How Children's Literature Can Ameliorate Trauma

This presentation will focus on how children's literature that is trauma sensitive can improve the learning and psychosocial development of students.  Particular attention will be paid to how literature is vastly more than the story itself.  Stories evokes themes, history, philosophy, values and emotions. If reading is done like a layer cake, there is the possibility of probing and exploring stories as a vehicle for helping students deal with difficult issues.  This session will focus, in particular, on separation and attachment, transitional objects, problem solving and teamwork and a deep belief in the potential within us all.  Examples will be drawn from the presenters newest children's books including My Pocketbook and Lady Lucy's Morgan Horse Quest.


Participants will learn how to animate reading to, with and by children and adopt the layer cake approach to reading that allows students to see books as launch pads to address a myriad of difficult issues including separation and attachment, problem solving, and belief in self.

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Friday 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM

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  • LLQ
    Karen Gross

    Karen Gross is an educator, author and artist.  She has written award winning adult and trauma sensitive children’ books, including the Lady Lucy’s Quest series.  She specializes in student success across the PreK—20 educational pipeline and focuses her attention on students who are traumatized or otherwise at risk based on socio-economic status, gender, race or ethnicity or religion.  She also blogs regularly and speaks to groups and her artwork often appears in these venues.  She is regularly quoted in the media and has participated in broadcasts and podcasts on current issues involving education, including PBS, NPR Cross Currents, The New York Times, The Week, Readers Digest and Thrive Global, all as detailed on her website. 

    She currently serves as a continuing education instructor at Rutgers School of Social Work (teaching courses in trauma).  For four years pre-Pandemic, she was the author in residence at a 100% free and reduced lunch elementary school in Bennington, VT. She has been a visiting professor at several universities including at Bennington College and the University of British Columbia. She recently taught a course on how to write, illustrate, design and publish children’s books through the Rocky Neck Art Colony and a workshop series for the MA PTA on how to read to children in an animated trauma-responsive way.

    Her newest adult book, Trauma Does Not Stop at the School Door (released by Teachers College Press June 2020), focuses on how to create trauma responsive educational institutions.   She designed all the illustrations in this book. It was named one of top five education book releases in June 2020 and won the  2021 DKG International Educators Book of the Year Award. It extends the arguments from her earlier also award-winning adult book Breakaway Learners (published by Teachers College Press 2017).   She is also the author of 12 children’s books, including the Lady Lucy’s Quest series. Several of her children’s books have been translated into Spanish and one is bilingual (as is the author).  She has also illustrated one of her own books – a book of children’s poetry called Flying Umbrellas and Red Boats.  Her newest children's book (co-authored with Susanne Demetri) is titled My Pocketbook and it addresses separation/attachment and transitional objects. She has provided some of the book's illustrations. (Pub Date: June 30, 2022)

    Her other recent children’s book is titled Lady Lucy’s Morgan Horse Quest, which useful for schools reopening after COVID closures as it has a subtle pandemic theme. This book, along with her other works such as The Feeling Alphabet Activity Set (with Dr. Ed Wang of Harvard Medical School), are designed to address the mental health needs of students in this complex world through utilization of trauma ameliorating strategies.   

    Karen has written and spoken on the power of art and visual imagery, including at the Kennedy Institute.  She has created a myriad of art works, some of which she employs in her work on trauma and others of which are mixed media works intended to enable views to “engage” with her and perhaps even replicate what they are seeing.  Her colorful series on pencil tip erasers (“You Can’t Erase Me”) is one such effort. She uses common objects in her art as well as words, inspired by the remarkable art of Stephen Hannock.  Her work has been shown at the Rocky Neck Art Colony (Gloucester MA) and the DKG International Online Juried Art Exhibit, among other locations.  She was recently inducted in the DKG DSO Hall of Fame for her art work.

    Karen started her career as a teacher in Northampton, MA and Philadelphia, PA in the 1970’s.  She continued her professional life initially as a lawyer, working in two major law firms. Thereafter, she became a well-known law professor at New York Law School where she specialized in contracts, commercial law, consumer finance, and over indebtedness, having also studied and written specifically about women and money. One of her law review articles begins with a painting (not hers) and another with red ink on the names of women debtors, features rarely seen in legal publications.

    Karen’s then served as a college president for 8 plus years at a small, private, career-launching, liberal arts institution in Vermont. There, she employed a series of initiatives designed to support student success. She also developed a broad network within the world of higher education, speaking across the globe and serving on more than a dozen local, regional and national boards. While a college president, her work included service as President of a DIII Athletic Conference and on the NCAA DIII President’s Advisory Group.  She also developed a large philanthropic network, raising millions of dollars for her small institution.  Her work at the college included securing the donation of an art collection, development of installation art on campus and the commissioning of works of art to grace the campus walls.

    In 2012, she was secunded for 13 months to the federal government where she worked as Senior Policy Advisor in the U.S. Department of Education. Her work there also involved a major interagency effort aimed at improving post-service civilian re-entry for service men and women.  She spent time on military bases and at the Pentagon, expanding her engagement efforts.  Some of her early trauma and “lasticity” work began with her experiences with the military and Veterans.  She was honored to be invited to, and will be participating in, a capstone seminar event for graduates of the Army War College in mid-June 2022.

    All of Gross’ professional efforts, now over 40 years, have focused on asset building in low income communities, community economic development, over indebtedness and the success of more vulnerable populations including low income individuals, diverse populations, first generation students.   Her teaching, speaking, books and art further these goals.

    Gross currently divides her time between Gloucester, MA., Newton, MA and Washington, DC.  She is a Phi Beta Kappa Cum Laude graduate of Smith College, having spent her junior year at Dartmouth College in its first year of co-education and where she was a Rufus Choate School.She graduated cum laude from Temple University School of Law, having spent her third year of law school at the University of Chicago.  She is certified as a psychological first aid provider and a CA ACE trained educator.


    She can be emailed at:  She is active on social media and can be contacted there as well.