Mind yourself: Reading guide to help children's mental health

Finding the right book at the right time can help kids through difficult times
Mind yourself: Reading guide to help children's mental health

Picture: iStock 

A NEW mental health and wellbeing reading guide for children and young people launched by Children’s Books Ireland is all about lightening the load with a book.

With the pandemic a considerable source of worry for children and families and with young people coping with big changes at home and at school, the Mind Yourself reading guide was developed in partnership with young person’s mental health organisation Jigsaw and ISPCC Childline.

A recent UNICEF report found children/young people in Ireland are struggling with mental health, with Ireland placing 26th in the survey of 38 OECD countries in terms of children’s mental wellbeing. “We know these are such tough, strange times,” says Children’s Books Ireland CEO Elaina Ryan, who describes Mind Yourself as a ‘first-aid kit’ for worries, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and any number of feelings a young person may want to understand.

Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children's Books Ireland
Elaina Ryan, CEO of Children's Books Ireland

Mind Yourself contains reviews and recommendations of over 400 books for children/young people from birth to age 18. Ryan says the reading guide “was born in a pandemic” and published during an unprecedented time with children/young people returning to school following a period of isolation. “We want to recognise the very valid feelings that may arise during this time and to support adults [looking] to start a difficult conversation with a younger person, perhaps by reading a story aloud with them, by leaving a book on their bed with a note or by giving them this guide with a book token to find their own way through it.”

The guide is about helping the child/family find the right book for them at a particular time. “There’s everything from picture books about temper tantrums and making friends, right up to books for older teens about more serious subjects – low mood, sadness, depression, body positivity.”

Among the books are:  Feargal in a Fix for the two-to-four age group about a dragon who learns he only has to be the best version of himself to make friends; I Like Bees, I Don’t Like Honey! for five to eight-year-olds about accepting difference and individuality; and The Boy with the Butterfly Mind sees two children learning there’s no such thing as normal, that perfect is really just being yourself.

The books are readily available in Ireland and if you like a particular book, there’s an automatic second recommendation. “These books were chosen because they’re all great. And they can be picked up to maintain emotional wellbeing as much as when a child/young person is struggling with a problem,” says Ryan.

Reading Guide 2020 Poster
Reading Guide 2020 Poster

By the book

  • Evidence shows reading for pleasure can positively affect mental wellbeing, build empathy in children/young people and is linked to better outcomes in later life.
  • Mind Yourself also contains mental health/wellbeing info from Jigsaw and ISPCC Childline, as well as advice for supporting children with resilience-building.
  • Books recommended in the guide cover: understanding feelings/emotions; worry, stress and anxiety; fears and phobias; grief and loss; sadness, low mood and depression; relationship with self; relationship with others; living with chronic illness/disability; body image/body positivity; wellbeing (mindfulness, coping strategies).

Mind Yourself is available free through libraries. View/download digital version on childrensbooksireland.ie

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