Inside: Learn some of the best books for military kids during deployment. Plus, 3 different ways to read to military kids to help them make sense of deployment.
Half his life. Only half. That’s the amount of time my husband’s been around since our son was born over 4 years ago.
Military life is filled with all sorts of unique life challenges. A service member parent, who is frequently in and out of the home. Changing schools. New homes. And of course…saying goodbye to their childhood friends over and over again.
This is a challenging life for kids.
They didn’t ask for this. So it’s up to us to coach and guide them along through the roller coaster of military life as best as we possibly can. Thankfully, one totally awesome way to help kids make sense of something as huge as deployment is books.
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11 Books for Military Kids During Deployment
The support for military kids continues to grow, as does the list of books written for military kids. There are many more books beyond this list, but these are by far my favorite books for military kids during deployment.
This book shows how Jerome adjusts to his mom, a Navy sailor, being away at sea. Jerome loves to bake cookies, read books, and take the family dog, Duffy, for walks when his mom is home.
When she goes off to sea, she tells Jerome to “Be brave.” Except, like many military kids, he doesn’t feel brave at all. This book helps kids understand different ways they can be brave in every day life at home. It’s also a Society of School Librarians International Honor Book.
This book isn’t specifically about military kids and deployment, but instead serves as a calming reminder of the constancy of parental love. Through the story of Little Bear and his mom, this book shares a powerful message of unconditional love put in a very child friendly way.
There is some negative feedback on this book, and it’s all from non-military families. For military kids and parents, this is a great one to use during deployment. The emotions are deep and real for kids yearning for more understanding; thoughtful exploration of 3 different kids’ perspectives while mom or dad is deployed.
4. Pilot Mom
Saying goodbye to parents is a very trying time for kids. This explores the separation anxiety kids can experience before a parent deploys. I love offering my kids different perspectives on what saying goodbye looks like to different military families. This book brought up several purposeful discussions in our home, like what it would be like to say goodbye to mom instead of dad.
This book is soooo cute! Perfect for younger kids and there is an “I Love My Mom” version too. Throughout the book, Ollie gets to do different activities with his dad. It’s a lovely way for kids to re-imagine all the things they love doing with their deployed parent.
The illustrations in this book are gorgeous — they give you a very sunshine glow vibe. It feels ALL warm and fuzzy. The book isn’t military specific, but explores a day in the life of a daddy bear and his bear cub. Celebrates the special bond dads have with their children.
Honestly, this book is so, so lovely. Written by Dr. Jill Biden, the book explores what it’s like for a military child preparing to say goodbye to her dad for one year. It touches on all the typical experiences of deployment like sending care packages, talking to dad on the computer, getting special support at school and having her dad come home.
For both boys and girls, this book addresses the worries, fears, challenges and victories military kids experience while their parent is away. It also offers tips and resources for parents. The part I love most is that it contains only pictures of actual service members and their kids — something all military kids can relate to!
9. A Paper Hug
This is a story about a little boy who figured out the best gift to give his dad who was leaving to serve his country . . . a paper hug. It’s so sweet, but also offers something real and actionable military kids can do during deployment. This is the perfect book to read right before sending off letters and care packages to a deployed parent.
There is a mommy version for this one too! This is not military specific, but is about a boy waiting for his daddy to come home from a trip (so could be useful for all those training / work ups / TDY trips). It’s a great way to give variety to books for military kids during deployment.
11. Night Catch
This is such a comforting storyline to kids…When a soldier’s work takes him half-way around the world, he enlists the help of the North Star for a nightly game of catch with his son.
Sally Zoll of United Through Reading says, “Keeping military families connected during deployment is the core of our work. Brenda’s exceptional imagery allows military families to realize mindfulness–keeping the parent in the mind of the child and the child in the mind of the parent. Night Catch is the best of the best!”
This children’s military deployment book shows some of the many places daddy sleeps while he is away. In this wonderful story, daddy travels to every clime and place including the mountains, the prairie, the jungle, and everywhere in between. Though daddy’s particular location and sleeping arrangements are constantly changing, one thing never does. No matter how far daddy is from home, home is never far from his mind.
13. Hug in the Wind
This book is written and illustrated by a Navy Pilot, who made this book while deployed using colored pencils and spare paper, then took pictures of the pages to send home for his son’s second birthday. The pictures are beautiful and the story details how a parent’s hug can travel around the world and into a child’s heart. Easy comprehension and visual imagery for younger kids.
In Deployment: One of Our Pieces is Missing, our family must learn to stretch and adapt as they find their new normal while Dad is gone. And once home again, they work through a mix of emotions as he settles back into the family frame.
This book is about a fun-loving dog named Monroe whose owner goes away on a military deployment. It allows young readers to relate to high-spirited Monroe as he navigates the struggles many children face when a family member leaves for an extended period of time. A short and simple read for younger kids.
In Daddy Left with Mr. Army, author Chandelle Walker offers insight from a child’s perspective to help you understand the emotions your child may be feeling as a separation occurs.
Based on Walker’s personal experiences in a military family dealing with deployments, Daddy Left with Mr. Army helps both children and parents open a conversation about the time away. Through rhyme and illustrations, this picture book shares the challenges of deployment but also the joys of serving the United States in the military.
Kids often wonder what a soldier actually does. Why does he dress that way? Could I be a soldier one day? Private First Class Sam Smith is a soldier in the U.S. Army. Come along with Sam as he tells all about what it’s like to live, work, and (even) relax like a soldier. A fantastic book to help kids understand what mom or dad does during deployment.
There’ More: 3 Important Ways to Read to Kids
Reading is a powerful tool to using with military kids during deployment, but there are 3 ways you can make it even more powerful.
1. Read the same book over and over again.
Have any of you noticed how your kids ask for the same book over and over again? My kids do this all the time now. When I finish a book and there is a typically a chorus of “again, mommy!” Here’s WHY these repeat readings matter: Repeat picture book readings also boost comprehension. Different nuances and aspects of a story will come to life as you read that book multiple times. This can help your child understand the story at a much deeper level than if it were glossed over once.
2. Let the child tell the story by looking at the pictures.
Having your child read YOU the story helps you understand their comprehension of the book. They aren’t reading the words, but rather looking at the pictures and telling you the story. Doing this can offer invaluable insight into the heart and mind of your child.
3. Hold space for this special time.
Your child may want to talk more about certain topics after reading books on deployment. Hold space for this special time, knowing that you are building connection with them, creating an emotional foundation and helping them process. Reading with your kids during deployment is one of the most powerful things you can do.
Want more on military life?
- How to Make Your Own Daddy Doll for Military Kids — A Tutorial
- Best Toys and Resources for Military Kids During Deployment
- How to Prepare Your Child’s School for Deployment
- 47 Things No One Tells You About Being a Military Wife