Mental Health Awareness Week
This year’s theme is ‘Nature’ and this week many books for young children, acknowledging or exploring mental health issues, are brought to the public’s attention.
The Book Trust lists a range of books that can help parents to explore their children’s range of emotions and perhaps provoke a useful discussion at the same time.
Ages 3 - 8
My Monster and Me
Author: Nadiya Hussain and Ella Bailey
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books Interest age: 3-5
A boy introduces both himself and his monster, who has been with him for as long as he can remember. An all-round perfect picture book for entertaining and reassuring any child that though anxiety may be a part of life, it does not define us and can be managed.
Author: Hannah Cumming Publisher: Child's Play Interest age: 4+
Reading age: 6+
Everyone loves art class; everyone except the little girl who sits alone and draws nothing, a black cloud glowering above her.
The Colour Monster
Author: Anna Llenas Publisher: Templar Interest age: 3-8 Reading age: 7+
An original and entertaining picture book using colour, collage-effect illustrations and a delightfully cute monster to help youngsters identify and understand different emotions.
The Colour Thief
Author: Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters Illustrator: Karin Littlewood
Publisher: Wayland Interest age: 4-8 Reading age: 7+
Drawing on personal experiences of living in a family blighted by depression, this unusual, yet important, book may help youngsters to make sense of an illness they cannot see.
Up and Down Mum
Author: Summer Macon Publisher: Child’s Play Interest age: 4-8 Reading age: 5+
Everyone has good days and bad days, but in some cases, it is far more extreme. This powerful and moving portrayal of a parent with Bipolar Disorder is laced with hope and reassurance. An inspired picture book, created in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust.
Author: Nicola Davies Illustrator: Cathy Fisher Publisher: Graffeg Books Interest age: 5+ Reading age: 7+
A young boy and his father are planning a pond in their back garden - but they only get as far as digging a muddy hole when Dad passes away. A raw, emotional but ultimately hopeful take on grief, loss, nature and love.
Michael Rosen's Sad Book
Author: Michael Rosen Illustrator: Quentin Blake Publisher: Walker Books Interest age: 6+ Reading age: 6+
The subject of bereavement is treated in an unusual way in Michael Rosen's Sad Book, which deals with the death of the author's own son.
Author: Gill Lewis Publisher: Oxford University Press Interest age: 8+ Reading age: 7+
At times heart-rending, this is a powerful story which skilfully gains our sympathy for those who are often misjudged, feared and derided by society.
Ages 9 – 11
Aubrey and the Terrible Yoot
Author: Horatio Clare Illustrator: Jane Matthews Publisher: Firefly Interest age: 9-12 Reading age: 9+
This fabulously illustrated book addresses the difficult subject of parental depression, at once describing the horror of Aubrey’s dad’s experience but also remaining upbeat and full of surreal humour.
Hopewell High: All Too Much
Author: Jo Cotterill Illustrator: Maria Garcia Borrego Publisher: Bloomsbury Interest age: 9+ Reading age: 9+
An absorbing school story that looks at the pressures and mental health challenges for young people when trying to live up to expectations. Part of a series that provides age-appropriate stories for struggling and reluctant readers.
The Red Tree
Author: Shaun Tan Publisher: Hodder Children's Books Interest age: 9+ Reading age: 9+
The perfect blend of words and pictures, this is a wonderful book to share with anyone suffering from depression or uncertainty.
Author: J H Diehl Publisher: Chronicle Books Interest age: 9+ Reading age: 9+
Thirteen-year-old Alice is trying to stop her family falling apart. A very beautiful and sensitively handled book that touches on themes of mental health, family relationships, friendships and love.
The Mystery of the Colour Thief
Author: Ewa Jozefkowicz Illustrator: Sophie Gilmore (front cover) Publisher: Zephyr Interest age: 9-11 Reading age: 9-11
The book paints a convincing picture of a harrowing time in a young life, and the time, talking and friendship that helps her to process trauma. But this is by no means a gloomy read, offering ample humour, hope and optimism.
The Goldfish Boy
Author: Lisa Thompson Publisher: Scholastic Interest age: 9-12 Reading age: 9+
Matthew has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Can he help an investigation into the abduction of a child, perhaps without even leaving his house? A captivating read, combining a compelling whodunit with an engaging protagonist.
The Illustrated Mum
Author: Jacqueline Wilson Illustrator: Nick Sharratt Publisher: Doubleday Interest age: 10+ Reading age: 10+
This is a moving yet unsentimental account of two children coming to terms with their mother’s depression, mental instability and alcohol problem.
Running on the Cracks
Author: Julia Donaldson Publisher: Egmont Interest age: 11+ Reading age: 11+
Julia Donaldson's first novel for young adults is a tense thriller about a runaway. Donaldson addresses numerous issues in her gripping text, including abuse, mental health, mixed-race families and, above all, loyalty.
It is well known that reading books encourages dialogue, reduces stigma and increases understanding. Why not take a book outside and share it together, while enjoying the benefits of the natural world all around us?
More details here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week
Benefits of Letter Writing and Wellbeing
The National Literacy Trust’s research into letter writing among young people found far-reaching connections between literacy engagement and wellbeing, especially during last year’s pandemic. Research found:
- Children and young people’s letter writing has risen in popularity with 36.7% now writing letters in their free time, compared to 28.9% in 2011
- Children are mostly writing letters to stay in touch with family and friends (52.7%) or to make the letter recipient happy (47.8%)
- Children also say that writing letters makes them feel happy (33.8%) and helps them express their feelings (30.7%)
The poet Rutendo Tavengerwei, author of the poem The Store Full of Magical Things which features in The Book of Hopes, has set children a challenge to write a letter to a friend or family member sending them “a smile that can never fade”. More details in her video here.
More information here: https://literacytrust.org.uk/resources/rutendo-tavengerwei-inspiration-for-letter-writing/
Mrs Hughes and Mrs Westwood