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Bounce Back to school 1: supporting children returning to the classroom

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Bounce back to school with these wonderful books. We all seek comfort in times of challenge and change. I have just read a lovely story by Alison Jay entitled Looking for Yesterday. It is about a young boy who after having ‘the best day’ puts all his time and energy into trying to go back to yesterday to experience that joy again. It pays homage to the Buddist belief regarding the pursuit of happiness and concludes that happiness can be found today and in the days to come. Happiness from ‘yesterday’ becomes happy memories to be stored but not sought or craved.

Children are remarkably resilient. They adapt to change far more resourcefully and automatically than most adults. That said some children may need support and all children would benefit from strategies for dealing with stressful situations in which they may be physically unfamiliar and they may have many questions about why and what is happening in the world at the moment. To that end, I would like to highlight some stories and non-fiction that I believe would be excellent resources to have in school over the coming months.

Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing books to help children cope, to escape, to support and to inspire. I think the most important place to start is with ‘the self’. So here are my top picks for wellbeing and happiness:

Starting with the self

There are many titles that provide self-help strategies for young children to manage their feelings.

Many of these titles are reviewed by our expert review panel and can be purchased in our online bookshop.

The Healing Power of Books

Give comfort to those grieving and experiencing sadness.  

Stories have the power to connect with both the head and the heart – they help us make sense of our world and support us through worry and grief. You can read Ben Harris’s excellent review of Kites here.

I don’t believe there is ‘nothing‘ to be gained from looking back. Nostalgia is a form of easement. So encouraging children to read old favourites will also bring them solace. I have had several conversations with adults during lockdown who found it difficult to focus on reading new books and turned to their comfort reads just to switch off from everything that was going on around them.

It now seems particularly pertinent that in February 2020 the theme of Children’s Mental Health Week was ‘Find Your Brave’ in light of what followed.

Find your brave

These titles provide great role models of characters facing and overcoming their fears.

Children are resilient but many children are also natural worriers and there is much we can do as educators to support their pastoral needs at this uncertain time.

Developing emotional literacy is crucial, so it is not simply a case of having relevant books in the classroom. Through the books that are used for teaching or exploring together through dialogue and discussion, emotional literacy will develop which will help children to deal with their emotions and empathise with others. The books selected for our Take One Book teaching sequences and for our Reading Gladiators bookclub are rich in character development and many titles deal with themes of adversity and perseverance.

Children may be dealing with a lot over the coming months. From friendship issues and concerns about schoolwork to more serious mental health problems and even bereavement. Even those children who don’t have a specific or diagnosed mental health illness or particularly difficult experience are likely to feel a greater degree of stress as they adapt to the new routines.

For for ideas on how to support children’s and your own wellbeing with books you can listen to Jo Bowers discuss Reading and Well Being with Nikki Gamble In the Reading Corner podcast.

So having looked back, let us, in ‘Janus’ mythological style also look forward. Let us see this time as one of new beginnings and transitions and endless opportunities.

Read other Bounce Back blogs focusing on communities and key workers, escapism & humour and taking control.