How to Encourage Children with Cancer to Read

Reading and Healing

How to Encourage Children with Cancer to Read

Toddler with pediatric cancer reading a bookA Book Can Be the Best Medicine

Doctor office visits and hospital stays can be traumatic for a child of any age, nevermind a child battling cancer. Having a good book to read can help cancer kids cope with their illness. Books are a great way to escape from the sad and scary situation they are living with daily. We all know that a good story cannot cure cancer, but the power of imagination can aid in the healing process. Whether you are reading to your child or they are alone in their room, the joy of reading can help alter their mental attitude and transform how they manage their treatment. So, it’s important to encourage children with cancer to read, despite their heartbreaking and challenging circumstances.

Boy toddler reading a bookEncourage Children with Cancer to Read for Their Development

Before your child’s cancer diagnosis, they were going through critical development stages, and their educational development was a part of this phase. Even as your child battles cancer, it is still vital to continue their learning development and that includes reading. And if they are not able to attend school, they can still spend quality time reading. Make it an experience your child looks forward to and engage with them in the book. As you read it to them, ask about the characters and what is happening. Show interest in the plot and before you know it, they will ask to read more!

Reading to Reduce Stress

In research conducted by the Journal of College Teaching and Learning, a group of academics studied the effects of reading, yoga, and humor on students’ stress levels in challenging health science programs in American universities. The results discovered that just 30 minutes of reading lowered blood pressure, heart rates, and stress levels of the students, just as successfully as yoga or humor. Now a child with cancer is not the same as a college student who is becoming a scientist. Yet, an important takeaway is that if your child is going through cancer treatment, they may have limited time or energy in their day for structured exercise or other activities to help reduce anxiety. The simple act of reading can be an easy way to deal with the stressful situation they are going through.

Reading for a Good Night’s Rest

Encourage children with cancer to read by selecting a book they find interesting, and it’s essential to read a physical book and not an eBook or one on a screen. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic recommend that reading be part of your child’s sleep routine. Reading a printed book can aid with a good night’s sleep since light discharged from an electronic device can keep your child awake and lead to other unwanted health outcomes, such as trouble sleeping or lack of morning alertness. Mayo Clinic research also found that too much screen time can result in eye discomfort or possible vision issues.

Books to Help Your Child Understand Their Illness

The book your child selects should inspire them to read, so depending on their age, if they want to read a picture book or graphic novel, go ahead and let them pick a book that fills them with joy. There are also numerous books available to learn more about their illness in creative and beautiful ways. If you are looking at books in the bookstore or online, suggesting some of the following books to your child might also give them different reading options they did not know about.

How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear? (ages: 2-6)

As a survivor of leukemia herself, Actress Vanessa Bayer writes to explain what it is like to experience cancer treatment. A good book parents can read to their young child.

Amazing Annabelle: A Story for Kids Fighting Cancer (ages: 6-8)

In the story of Amazing Annabelle, the heroine helps kids diagnosed with cancer learn what to expect while going through treatment. An incredible story written by a mother whose young daughter was diagnosed with cancer.

Hundred Percent Chance: A Memoir (ages: teens)

A gripping memoir written by a young college student who was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. The author’s gut-wrenching journey will inspire and remind the reader to make the most of each day.

Young boy happy to readHere to Advocate, Here to Serve

When your child is diagnosed with cancer, your life will be turned upside-down. You may feel helpless and alone, but please know you have a support system. If you know a child who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, please let their family know about Here to Serve. Our volunteers assist with home needs, funds, resources, guidance, and support for parents on a journey they never imagined they would have to take with their child.

By Chris Smith