Susan Shelton knows a little something about using children’s literature to help students cope with overwhelming turmoil. The Hazelwood School District elementary school teacher used a book written by first graders, in the years following the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
The book was called September 12th: We Knew Everything Would Be All Right, a picture story that reassured children after the terrorist attacks, written by Darlene Robertson’s first-grade students in Kennett, Mo. The book earned the class honors from publisher Scholastic.
Shelton, who lives in the city of St. Louis, told us that book helped her create a safe environment for children to talk about their concerns, fears and questions in the years after 9/11. We’re incredibly honored that she has found Painting for Peace in Ferguson to help in the same way, and that it reminded her in some way of the help she and her students got from the “September 12” book.
Now retired, Shelton subs in high school classrooms in a small St. Louis County district, and she’s as comfortable using Painting for Peace with older students as she is with elementary school children. “They appreciate it on a different level,” she said.
She carries books with her regularly as a substitute teacher so she’s ready with an activity when the regular lessons are done. In two high school classes recently, she’s read Painting for Peace to the students, sparking a conversation about the different experiences of students in her district versus those in North County. She said they were able to ask questions they might not have asked otherwise, and to gain an understanding for the different experiences of students elsewhere.
"The book is a good resource and it will be really important at the beginning of the next school year,” Shelton said. "I'm apprehensive about what might happen at the first-year anniversary of the shooting."