Tag archives: children’s well-being

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Children’s and young people’s mental health: how reading can help, plus booklists and quotes

img_3525Some time ago I did a fascinating and illuminating online course on literature and mental health. It’s still available. Doctors, celebrities and academics shared moving insights about the ways in which reading can help people struggling with depression and other debilitating mental health issues. Mental health problems among children and young people are horribly prevalent. As someone who specialises in children’s and young people’s reading, I am particularly interested in the role that books and reading can play in supporting them, and also in spreading understanding about the issues. In the words of Frank Cottrell Boyce, a book is ‘the knife that picks the lock of your isolation.’

I have found these articles and booklists informative and helpful:

Holly Bourne (author of the wonderful Am I Normal Yet?) has written an excellent piece on mental health issues in YA fiction.

Read what two teenagers with mental health problems have to say about the importance of books – and the paucity of provision – in ‘Mental health and books: teenagers speak out’.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has a list of books for pre-school to 12 year-old children on a wide range of mental health concerns. Letterbox Library supplies a good range of children’s books on mental health issues. Have a look too at Booktrust’s list, which includes both children’s and young adult titles.

Do read about the Reading Well scheme to support young people’s mental health in libraries. There’s a useful guide to the books available, organised by issue (eg bullying, self-harm, OCD, body image and eating disorders).

Young Minds has a list of young adult books that reflect mental health issues. There’s another valuable booklist from Madeleine Kuderick, author of Kiss of Broken Glass.

A few more quotes to end. Shami Chakrabarti tells us ‘Reading can bring the breeze of hope’. This is John Green: ‘Great books help you understand, and they help you feel understood.’ Matt Haig, who writes so brilliantly about depression, says in Reasons to Stay Alive that reading is important ‘because it gives you room to exist beyond the reality you’re given. Reading makes the world better.’ Finally, here’s Ben Okri: ‘Stories can conquer fear, you know. They can make the heart bigger.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

New reports on children’s well-being and the impact of school moves

The Children’s Society has published its latest Good Childhood Report. These are the key findings, some depressing:

  • Children in the UK experienced a rise in well-being between 1994 and 2008, but this appears to have stalled and may have begun to reverse.
  • Around 80% of children are ‘flourishing’: they are satisfied with their lives and find them worthwhile.
  • 14 -15 year-olds have lower well-being than younger or older children for most aspects of their lives.
  • Children with low well-being are over 20 times less likely than other children to feel safe at home, eight times more likely to say that their family does not get along well together and five times more likely to report having recently been bullied.
  • Children who lack five or more items on the Society’s deprivation index are 13 times less likely to feel safe at home and six times less likely to feel positive about the future.
  • The amount of harmony, support and parental control within families all have a significant impact on children’s well-being.
  • Children’s levels of well-being can be changed and improved by external factors.

Between the Cracks from the RSA makes sad reading, this time on the impact of school moves on attainment. Only 27% of pupils who move schools three times or more during their secondary school career achieve 5 A* to C GCSE’s (national average of 60%). SATs results for KS2 children dropped 12% following one in year move, 17% for two and 25% for three. Children who move school in-year already face significant disadvantage: 46% are eligible for the pupil premium (national average of 25%) and 29% have a special need.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

New reports about children and young people

Lots of important new research has been published recently.

The Children’s Society launched the Good Childhood Report 2012 today (summary here). Shockingly, half a million children in the UK are unhappy with their lives. The Society identifies the components of well-being for children. These are some of the key findings:

  • Family is the most important component of most children’s happiness.
  • It is not the structure, but the relationships within a family that children care about.
  • Stability is important. Changes in family structure and frequent changes of home significantly impact on children’s well-being.
  • Low well-being increases with age, doubling from age 10 to 15.
  • Children living in the poorest 20% of households have much lower well-being than average.
  • Children who feel they spend too little time with family and friends tend to have lower well-being.
  • Autonomy and choice are very important to children’s well-being.
  • At 15 56% of girls and 32% of boys are unhappy with their appearance.
  • School and education are key factors influencing well-being.
  • Children who have been bullied are significantly more likely to experience low well-being than those who have not.

We know that child poverty has major consequences for children’s well-being and prospects. Another useful and disturbing report published by End Child Poverty this month highlights the scale of child poverty in the UK, and provides maps and tables.

In the light of the fact that spending time with family is so important, it is depressing to read evidence from children’s communication charity I CAN that work pressures are having a major effect on the amount of time parents talk to their children. In addition to the inevitable impact this has on children’s happiness, it is deeply worrying in terms of what it means for children’s speaking and understanding skills and their ability to learn.