Monday 10 February 2020

A shared book is a brilliant mental health tool. Moira Butterfield

Children’s Mental Health Week finished yesterday, with lots of people and media outlets engaging in this vital topic.

I want to put out an extra shout for sharing books as a great way to get children talking about their feelings and experiences. It’s got to be much more instantly engaging than any other medium, surely, not least because of the physical element - a book can be physically shared between an adult and a child sitting side by side. It creates a safe space for talking. It can re-shared, too, over and over - bringing out new possibilities each time.

That makes a shared children’s book a brilliant mental health tool.

I can testify to this because of the reactions I get to my Everybody Feels series, published by QED. I’ve just completed four more to make a series of eight, which is being used in schools and by mental health professions in several countries. The publisher came to me with a format that had already been tried and tested – two mini stories closely based on a typical child experience and some talking pages to get a young reader chatting about what happened to the child in the story. I added in an introduction page and a poem at the beginning, to get the thinking going. At the back there’s a simple glossary of story words and a page of creative activity ideas for a child or class.

The series is approachably and engagingly illustrated by Holly Sterling.  

One of the covers from series one 

These books seem pretty simple, I guess, but they’re deliberately so - aimed fairly and squarely at encouraging interaction between a young reader and an adult. They were designed for schools, but are good for home use, too. Looking at the Amazon reviews one or two parents thought they were going to be self-help books with lots of parent strategies, but they're really tools for children. 

Feelings from the point of view of a child 

A simple poem at the beginning, to engage a child in their feelings. 

 There are some great feelings books out there for both pre-schoolers and early school years. I would recommend any parent to seek out one or two, perhaps from the library initially, and find out which one they and their child enjoy engaging with – then make a purchase.

There’s a link at the bottom of the blog to a 2018 article by Donna Ferguson on some picture books that specifically deal with feelings. If you have any further suggestions, please do add below. 

Moira Butterfield is a writer of children's non-fiction and fiction. Her Everybody Feels series is published by QED. 

Twitter @moiraworld
Instagram @moirabutterfieldauthor 

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