February 6th to 12th week is children’s mental health week. This year’s theme is ‘Let’s Connect’ and children’s mental health charity Place2be is ‘encouraging people to connect with others in healthy, rewarding and meaningful ways.’
The closure of schools during lockdown is just one situation that has impacted children’s mental health. Many young children who were isolated at home and had no contact with peers of their own age are still struggling to make friends, socialise and play together in school.
We are huge fans of using picture books to help children deal with problems and difficult situations. With the theme ‘Let’s Connect’ in mind I have chosen books that can stimulate discussions about the power of friendship, how to make friends and how to deal with difficult friendship situations.
The Power of Friendship
The Girls by Lauren Ace and Jenny Løvlie
The Girls is a beautifully illustrated, diverse picture book which follows four girls from childhood through to adulthood. It celebrates the bonds of female friendship and highlights the support that friends can give us through the different stages of our lives, during bad times as well as good.
I want a Friend by Anne Booth & Amy Proud
I want a Friend is the adorable story of how little Arthur learns to make a friend.
His misguided attempts cause chaos until kind and caring Lily offers to play with him. Although supportive she also gently chastises him when his behaviour isn’t appropriate and helps Arthur learn how friendship works.
Old Friends by Margaret Aitken & Lenny Wen
Marjorie enjoys baking, gardening and knitting just like Granny. But her friends in the neighbourhood don’t get excited about them like she does. So Marjorie goes undercover at the local senior citizens group…
This heartwarming story about finding friends that have the same interests as you, regardless of age and experience celebrates the way that wonderful relationships can be enjoyed by young and old.
Dealing with difficulties in friendships
Superheroes Always Fight Back…Or Do They? by Kate Thompson & Clare Elsom
Arthur lives next door to a ‘baddie’ who laughs when he falls down, ruins his games, and calls him names. But when Grandpa shows Arthur how he can connect with the bully through being kind Arthur is rewarded with a new friendship.
How To Mend a Friend by Karl Newson & Clara Anganuzzi
Friends need different things to help them through difficult times. Some may need hugs but others prefer to be alone. Some write letters, others just want to shout. Some friends may want support from somebody else and others may not want to talk at all.
How to Mend a Friend’s easy to read text gives guidance as to how readers can help and support their friends who are experiencing difficulties.
Midge & Mo by Lara Williamson & Becky Cameron
Midge’s parents have split up and he has moved to a new school. Mo enthusiastically shows Midge around and tries to get him to smile and join in with others but Midge is unresponsive.
Midge and Mo’s developing friendship is at the heart of this story. Mo tries everything she can to connect with Midge, to be a supportive new friend and understand how he is feeling with all the changes that have happened in his life.
THE JOY OF FRIENDSHIP
Together We Can by Caryl Hart & Ali Pye
Together We Can! is such a wonderful title, perfect for this heartwarming and inspirational picture book by Caryl Hart and Ali Pye which celebrates friendships in all shapes and sizes! It is a joy to read aloud and has so many wonderful little details in the brightly coloured illustrations.
Together We Can! explains what a friend is, how a friend can be there for you and shows different activities that you can do with your friends. We love the way it shows that language differences and disabilities aren’t barriers to friendship and friends can even have four legs or six! Friends can be different or similar, live close by or far away. There are also friends that you may not have met yet!
Do you have any suggestions for picture books or early readers that can help children to navigate friendship and connect with others?