Reading and creativity can be powerful tools in supporting children’s wellbeing in the classroom. Opportunities for expression through words, pictures and stories give children much-needed time to share thoughts and feelings. Reading and listening to stories not only allows children time to relax, but also builds empathy and helps to start conversations around wellbeing. It can be challenging to find time to do this in the busy school day, but there are some simple ways to do this.
Just ten minutes reading a day can transform mental health and wellbeing, as demonstrated by National Literacy Trust reading research into children’s lockdown reading habits . Whether at the start of the day, after lunch or just before they leave for home, giving children just ten minutes to read a book of their choice or listen to a story can contribute to improving their mental health and help them become lifelong readers. You could set your class a challenge to see how many ten minutes you can add up together or even across the whole school. For more ideas on how to take ten visit https://literacytrust.org.uk/communities/take-10/
Wellbeing book list
If you’re not sure where to start, our wellbeing book list features favourite tales and soon-to-be-published titles, with themes of wellbeing and positive role models to encourage healthy mindsets. The Drama Llama, new for 2022, is a hilarious yet heart warming rhyming tale from new picture book talent Rachel Morrisroe and bestselling illustrator Ella Okstad, offering practical advice about dealing with worry, whilst taking readers on a wonderfully riotous adventure. For more animal-themed antics, try Charlie Changes into a Chicken, a great book to share, all about a boy who changes into a different animal every time he gets worried! Use the resource pack based on this story for further exploration. With stories that will educate and entertain, these books are a great way to introduce themes of wellbeing and start the conversation in your classroom.
Illustration is a brilliant outlet for expression. Encourage children to draw their feelings with the Draw your own worries resource based on The Worries by Jion Sheibani, showing them that worries can be big or small but aren’t so bad when they’re shared. If children are happy to share their drawings, make a display of them to show everyone it’s ok to worry and that worries come in all shapes and sizes. Add your own worry drawing so they can see even grown-ups worry sometimes! Talk about all the different pictures and encourage children to listen to each other as they share.
A little help from a friend
Build on their illustrations by inviting children to think about how they could make their worries go away. Sometimes a really good way to make yourself feel better is by being kind to someone else, making them feel better too. Help children #choosekind with a Kindness Postcard based on the brilliant story Wonder by R J Palacio. Invite children to think of someone they’d like to send a kindness message to – either in their class, another friend or even a family member. When they’ve completed the activity, invite them to talk about how this act of kindness made them feel and how the recipient might feel too.
A is for Amazing
Poems are full of expression and reading poetry aloud or writing poetry, can help children communicate thoughts, feelings and ideas. For an accessible and inspiring poetry activity, Rashmi Sirdeshpande shares her poem A is for Amazing and then challenges children to write their own alphabet poem about themselves, in this fantastic video. Watch this in class and use the themes of acceptance and kindness to inspire children to express themselves through their own poems.
About Me and Wellbeing
Assembly time, whether in class or as a whole school, is another opportunity to encourage children to think about their thoughts, words and actions, with opportunities for discussion. Created in partnership with Twinkl and inspired by the Puffin Book of Big Dreams, the About Me and Wellbeing assemblies are an ideal stimulus for new thinking on a range of PSHE-related themes. There are six to choose from, each with it’s own video and activity, based on a story or poem from the Puffin Book of Big Dreams.
In addition to statutory safeguarding and in-school policies, it’s really important to make sure your wellbeing strategies are rooted in best practice. Mentally Healthy Schools brings together quality-assured mental health resources, information & advice for schools in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Originally developed in partnership between the Anna Freud Centre, Young Minds, Place2Be and The Royal Foundation as a legacy project of the Heads Together campaign, the website has fantastic resources for schools to help them support mental health and wellbeing in the classroom. You can also find additional PSHE support from the PSHE Association, who offer advice and resources for all those teaching PSHE in schools.
For more inspiring ideas, read our Top Tips for using reading spaces to support wellbeing to help you make the most of your library spaces and our Top Tips for using audio in the classroom to make stories more accessible.