If you haven’t already, it’s time to add some chapter books about anxiety and mental health to your library. Readers will find allies in the young characters whose friends and family members (or themselves) struggle with some aspect of mental health. In addition, these titles will help students that do not struggle with mental health issues develop understanding and empathy both for themselves and for others. Check out these five chapter books about anxiety and mental health!
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
There are many ways to distract a teacher. Ally knows this, and she uses every trick in the book to keep her teacher from realizing she cannot read. In Mr. Daniels, however, she’s met her match. He’s determined to figure out the real Ally. In the process, Ally finds that she is actually very intelligent, and her dyslexia doesn’t have to define her. The anxiety about her undiagnosed disability finally lifts for Ally. The complex characters and rich story make this chapter book a must-read. It will speak both to those students who struggle academically and those who might not be their kindest all the time.
Umbrella Summer by Lisa Graff
What happens when your worst fear comes true? When Annie’s brother dies in a terrible accident, she responds by playing everything VERY safe – ultimately becoming a prisoner of worry. With so much danger surrounding her, how can Annie ‘stop worrying’, as everyone advises? A new neighbor helps Annie to take a different view of being careful and start enjoying her life again. This book will help students understand that it’s OK to ask for help before worry and anxiety becomes too much to handle. It’s also great to start about a conversation about anxiety v. just worry.
The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson
Matthew’s struggles with OCD are taking over his life. He’s stopped going to school and refuses to leave his bedroom. His hands are cracked and bleeding from excessive washing. From his bedroom, he watches the goings-on in his culdesac and details them in his journal. Suddenly, Matthew is the key witness in the disappearance of a toddler. Will he be able to overcome his fears and help his neighbors? Add this book to your library to help students understand that obsessive compulsive disorder is real and not a punchline.
The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
Natalie is dealing with a lot in her life – tumultuous friendships, overwhelm about school, and her mother’s crippling depression. She tries to understand and be patient with her mom but is frequently helpless, angry and confused. When her teacher encourages her to enter an egg-drop contest, Natalie imagines using the prize money to cheer up her mother with a trip. Will she win the contest? With the help of her friends, Natalie discovers the science of hope and love – and maybe even miracles.
Real Friends by Sharon Hale
This graphic novel focuses on the relationship between Shannon and Adrienne. They’ve been friends ever since they were little. Now, though, Adrienne is spending time with Jen, leader of The Group. Jen is popular, and everyone in The Group would do anything to be her BFF, even if it means bullying and excluding. Every day seems like a roller coaster for Shannon now – is she popular? Are she and Adrienne still friends? Elementary students will identify with the dynamics of these friendships.
These five chapter books about anxiety and mental health are perfect titles for your library shelves. What books would you add to this list for your upper elementary readers?