, to feeling invisible, to looking for a niche that makes one proud, to being the new kid at school, the RRL titles accompany children into the world they are experiencing and guide them through with a gentle hand.

If you are struggling with a way to make childhood grievances easier for the young ones in your life, why not look to a book? What follows are some RRL titles that may help children with the battles that beset their early years.


pink chairPeter’s Chair

by Ezra Jack Keats

Remember when your parents were your own? Before those younger siblings came along? Peter sure does. For him, the arrival of his baby sister is just a big inconvenience. He can’t crash his toy-block building because she is sleeping, and his cradle, crib, and high chair have all been painted pink. Peter decides to run away with his dog, his baby photo, and his chair, the one thing he can still fit into. Or can he? This is a perfect story for children who are uncertain about having to share their parents.

Ira Sleeps Over

Teddy Bear with red scarfby Bernard Waber

Whether it be a security blanket, sucking their thumb, or, yes, even a teddy bear, children often cling to things that make them feel comfortable; but what if that “thing” can be cause for embarrassment? What if someone finds out? This is the dilemma young Ira faces when he’s invited to sleep over at his friend Reggie’s house. Should he bring Tah Tah, his teddy bear? He has never slept without it. Ira agonizes over the decision and receives conflicting advice from his parents and his sister. Who will he listen to? What will he do? Read Ira Sleeps Over with a young one to find out. Teddy bears welcome!

green kangaroo imageThe One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo

by Judy Blume

Second-grader Freddy Dissel is too young to play with his older brother, Mike, and too old to play with his younger sister, Ellen. His room was given to Ellen, and he gets Mike’s hand-me-downs. Freddy is feeling like a “great big middle nothing!” Then Freddy learns about something big, something neither Mike nor Ellen have ever done, something that could be his own! Freddy can yell, and Freddy can jump. Will that be enough? Find out if the one in the middle becomes the green kangaroo!

The Shrinking of Treehorn

young boy in yellow shirt cartoon

by Florence Parry Heide

Treehorn is shrinking. All of a sudden his clothes are too big; he can’t reach his piggy bank, the water fountain, or the mailbox; and his teacher mistakes him for a nursery-school student. Treehorn is definitely shrinking. All the while, his parents worry about mundane daily activities and only request that if Treehorn decides to shrink, he not do it at the dinner table. All things considered, Treehorn takes his declining stature quite well, despite the lack of concern from all adults. Will Treehorn shrink to disappearance, or will he figure out—on his own—how to regain his normal size? This is a charming, whimsical story of a little boy who decides to takes charge when no one else seems to take notice.


newspaper graphicJudy Moody Gets Famous

by Megan McDonald

A deep green shade of envy envelops Judy Moody when she learns that her classmate, Jessica Finch, has appeared on the cover of the local newspaper. Judy’s new and unrelenting objective: become famous just like Jessica! To this end, Judy attempts to memorize the dictionary, seeks to pass off a cherry pit as one from George Washington’s famed tree, enters her cat into a famous pet contest, and tries to break the human-centipede world record. After all attempts fail, Judy unwittingly learns that the best way to become “famous” is to help others in need.

The Chalk Box Kid

by Clyde Robert Bulla

chalk pile

Gregory has moved and is having a hard time making friends at his new school. To make matters worse, he has to share his room with his Uncle Max, who does nothing but sleep, watch TV, and play his guitar. Max has even appropriated the wall space in their room and covered Gregory’s paintings with posters of racecars. Gregory longs for his own space and finds it in the abandoned remains of a burned-out chalk factory. It’s concrete, cold, dirty, has only three walls and no roof, but it becomes his own. Gregory takes to drawing on the concrete walls with the leftover chalk he finds on the ground. After Mr. Hiller, a worker in the local tree nursery, visits his class, Gregory yearns for a garden of his own, but all he has are concrete walls and chalk. Will that be enough? Join Gregory on his agrarian journey to find out!

Peter, Ira, Freddy, Treehorn, Judy, and Gregory each face their own challenge, but, in reality, these are challenges faced by many children every day.  We as  adults are often concerned with things we consider to be a higher priority and rarely remember how difficult childhood can sometimes be. Bills must be paid, professional responsibilities must be completed, and deadlines must be met. How important is a teddy bear? To some, teddy bears are very important, as are all things that help cultivate the emotional and social development of children. If the days become too hectic to recall how hard being a child can sometimes be, or if the right words can’t be found, a book can always step in and help.

About the Author

Laura headshotLaura Ellison joined Kumon in May 2007. As a member of the Materials Team, she works on revisions of the Kumon reading curriculum, authors articles for the quarterly Kumon magazine, and handles all copyright negotiations that permit use of the published texts in the Kumon North America Reading Program.
She received her undergraduate degree in literature from Columbia University. Immediately upon graduating and just prior to joining Kumon, Laura held the position of foreign rights associate at a renowned New York City literary agency.
Laura is a devout animal lover and shares her home with her cat, Mango. She also prides herself on her knowledge of 80s’ music and her unwavering loyalty to the long-suffering New York Knicks.