By Karen Williams
Picture books are a fantastic way to broach topics of importance with your little ones, and one topic that could use more attention is the relationship between senior citizens and the community at large. Increasingly, children’s books are being published that paint the elderly and the aging process in a positive light—instead of focusing on frailty and diminished capacities.
Interesting children’s books about seniors share the life experiences that shaped older adults, explore the bonds they have with others, and show that older role models are all around us, if we know where to look and who to ask! Take a look at this list of books about senior characters and aging that present a positive view and support meaningful intergenerational relationships.
Xelena Gonzalez created a powerful book about a girl and her grandfather reflecting on the cycle of life, death, and renewal. Tending to a garden, they reflect on how many things in life are “like a circle,” including themselves. Indeed, circles are a central theme in this timeless story.
This cute rhyming book not only introduces numbers to readers, but also shows just how many social bonds a senior citizen can have. A visit to Grandma’s house starts off small, but soon the house is full to bursting with all of the family members who’ve come to visit. This book illustrates the many connections one person can collect over a lifetime, as well as stirring up fond memories of quality time with older relatives.
This award-winning story by Sylvia Liu explores the special bond between grandparent and grandchild. Gong Gong attempts to teach Mei Mei the art of Tai Chi, and she puts her own flair into it. Meanwhile, Mei Mei attempts to teach Gong Gong yoga she learned in school. This light-hearted story may also encourage young and old readers to move their bodies and practice some yoga or Tai Chi.
Joseph’s grandfather could use his hands to do anything, but in the 1950s and ‘60s, he was forbidden to make bread due to discrimination. Joseph learns that anyone, regardless of age, can use their hands to fight injustice and make the world a better place. This is an inspiring story of uniting together to achieve a greater good.
A grandchild imagines reaching his grandfather’s age and spending time together then. This tale, with its soft text and pictures, will teach young readers to savor activities with loved ones regardless of age. You’ll find a heartwarming story that conveys a warm feeling of togetherness with seniors.
Kathryn Harrison provides us with this powerful story to teach children about the effects of Alzheimer’s and other dementias on aging minds. Inspired by the author-illustrator’s own experiences with her mother’s fight, this book uses the metaphor of weeds hiding flowers to show how some illnesses can hide thoughts and memories.
No matter how old we get, we can always learn. This lovely book introduces young readers to the inspiring true story of Mary Walker, who enrolled in the Chattanooga Area Literacy Movement and learned to read at the impressive age of 114!
When a relationship lasts for a long time, sometimes you’ve learned just what to do to cheer the other person up. That’s what happens in this book by Libba Moore Gray. When a joyful elderly woman falls ill, the children whom she’s developed a close relationship with band together to show how much they care about her. This tale may also provide young readers with ideas of how to show their love towards a senior in their life.
The bond in intergenerational relationships can last through good times and bad, as evidenced in this story. Inspired by the author’s own grandfather (also a successful mariachi musician), Abuelo and his grandchildren sing through the good times and bad, influenced by Abuelo’s guitar skills and his memories. Little readers will see that true happiness can come from being together, as well as performing fun activities together.
In simple and straightforward style, this book shows that friendship has no age limit. Follow along with 100-year-old George Baker, and his young neighbor Harry, as they both learn to read together. The lesson? Readers can find a strong connection to seniors through activity and powering through adversity together.
What picture books about senior citizens and aging will you be reading with your children? Let us know in the comments!
Karen Williams is a writer, content marketing strategist, and mom to Ava from Cleveland, OH.