Is my mom leaving? Who are my real friends? I can’t believe they’re gone. Did I make the team? I have a D in math! Blasted on Instagram! Am I good enough? These are the many dark clouds hovering over Little Candle, dimming her flame, and dulling any glimmer of hope for a better tomorrow. Like Little Candle, our students have similar worries that are clouding their thoughts as they come to school each day. As the storm clouds build up, these worries and frustrations can prevent our students from feeling successful, joyful, or hopeful, much less feeling able and ready to focus on academic learning. That’s why social emotional learning is so important in the development of our students. I’m a huge fan of books by counselor and children’s author, Julia Cook, and I was lucky to be given an advanced copy of her latest book, A Flicker of Hope, from the National Center for Youth Issues. According to the most recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control in 2016, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24, and according to a study published in Pediatrics earlier this year (May 2018), the number of kids hospitalized for thinking about or attempting suicide doubled in less than a decade. Not one specific cause can be blamed, but I would propose that more and more children facing many more challenges – especially socially – at younger and younger ages. Although this book doesn’t dwell on suicide – in fact, it never mentions the word – it does address what would happen if little candle’s flame went out. “When a flame goes out before its time, the hearts that are left behind are broken forever. Flames that go dark too early leave many gifts which never get shared… and that’s so unfair.” This book is all about reminding kids that no one else in the world has a light like theirs, and to keep it shining, sometimes you have to ask for help; reach out for a boost of hope. I think this book opens doors for conversations in the classroom about what emotions students are experiencing when they come to school and what struggles – both at home and at school – they are facing. As a teacher, having some insight into these emotions and struggles, can help you offer suggestions for how to cope, problem solve, and prioritize. It can also be an opportunity for you to – as the book suggests – build a community of “hope builders” in your classroom where children can connect with each other on a more personal level, offer empathy and understanding to their classmates, and be champions who fight to keep each other’s flames lit. If you’re interested, check it out here, and if you’d like a free bookmark companion to the book, download it here.