“Being a teenager is so easy,” said no one ever. The tween and teen years can be difficult, as kids face topics and social situations that can dramatically affect their outlook and self-esteem. As parents, we strive to help our kids be the best they can be, but it’s a brave new world out there and finding but positive outside influences to help kids cope and comprehend isn’t always easy either.

Enter Melissa Hart’s Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens. This is not just a list of great titles every kid should read (although we do think every kid should read all of these, and every grown up for that matter). Hart has carefully read and evaluated hundreds of books—500 to be exact—and chosen them as recommended reading for tweens and teens, categorized by important topics modern kids face.

Chapter topics include homelessness, immigration, adoption, body image, race, gender identity, mental health and more. Each chapter includes a thoughtful, personal essay from the author on why this topic was important to her to address.

Inspired by her experience with eh own daughter, Hart says:

“I really owe this one to my daughter, now in sixth grade. In her early years of grammar school, she struggled with anxiety related to loss and neglect—issues common to children adopted from the foster care system, and, in many cases, from international adoption situations. […] My daughter and I found, in studying a literary novel each month over two years, that our compassion for marginalized people and animals increased. As exciting, my child—who had struggled with severe anxiety and depression—began to develop a great deal of empathy for herself.”

If you’re looking to diversify your books at home, school or your local library, Melissa Hart just gave you marching orders. It’s up to you to fulfill them.

Find it here $11.79

Learn more at melissahart.com

—Amber Guetebier

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