High 5! 5 Books & Films that Build Resilience

Free Arts staff is continuously educating themselves in ways to transform trauma to resilience. Through attending conferences, reading books and articles, and viewing various programming on the subject, Free Arts staff looks to find innovative techniques to help children increase skills and strengthen relationships, through resilience-building art programs and caring adult volunteer mentors. Here are five books and five videos that our staff has selected that have proven beneficial to enhancing our programs.  We hope you’ll check them out as well!


  • The Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. Free Arts trains new volunteer mentors on trauma-informed care, ACEs (Adverse Child Experiences), and resilience using much of the work done by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. This book explains through intriguing personal antidotes, the deep connection between ACEs and health outcomes.
  • The Yes Brain Child by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.DThe Yes Brain Child explains research about social development, clinical psychology, and neuroscience from a perspective geared at parents, but it also says these sciences can apply to all caregivers and mentors in a child’s life. It’s a great tool for understanding why Free Arts teaches our mentors things like encouragement, no mistakes in art, bravery, and consistency.
  • Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. VanceHillbilly Elegy is a memoir chronicling a story of childhood trauma in rural Appalachia.
  • Gun Love, by Jennifer ClementGun Love is fiction and takes the reader on the journey of a girl who’s grown up homeless with her mom in Florida, where she is constantly exposed to violence caused by guns. She is placed into the foster care system and tries to come to terms with how her life is changing and the lessons she learned from growing up exposed to trauma.
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, by Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.  Dr. Bessel van der Kolk had been working with survivors of trauma for over three decades and is one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject. Dr. van der Kolk demonstrates through scientific studies the effects that trauma has directly on the body and the brain. He also brings forward innovative treatments in a wide variety of fields to help victims recover from their trauma.


  • Which Way HomeWhich Way Home is a HBO documentary that focuses on the journey unaccompanied minors make across Central America in hopes of reaching the United States.
  • Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hope.Resilience: The Biology of Stress and The Science of Hopeexamines a dangerous biological syndrome caused by abuse and neglect during childhood.  The film also spotlights the efforts in the fields of pediatrics, education, and social welfare to help relieve children of this toxic stress. 
  • Art Therapy: The MovieArt Therapy: The Movie explores innovative ways that art therapy is being used in different parts of the world to help relieve trauma and emotional distress in patients.   
  • Paper Tigers. Paper Tigers examines ACEs (Adverse Child Experiences), what it means to be a trauma-informed school, and how a teacher can be the one caring adult in a child’s life. This film is set at Lincoln Alternative High School in Walla Walla, Washington and gives a voice and lens to teens dealing with their own trauma.
  • Inocente. Inocente is the story about a teenage undocumented immigrant living homeless as told in her own words. Inocente looks at the day-to-day challenges that she faces and how she continues to strive to reach her goal of becoming an artist.   .   

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