A West Philly couple wrote a children’s book to help parents have ‘The Climate Talk’

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  • By Elizabeth Estrada, WHY


Talking to kids about complicated topics – like climate change – can be difficult.

There’s a lot to cover, from the basic science of what’s happening to the planet to why it’s happening, who’s responsible, and what can be done about it. Not to mention the children’s emotional reactions to the information.

Powelton Village residents Lena Champlin and Jeremy Wortzel call this difficult conversation “The Climate Talk”. The couple, along with the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry’s climate committee, recently published a children’s book called Coco’s Fire: Turning Climate Anxiety into Climate Action to help children and parents navigate the climate. topic.

The idea was born from an encounter Champlin had while working at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

“A family was talking with me and I asked this little girl if she had heard of climate change,” Champlin said. “Her carer said, ‘Oh no, we’re not talking about climate change. “” Champlin was worried and confused. Had she done something wrong? Would the child think that climate change is a taboo subject?

She talked about it with her fiancé, Jeremy Wortzel.

“What really struck me was that the caregiver was really bringing this up, just like you would birds and bees or death or divorce,” said Wortzel, a medical student studying to become child psychiatrist. These are all topics that pediatric mental health professionals think critically about when explaining them to young people, Wortzel said.

Kimberly Paynter / WHY

Drexel students Jeremy Wortzel and Lena Champlin have written a children’s book about climate change.

The interaction at the museum got the couple thinking about climate change — and climate anxiety — and wondering what resources were available to families.

They started to do research.

“There are many children’s books that talk about climate change and environmental issues, but there are very few that talk about our feelings about it,” said Champlin, who is a doctoral candidate in environmental science at the ‘Drexel University.

They saw a significant opportunity to create something that could help children and adults navigate the science of climate change, the feelings it may evoke, and what they could do about it.

They reached out to the climate committee of the Group for the Advancement of Psychiatry (GAP), given their extensive work on the subject, and pitched the idea to them. Then they got to work.

Champlin, Wortzel and GAP collaborated for about a year on the book. They worked with focus groups of teachers, children and experts to write a book that would be a comprehensive resource for children aged 6-10. Champlin also illustrated the book.

“I think art can be such an important vehicle for explaining science,” she said, adding that the goal was to connect the images in the book with the message and ensure the experience was ” comforting, uplifting and accurate” for readers. .

The book follows Coco the squirrel and her father as they embark on a journey to stop climate change. During their quest, they explore different topics that raise concerns for Coco and the things that inspire her. The story includes tools for managing anxiety, like breathing techniques, as well as actions anyone, including a child, can take to get involved in the fight against climate change.

“The way we present this topic to young people either scares them away and doesn’t bring it up, or empowers them,” Wortzel said.

The book is available to buy online and 65% of the proceeds are donated to climate change and mental health research.


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