Tag archives: mental health

Monday, 28 January 2019

Reading for mindfulness and wellbeing – a new course and useful links

SloughI loved seeing this girl immersed in her library book, oblivious to all that was going on around her, stress-free. There is growing evidence that books and reading can play a valuable role in supporting children’s wellbeing. I was delighted to give a course about this recently. We explored the links between reading and mental health and identified ways to use books to build children’s self-esteem, self-awareness, mindfulness, resilience, empathy and understanding. The discussions were inspiring. (Details of this new area of training are now on my website.)

I thought it might be useful to share links to organisations, reports, articles and a video that I have found particularly illuminating and helpful, some of them about children’s mental health, others specifically about books and reading.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Rhymes and rhyme times and their value

golders-green-rhyme-time-1I have lots of training coming up on supporting reading in the Early Years Foundation Stage, and on working with babies and under fives in museums. Preparing them has got me thinking again about how important rhymes and rhyme times are. Then just today, I had a request for a rhyme time course.

There’s no question that young children love rhyme times, and that parents and carers value them greatly. The photo here of a wonderful session I attended in a Barnet library demonstrates just how special they are. There is also no question about the support they give for children’s well-being, their learning and their overall development. Research and anecdotal evidence show that they benefit:

•    social skills
•    self-esteem and confidence
•    attention and concentration
•    memory
•    imagination
•    physical coordination and motor skills
•    cognitive development
•    understanding of the world
•    numeracy
•    communication skills
•    speaking and listening skills
•    literacy
•    phonological awareness
•    vocabulary
•    comprehension

Quite a list! You might also be interested to read a recent article on the value of music and rhyme for children’s literacy development and another one on how using stories, songs and rhymes can support mental health.

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.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Young people and mental health

Great that young people’s mental health is getting a high profile in the media at the moment. Last night The Surgery with Aled on Radio 1 focused entirely on this issue. It’s only on i-player for a week, so catch it quickly. Saturday’s Guardian had an article on the need to tackle misunderstanding and prejudice around mental health issues among young people. It details a debate organised by the mental health anti-stigma campaign Time to Change. Well worth reading.

For anyone who doesn’t know it already, the Young Minds website is extremely valuable. Young Minds is a charity dedicated to improving children’s and young people’s well-being and mental health.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

I’m not like Tracy Beaker

Monday saw the publication of an important report by Young Minds. Improving the health of looked after young people is full of information about looked-after young people’s perceptions about their care, support services and school, and about their feelings. The differences between how young people act and how they feel are stark. Outward displays of strength and confidence are often masks for inner fears, insecurity and stress. Around 60% of looked-after young people have some level of mental health problem.

The report contains valuable recommendations. In view of the course I am co-running next month on how arts and cultural organisations can support looked-after children and young people, I was especially interested in the recommendation that art, play, drama and music should be used as methods for communication and improving emotional well-being.

I attended the report’s launch on Monday evening. ‘I’m not like Tracy Beaker’ combined a plea for society to take more care about looked-after young people with a celebration of their resilience and creativity. Speakers from Young Minds, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England and Flourish, a national programme to promote artwork by young people with experience of being in care, spoke passionately about the needs of looked-after young people, and about how creative activities can make them feel stronger and more in control of their lives. We heard about the powerful impact of involvement in poetry workshops and the annual Flourish exhibition. Poet Lemn Sissay, himself brought up in the care system, declared that looked-after young people are super-heroes, whom we should see not as victims, but in terms of their fantastic potential.