Children's Mental Health Week from 1-7 February got Sally from our Children's Team thinking about the powerful role reading can play in supporting mental health and wellbeing.
After all, the National Literacy Trust has found that
‘Children who enjoy reading and writing and do it regularly outside school are three times more likely to have high levels of mental wellbeing.’
Here are a few suggestions from Sally on how to use the power of books to build your child’s mental health awareness.
1. Encourage your child to choose the book
The theme of this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week was ‘Express Yourself’. What better way to encourage your child’s self-expression than to help them learn more about something they're excited about?
You could turn it into a little research project. If your child is excited about sharks…time to bust out the shark books and reignite your own excitement about the topic as well.
WARNING: You may find yourself helplessly becoming an expert on obscure subjects. Don’t be surprised if you're springing megaladon facts on unsuspecting guests at your next dinner party.
2. Use books to develop your child’s understanding of emotions
Stories are one of the main ways children develop ideas about emotions. They help children build their emotional vocabulary so they can better express how they feel.
Stories are also an amazing way to learn empathy as they encourage children to see the world through someone else's eyes.
3. Read with your child, no matter their age
Strong relationships foster good mental wellbeing. Taking the time to read with your child is a great way to bond and show that you want to spend quality time together.
Even if they can read confidently on their own, it doesn't matter - reading together is a shared experience, allowing you both to switch off from the stresses of the day.
4. Find books that discuss mental health
Introducing children to the topic of mental health and wellbeing can be difficult. Luckily that’s where books can come in.
Non-fiction books help children better understand difficult ideas as well as their own emotions. Meanwhile fiction books often weave these topics into their storylines, including picture books for younger children.
The Children’s Library has a vast collection of books on these topics, but for more suggestions check out Reading Well, specialist book lists chosen by professionals.
5. Use reading to have open conversations
Use what you’re reading to start conversations with your child. If there's something worrying them, why not find a book that covers this and talk about what you're reading. This is a great way to introduce and discuss difficult or sensitive topics.
6. Bring books to life!
Reading's not just about learning. Reading is fun! It's an opportunity for you and your child to switch off from the stresses and worries they face at school and elsewhere.
So make it fun! Allow your child to use their imagination and creativity to bring books to life. And why not use some of your own as well? We know you want to...
For some tips in this area (including props, blanket forts, and puppets!) check out our list of top tips for making stories exciting at home.
Content credit to Guille-Allès Library