Bringing Hope in Times of Angst

Turn on the news or go online and hate, anger, and violence are the top stories.  Or nature and fires seem never-ending, causing animals to lose their habitats and become endangered. Or a new virus is at almost epidemic proportions. It is easy to feel overwhelmed these days.  This is such a timely and needed theme to showcase; the message of HOPE … when the news and social media seem hopeless, these books will inspire and give hope to your students (& to you!)
Research has shown that hopeful students are able to draw on memories of other successes when they face an obstacle. However, students who feel hopeless often don’t have these kinds of successful memories. This is why it’s vital for teachers to read books and share stories of other people—especially kids—who have overcome adversity to reach their goals.(This post contains Amazon affiliate links. This means that Amazon sends me a little pocket change, at no cost to you, if you purchase through one of these links. This helps keep my site running and fund giveaways for you!)
Seeds of Freedom by Hester Bass is the true and inspiring story about the lesser-known chapter in American and African-American history during the Civil Rights era. Unlike the hatred and violence this era is often known for, the citizens of Huntsville, Alabama demonstrated creativity, courage, and cooperation. They worked together to integrate their city and schools in peace. This book gives hope during a seemingly hopeless time period and shows how racial discrimination, bullying, and unfairness can be faced successfully with perseverance and thinking outside the box. This book is also a timely read for Black History Month!
I want my students to think of hope not as a mindless pie-in-the-sky dream, but the feeling of empowerment, connected to growth mindset. I use the short stories from a book called Gutsy Girls by Tina Schwager and  Real Kids, Real Stories, Real Challenges: Overcoming Adversity Around the World by Garth Sundem. They are both books with short stories about real kids who have overcome adversity, bringing hope. I either use the stories as a read aloud during morning meeting and we create a chart listing attributes these kids exemplify (with specific examples from the text as evidence).

I’ve given copies of a few different stories from those same two books to groups of students to discover and identify traits of the particular individual they read about. They create a skit or interview of their selected person. Sometimes they want to create a short video. They are so motivated and excited to share these determined and hopeful stories!
There’s a wonderful book to incorporate poetry and art: Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, a picture book with the words from a poem by Maya Angelou. It’s illustrated by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. It just celebrated its 25th year in print! Maya Angelou's brave, defiant poem celebrates the courage within each of us, young and old. "From the scary thought of panthers in the park to the unsettling scene of a new classroom, fearsome images are summoned and dispelled by the power of faith in ourselves."

The pictures are bold and a little scary, but the words give humor and hope to the reader. There is a bibliography of Angelou's books and museum listings of Basquiat's works included.
Be sure to listen to episode 69 of We Teach So Hard, our monthly themed book talk! Click HERE or on the image below to listen! Then be sure to visit Tracy, Deann, and Retta's blogs for MORE books on hope!
Bringing Hope in Times of Angst // Tried & True Teaching Tools
Hope is a 4-Letter Word // Socrates Lantern
 Finding Hope // Rainbow City Learning


  1. Love your post with such creative ideas. This is such a timely topic for today's world.

    1. Thanks, Deann! I agree; we need to give students the tools and background to be able to hope!

  2. Whenever I read your posts, I always come a way with a treasured nugget. This time, I need to go buy some books. I'm really excited about the Maya Angelou and Seeds of Freedom Book. Thank you!