For children, reading stories is a way to experience new perspectives and to gain understanding. When it comes to hospitalized children, having stories available about their unique experience can make them feel understood, comforted and not as alone in their circumstance. 

Reading, in general, is an activity used by child life specialists, healthcare professionals, parents and caregivers because it is known to reduce stress and have a calming effect on a frightened or anxious child.  Even more so, reading books centered on a child’s medical experience can help prepare the child for a hospital stay, procedure or even a routine check up. Books with photos or illustrations, in tandem with helpful and easy-to-understand text can introduce children to the hospital environment, the role of health professionals, hospital equipment and procedures, while allowing them to reduce their fear and to gain greater familiarization with their personal medical journey.

We have compiled a list of 10 unique children’s titles that focus on various children’s medical experiences. (Book summaries provided by Amazon, Lollipop Book Club and Little Parachutes)

  1. Franklin Goes to the Hospital: “Our favorite neighborhood turtle has broken his shell and needs to go to the hospital to have it mended. His friends are impressed with his bravery, but the truth is, Franklin is trembling with fear on the inside. And he’s really worried that his x-rays will reveal his inner feelings. Dr. Bear comes to the rescue and teaches Franklin that you can be afraid and brave at the same exact time.”
  2. S is for Surgery: “This is the ultimate surgery guide and activity book bundle for children. The author is a mom of a child who has undergone 20 surgical procedures, so she’s well-experienced in answering the questions and presenting information in a kid-friendly manner. This is a practical book for inquisitive children who want to know everything that is going to happen in the hospital.”
  3. Do I Have to Go to the Hospital?: “This gentle book explains that sometimes the only way to get better is by getting the care a hospital provides. Kids learn that they can make new friends and even have special visitors. And best of all, the doctors and nurses will help them heal.”
  4. How Do You Care for a Very Sick Bear?: Written by a childhood leukemia survivor, “this sweet story is about a special friendship between two bears. When one of them gets sick, the other struggles with the right words to say and what exactly to do. In gentle, rhyming text, little readers are offered guidance on how to care for their own very sick bear.”
  5. The Hospital Hoppities: “This story gives a voice to children in long-term hospital care and normalizes the hospital environment. It recognizes how many selfless acts of kindness are performed in hospitals every day by staff, volunteers and the families of sick children.”
  6. The Unstoppable Maggie McGee: “A warm, positive reflection of the imagination, friendship and trust of children in long-term hospital care.”
  7. Tiger Livy: “Tiger Livy is the story of a brave six-year-old who inspires empathy, patience, and grit in young readers. It was created for children living with chronic illness but is a great read for any child, even if they’re not sick. It includes coping strategies and inspires empathy.”
  8. Big Tree is Sick: “Helps children understand and cope with long-term or life-threatening illness of a relative or friend. The story is particularly relevant to cancer treatment.”
  9. A Day with the Animal Doctors: “Understanding what a trip to hospital might involve, told with gentle illustrations and humor.”
  10. A Visit to the Sesame Street Hospital:Grover, his mother, Ernie and Bert visit the Sesame Street Hospital in preparation for Grover’s upcoming tonsillectomy. The familiar characters change an unfamiliar hospital into a place to be trusted, and many typical questions are discussed.”

As a reminder, books are a great escape from a stressful hospital reality, so books that are not centered on the hospital experience are helpful too.