By: Alice Ahearn*
Duvet off, duvet on, left side, right side. Sigh!
We all know the agonising frustration of being unable to sleep. Often, though, I’ve found I can combat it by reading. It doesn’t have to be for long, but it’s perfect for helping me to settle into bed, and to avoid replaying my day in my head. What’s more, I’m pretty sure I’ve always been this way; my reason for demanding bedtime stories throughout my childhood could well be that they helped me go to sleep.
Reading fiction has all sorts of payoffs at any age. As well as being educational, a fiction book can provide some much-needed escape from reality; whatever our worries, whether about mortgage repayments or getting picked in PE, we can forget them by losing ourselves in someone else’s story. If we’re lucky, it might even clear the way to a solution – but even if it doesn’t, stopping worrying for a while is undoubtedly healthy, and if it leads to a good night’s sleep, even better.
All fairly obvious, no doubt, but why might this be particularly important for children? Well, for one thing, more relaxation and sleep are clearly needed when studies show that primary-age children are unhealthily stressed. Equally important is the reassurance of seeing yourself and your worries reflected in a character on a page; whether or not they have a happy ending, there can be huge comfort in discovering that you are not alone in your struggle. For children, those struggles could be grief, anger, loneliness – all kinds of confusing feelings that they might be experiencing for the first time. Books can help them to make sense of their emotions in a way that real life might not.
There are times, though, when the most comforting thing of all about a children’s book is its unchanging sameness in a bewilderingly unstable world. A familiar, beloved character is like a good friend, and revisiting their pages can give as much solace and safety as a hug.
A book is never going to solve all your problems. That would be cheating. But its powerful blend of escapism and empathy could just be the key to a child learning to cope, in much more effective and long-lasting ways than being taught.
*Alice is an intern at Tiny Owl.
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The Snowman and the Sun
Author: Susan Taghdis
Illustrator: Ali Mafakheri
Translator: Azita Rassi
Reading age: Under 5’s and 6 – 8 (and 9 – 11 as a stimulus for philosophical enquiry)
This is a lovely book about what happens to a snowman when he melts – where does he go, what does he become? The story prompts discussion around change and the impact of seasons on our natural environment and our place in it. It also offers opportunity for deeper reflection on the different stages in our life, how there can be ebbs and flows within our relationships with each other and that sometimes change is an inevitable but natural part of this process which can be embraced and enjoyed.
The illustrations are bright and cheerful, and will help to assist more visual learners as they are a quite literal reflection of the story in the text. It is also a great introduction to the water cycle in a really fun and innovative way, so could easily be used in a geography lesson to help show the various forms that water takes on its life cycle. Lots of opportunity for cross-curricula learning, particularly with the early years as the text is well spaced and with a rhythm that makes it quite accessible even for less confident readers.
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