Books tackle the difficult topic of gun violence

These four books are an age-appropriate way to educate young people about the dangers of firearms

On December 6, it was 30 years since the Montreal massacre, when Marc Lepine walked into École Polytechnique at l’Université de Montréal and shot 14 women. It shook us to our very core as a society. Sadly, incidents of gun violence continue to happen. These books are a way to educate young people about gun violence, while also imagining a future when it can be greatly curbed.

Come with Me (Penguin Young Readers Group, $23.99)
 by Holly M. Mcghee – Ages 4-7

Seeing or hearing news about gun violence can cause a great deal of anxiety and fear in young children. This book seeks to provide pathways for young children to feel that the world can be a better place through small actions that encourage love over hate. This picture book follows a young girl who is feeling overwhelmed by the evening news, which only seems to present negative stories about people. When her father takes her out, he shows her that simple acts of kindness like looking at people in the eye or sharing a smile can make a big difference in helping people feel connected to one another. Soon, the girl is finding her own ways to spread joy. Shootings are often a consequence of deep human alienation, and sadly, many people lash out by killing innocent people. This book shows that there are other ways to heal human wounds.

We Say #Never Again (Random House Children’s Books, $23.99)
 by Parkland student journalists – Ages 12 -16

No child should ever have to experience the horror of a school shooting and this book, written by survivors of the Parkland shooting in Florida, is a fierce reminder of innocence lost when children are exposed to violent crimes. The book is a collection of essays by students who processed the trauma of losing 17 of their peers by working for the school newspaper and TV channel. From the day after the shooting, the school’s young journalism students provided coverage of events, chronicling how grief was transformed into some of the most powerful activism against the gun lobby that the U.S. has seen in recent years. The book exemplifies how journalism can serve a critical role in starting new narratives and shaping public opinion. For the students, it provided catharsis by harnessing media platforms to tell their story and amplify their message that #NeverAgain should young people have to stare down the barrel of a gun. For readers, it shows how powerlessness is a feeling that can be overcome through action.

Bullets into Bells (Beacon Press, $20) and
SHOT: 101 Survivors of Gun Violence in America (powerHouse Books, $39.95)
 by Kathy Shorr – Ages 14 & up

Art is a powerful way to cope with grief and to express painful and unjust experiences. These two books present artistic responses to the growing number of gun shootings in American society in different ways. In Bullets into Bells, renowned American poets take the agony of gun violence and transform it into poems that pave a path towards healing. Each poem is complemented by a response essay written by a survivor, an anti-gun activist or a concerned citizen. It also includes a foreword by politician Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt while she was in office. It makes for an emotional and gut-wrenching anthology that asks readers to reflect on the stereotypes that perpetuate hate and lead to shootings, and explores suffering in its many forms.

SHOT, on the other hand, uses photography to humanize the impacts of guns, which all too often are portrayed as almost banal in movies, television and video games. Photographer Kathy Shorr doesn’t shy away from the scars left behind by bullets, whether it be an actual wound, some form of paralysis or a psychological trauma. The portraits show survivors as young as 8 and as old as 80, sometimes against the background of where they were shot. Photographs reveal the strong spirit of survival, yet also accounts of the consequences of having guns in our world. The courage that exudes from each person provides a powerful testament to the preciousness of life, and how it is in our hands to build a world of peace.