Cascade Mall shooting: Community turns to books in effort to help kids deal with trauma, loss

BURLINGTON, Wash. – The deadly shooting at Cascade Mall and other events across the country impact all of us, including our kids.

Experts say we can no longer shelter them from what’s happening around us.

“Lots of people are sad at our school,” said 9-year-old Mateo Torres.

The shooting deaths of five people at Cascade Mall dominates the conversation at Mateo Torres’ elementary school.

“The 16-year-old girl -- a lot of people know her,” said Torres.

All of that makes the 9-year-old worry, "about more people coming and killing more of our friends or family members that I may know or friends.”

That’s why Gale Torres brought her son to a community meeting at the Burlington Library.  It’s a conversation on helping kids deal with trauma and loss.

“It’s really hard because they should be innocent. They shouldn’t have to worry about walking in a mall. They shouldn’t have to worry about walking down the street. I want my son to play like I did as a child,” said mother Gale Torres.

But today, kids live in a new reality.

“You don’t need to share graphic details but you do need to help them understand what it means to have someone die,” said Western Washington University’s Palliative Care Institute Director Marie Eaton.

Leaders from Western Washington University’s Palliative Care Institute encourage dialogue about tough topics.  In this case, with the help of age-appropriate books like “Sonya’s Chickens” for pre-schoolers.

“It’s a book about a young girl who keeps chickens and the fox gets one of the chickens one night,” said Western Washington University Librarian Sylvia Tag.

For middle schoolers, a book like “The Thing About Jellyfish” could be helpful.

“Her friend goes on vacation and has an accident and dies and she ended that friendship.  It ended on a tragic note so it’s her trying to come to terms with that,” said Tag.

And for teens, try “The Adoration of Jenna Fox.”  Experts say story time opens the door to dialogue striking Mateo to come up with this goal for his classmates.

“For them to be happy and not worry about it anymore,” said Torres.

Experts urge parents have these conversations before something traumatic happens so kids have the tools and the language to deal with the event.