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Prepare Teens for Real-Life Disasters Using Young Adult Fiction

Prepare Teens for disasters using YA fiction


Do you think it’s hard to get your teens interested in Emergency Preparedness? Helping your teen(s) create an “emergency preparedness” Young Adult (YA) summer reading list may help them to view emergency preparedness in a new light. With the success of teen survival novels turned movies like the Hunger Games, your teens might enjoy reading other stories about how teens were resourceful while surviving during emergency situations.

But what if your kids are like Greg Heffley from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid? When his mom tries to create a “reading is fun club” during the summer, Greg asks her why she can’t give him a “real punishment than having to read the classics.” Perhaps your teens see emergency preparedness and reading in the same light, and while you can’t force them to read or prepare, you can give them sneak peeks of what each survival book is like.

You can show them “book trailers” to give them a sense of the main idea of each story. A book trailer, like movie trailers, might get them more interested in the story. Also, consider reading the book first or along with your kids. As you read, you can discuss what you’ve each learned about prepping, and make your own family game plan based on what the characters do well (and not so well).

Recently, I have been reading Susan Beth Pfeffer’s YA novel Life as We Knew It. This book has made me think about what I would do in a natural disaster (caused by a meteor colliding with the moon!). This disaster seems pretty far-fetched, but recently a meteor did hit the moon! While the effects were not as far reaching as what happens in the book, scientists explain that this impact created the biggest explosion of its kind. Luckily, the Earth’s global climate was not affected, but this book can help you start discussions about what to do in regular natural disasters as well.

At the beginning of the novel, sixteen-year-old Miranda makes a very teenager-like statement: I guess I always felt even if the world came to an end, McDonald’s would still be open. Do your kids know where their food comes from? A discussion about the supply chain for restaurants and grocery stores will be an eye-opening talk for your kids, who may think something more along the lines of Miranda’s assumption.

From Miranda’s struggles throughout the book, we can learn how to think, plan, and prepare for emergencies before they strike. For instance: if you couldn't buy food at the grocery store, what would you eat?

Since Miranda and her family didn’t have any food storage, they put themselves into a dangerous situation as they head to a looted grocery store to stock up on food and supplies. These are the items that they thought were the most important to grab:

- Dry foods
- Canned fruits, vegetables, and Progresso soup
- Water bottles and jugs
- Dry milk and canned juices
- Pet food
- Pastas
- Canned Tuna
- Cookies, cakes, pretzels, chips, candy, nuts . . .

Why would you stock up on Junk Food?
After the meteor hits, Miranda and her family start stuffing their mouths with chocolate chip cookies as a coping mechanism. Candies, cookies, and other comfort food items can help your family to feel less stressed during an emergency. You want to include food you are comfortable and familiar with in your food storage. However, the cookies Miranda’s family purchases from the store will only last so long before they go bad (use dehydrated or freeze-dried ingredients to make your treats!)

This is not to say that during an emergency we can eat all the treats we want. While comfort foods have their place, you want to focus on stocking up your food storage with nutritious, filling, and healthy foods.

What other types of non-food item supplies would you need?
In the store, Miranda’s mom gives everyone a mission—one person got water, the other dried foods, etc. Miranda’s duty was to stock up on vitamins and medicines. When Miranda hits the medicine aisle, it is practically untouched. In emergency situations, non-food items are just as important to your survival as food items. Here are some non-food items they thought were important to purchase:

- Paper products—toilet paper, feminine hygiene products
- Oil lamps
- Matches
- Batteries
- Candles
- Garden seeds to grow veggies and fruits

What Basic Survival Skills can you learn?
The rest of the book also discusses what to do in power outages, for communication needs (radio), and coping with stress in an emergency situation, taking out cash from the bank, and basic survival skills that could also give your teens new perspectives on prepping.

As author Virginia Woolfe once said, “Fiction is like a spider's web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners.” Since fiction is a representation of reality, you can use YA survival novels like Life As We Knew It to talk to your teens about why it’s important to have an adequate food and supply storage that fits your family’s needs. Consider what those needs are; create a list, and start prepping.

Here is a list of other YA survival novels that will help your teens start thinking about prepping:

The Maze Runner by James Dashner
My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Matched by Allie Condie

4 thoughts on “Prepare Teens for Real-Life Disasters Using Young Adult Fiction ”

  • Brenda Pate

    Is this sort of thing available in a handout - class type of presentation. Almost too many words to present to some of the teens I work with. Maybe a what would you do quiz? then outline of alternatives - this would work for education adults also - I like your handout like preparing a safe toom etc.

    • beprepared

      Hi Brenda,
      We currently do not have a handout for a class presentation for this post. Thanks for the suggestion though about making classroom handouts. And I totally understand about it being too many words for some teens to read. But I have a suggestion for you if you'd like to use it in your classroom. I think a class discussion and handout could be generated from the part of the post that starts talking about the book "Life as we know it." Feel free to copy the post and cut out what you'd like from it to make it more accessible for your classroom. I think you could even have a brief discussion about the book and the things the main character did (based on my blog post) and then make a handout that just has the bolded questions in the blog post and a blank space for the teens to fill in their answers. Then after they fill out the sheet, you could have a discussion about what items are needed in an emergency. It would be interesting to hear what the teens would think they'd need or want to take with them if there was an emergency. Hope this helps.

  • Beth Carmichael
    Beth Carmichael March 3, 2016 at 11:39 pm

    Another really good one is Terri Blackstock's Restoration Series. It's a four book series written from a Christian perspective, but very good books dealing with survival after a world-wide catastrophe. Very entertaining.

  • Mary

    My teen grand kiddos are not readers. I imagine any material they read would need to be eye catching, fun/ enticing them into it, and relate to,sports (especially the boys) and social life and dating (especially the girls),. The characters would need to appeal,to teens, and their challenges, and even insecurities, (esp. Teen girls).
    Addressing family challenges : house fire, water supply unavailable from 1-4 weeks, weather emergencies foremost, short to long term power outages, and especially Building the Pantry though the eyes of a teen family: sis, brother, young sibling, and parents. Other household: single mom, foster kids, disabled child, etc can be worked into the story.

    Any writers out there willing to,take on the challenge??

    Any long term disasters may need to be addressed in a sequel, after they are hooked on Book 1....

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