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Monday, May 11, 2009

Literacy and Life Lessons

In January of 2006 my oldest sister, Rebecca (32), was diagnosed with stage 4 of a rare, bile duct cancer. She has been through many tough surgeries (including a liver resection), chemo, and other treatments. Right now, she has 13 small tumors in her lungs, and just had major surgery to once again remove growing tumors from her liver. 

Rebecca has a daughter, Kylynn. Kylynn is 4 years old. She was only a year and a half old when Rebecca was diagnosed, and consequently has only ever known (that she remembers) a mommy who is fighting cancer. 

This is really hard on Kylynn. She doesn't fully understand what is happening to her mommy, but knows that she is sick, that Mommy has "owwies" on her inside, and that Mommy's doctors are trying to "fix" her. 

(left to right) Me, my sister Julia, my sister Rebecca. Each us holding our kiddos. Taken last summer.

Though none of us like to think about it, we know that it's a possibility that Rebecca might not live as long as we all desperately want her to. It's a possibility, but Rebecca has been beating the odds left and right thus far, and our God is a God who makes all things possible!

Yet another wonderful thing about books and stories is their ability to teach, explain, and convey information to children (and adults!) that is not always easy to hear and/or understand. They can open doors for meaningful conversation, help create a special bond, and give children an easy opportunity to ask questions and wonder aloud about tough topics... like cancer. 

This weekend, while visiting my family in Chicago, Rebecca told me about a book that she's been reading with Kylynn to help Kylynn understand the concept of death, and of heaven. A valuable lesson for all children to learn! This book is called Waterbugs and Dragonflies.

Rebecca and Kylynn have been enjoying reading and discussing this book together. Forming a unique bond, and special memories through literature. How awesome.

I know that this is not the only book of its kind. There are parents out there that have used picture books as a catalyst for opening up dialogue about all kinds of issues, emotions, and experiences their children have gone though or been confronted with. 

Have you had such an experience with literature? Either when you yourself were a child, or with your own children? Please share! I would love to hear about some more great book titles!

Oh! And you can read my sister Rebecca's writings at her blog - Even on the Rainiest Day


Sandra said...

Thank for sharing that. I know it must not have been easy. I want to thank you for telling your readers about this book. My niece recently lost her 4th son who was 29 day old. She has three remaining sons and I think this book can help her and her children talk about what happened. Praying for your sister and the family. God bless.

Tasha at Children's Books for Grown-ups said...

Oh Amy, I'm so sorry that you and your family are having to go through this. It is so important and intelligent to tackle it though in the way that you are doing. When my granddad died when I was young (we were very close), his illness and death weren't addressed very well (we didn't talk about it at all in our family) and I think coming to terms with him not being around anymore was very hard for me to do as I had so little preparation.

I know that a lot of people have benefited from Michael Rosen's Sad Book (written about his son who died). It is a different situation to yours, but it's suitable for Kylynn's age-group probably and it might help her understand the idea of watching someone go through the grief process which is such a hard thing to do. I'm sure I have a list somewhere of other great book titles and I'll post it if I find it.

What a lovely photo though of the three of you - Isaac looks very new! xx

Amy @ Literacy Launchpad said...

Thanks for your kind words, Tasha. I love Michael Rosen, so I will be
finding that book you mentioned. Definitely let me know if you find
that list!
Oh, and yes, Isaac was very new in that photo. And it was before we
figured out he had reflux (note the crying)... Not an easy time for
any of us, most of all poor Isaac! :(
Amy Watson
Motivating and Empowering Children to Soar Into Reading

Amy @ Literacy Launchpad said...

Wow, Sandra. How devastating for your niece! I can't imagine! Thank
you for your prayers, and I will be praying for your niece and her
family as well.
Amy Watson
Motivating and Empowering Children to Soar Into Reading

Rebecca Thies said...

Hey Amy! Sweet post, thanks! I was thinking and there are a couple of other books that I thought of.
Kylynn was very upset about the possibility of me "going up to Heaven" as she says and so we started to read some books to give her an idea of what Heaven might be like. We have read quite a few, but by far, Kylynn's favorite has been What About Heaven? by Kathleen Bostrom Long and Elena Kucharik. It's from the Little Blessings series and I really like it because at the end of the book it gives references to the Scripture from which they provided answers. I think Kylynn likes it because it is understandable to her age level and is not real sad or anything.

Also, I bought a book that turned out to be too high level for Kylynn but that I really liked and when friends have passed away over this past year I have sent copies to husbands and mothers, etc. The books is Tear Soup by Pat Schweibert, Chuck DeKlyen, Taylor Bills, and Pat Schwiebert. It addresses what the people who loved the person who died might go through and helps define different ways of handling grief. Good book.

Anyhow, hope that helps. Love you lots sis!