I love children’s books. I’m writing a children’s book of my own. I also work with children and I truly believe that books and reading to children is so powerful. When I was a child, I truly believed that my bedtime stories could cure just about every problem that my childhood world threw at me. I believed in magic, in a happy ever after, in hope and love. I believed in unicorns, in fairies and unrealistic fantasies. Books taught me more about life, than the real experiences ever could. For that, I am grateful.
Talking to children about mental health is more important now more than ever and children’s books are brilliant at starting a discussion and helping children to understand the world around them and talk about what’s going on inside their head. It’s hard to talk to children about grief, dying, sadness, cancer, separation or any other sensitive topic. But, there may come a time where you have to discuss these very sensitive topics with children. Children’s picture books are a great tool when discussing these serious topics. During our early years, children’s books help shape who we are, the lessons that we learn from reading picture books and listening to stories that we hear at early ages have a very long lasting impact on our character, our knowledge, our morals and values, that we take along with us throughout the course of our life.
Here are my 5 suggestions of children picture books to kickstart conversations about these sensitive topics.
- The truth Pixie — Matt Haig
Matt Haig is one of my favourite authors. Matt Haig’s words are inspiring and motivational. This book is a beautiful rhythmic story about a little girl who can not lie and only tells the truth. The truth Pixie opens up many discussions about telling the truth, our emotions, friendships and so much more. This book teaches children to love themselves and that sadness comes and goes. Here are a few lines from the truth Pixie that have been widely shared on social media.
‘There will be people you love,
Who can’t stay forever,
And there will be things you can’t fix,
Although you are clever.’
‘But you’ll never know happy unless you know sad.’
2. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book — Michael Rosen
I wish someone had read me this book when I was younger. This book resonates so strongly with me. In just a few simple sentences, Michael Rosen explains sadness and grief in a way that is both accessible for children and is even beneficial for adults. Michael Rosen explains pain and how it feels to lose someone you love. What I love about this book is that it’s honest and very powerful, Michael Rosen writes about his sadness after his son died. In this book, Michael Rosen has illustrated his grief on the pages of his sad book. Everyday he has to pretend that he is happy, but inside, he is crumbled by the heavy burden of sadness and depression. This book can provide some comfort to a child who is dealing with a death of a loved one and might be going through something similar. The message in this book is that no matter how bad things may seem, you can always find happiness in the light.
3. The Lion inside — Rachel Bright
I definitely think this book can inspire so many children to face their fears. It is such a beautiful read. This book is perfect for those children who are lacking a bit of confidence. The message from this book is that we don’t have to be big and strong and loud like the lion to be heard. But, we can also be small and quiet like the mouse and still be heard. This book is beautifully written and the illustrations are excellent. My favourite few lines from the book are;
‘he had found his true voice and learnt to speak out,
And for that you don’t need to roar or shout.’
4. Inside my heart and in my head … Feelings — Libby Walden
This is a lovely book and gives a lot of opportunities to discuss the different types of emotions and what they mean. It is beautifully written and illustrated for young children to help navigate their way through some very tough emotions in this big scary world.
5. I miss you — A first look at death — Pat Thomas
This book talks about death. It talks about how you could feel when someone you love dies, what happens when someone you love dies, what you can do to make yourself feel better, it also talks about what different cultures do when someone dies and how death is a part of life. What I love about this book is that it introduces the concept of death in such a simple way and covers many aspects of how a child might be feeling and the questions that they might have when someone they love dies. This is a very important book for children about the process of grief and death.