A new scheme is being launched in Wales to help children understand and manage their mental health and wellbeing through reading. The programme, which has been developed by leading health professionals alongside children and their families is being brought to Wales by UK charity, The Reading Agency in partnership with Welsh Government and public libraries.
For World Mental Health Day on Saturday 10 October, The Reading Agency and public libraries are rolling out Reading Well Books on Prescription for children in Wales, with book collections and supporting resources made available in both English and Welsh. The booklist responds to the increasing demand for expert-endorsed information and advice to support children to understand and manage their mental health and wellbeing.
More than a million parents believe their child could benefit from professional help in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown and Childline has delivered almost 7,000 counselling sessions with children about the impact of coronavirus outbreak. In Wales, one in 10 children between the ages of five and 16 have a mental health problem and many more experience behavioural issues.
The Reading Well for children booklist contains 33 books selected to address key challenges facing children today. The titles in the list deal with topics from anxiety and grief, to bullying and internet safety, to how to cope with events in the news. The booklist also explores living well with a range of diagnosed conditions including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), dyslexia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and physical disabilities.
The booklist is targeted at children in Key Stage 2 and includes titles suitable for a wide range of reading levels to support less confident readers, and to encourage children to read together with their siblings and carers.
Karen Napier, The Reading Agency’s CEO, said: “One in 10 children in Wales have a mental health issue, with recent global events exacerbating the problem. At The Reading Agency, we believe in the proven power of reading to tackle life’s big challenges and this new and important area of our work will use quality-assured information, advice and stories approved by experts, to help all children manage and understand their feelings and cope during tough times.”
Titles from the booklist can be recommended by health and social care professionals, teachers and anyone else working to support children and families. The book collections are available free to borrow from local public libraries. The Reading Agency is working with the Books Council of Wales to make titles from the list available in Welsh.
Helgard Krause, Chief Executive Officer of the Books Council of Wales, said: “Children’s wellbeing is important at all times but the current pandemic has made us ever more aware of the need to ensure that children have access to trusted print and digital resources that help to support them and to enable them to talk about their feelings. It is vital that these conversations can happen in a child’s first language, which is why we at the Books Council of Wales are proud to be involved in the Welsh translation of these fantastic books”.
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said: “ I am pleased that we have been able to provide funding to ensure rights to produce and distribute e-book versions of the children’s Welsh-language list. This is crucial given the vital role of digital content during this period. The funding will also enable the distribution of free copies of print versions of the books for use in libraries across Wales and as part of the click and collect schemes. This will be a significant boost for libraries and its users across Wales.”
Recognised by leading health bodies, in partnership with the Society of Chief Librarians Cymru, and with funding from the Welsh Government and Arts Council England, the Reading Well for children collection can support children in understanding and managing their mental health with evidence-based resources outside of clinical settings, or while they await treatment.
Health Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “I am delighted that the Welsh Government will continue to provide financial support for this important scheme which has been a huge success and played a significant part in delivering our Mental Health Delivery Plan and ‘More than just words’, our framework for the Welsh language in health and social care. Books have long since been places where people seek escapism, answers and comfort alike. I hope this initiative inspires children and families to read for both pleasure and wellbeing. The power of reading is limitless, lets harness some of that energy to help tackle the growing challenges facing children’s mental health.”
Bethan Hughes Librarian and representative of SCL Cymru, said: “We are thrilled that Reading Well Books on Prescription for children is being launched here in Wales as a bilingual scheme, and are excited to work with our partners to deliver the scheme.
“Reading, in essence, is good for you and for your wellbeing, and reading for pleasure in order to understand emotions and feelings is essential for us all, and especially for children as they learn to understand the world around them and their reaction to it.
“This scheme will be an opportunity for us to put into children’s hands, in their choice of language, books which have been selected carefully to help them understand their feeling, through the medium of words, pictures and imagination.
“People trust their local library as a place to seek help and unbiased information, locally in their community, in a non-clinical non-stigmatised place. This scheme is another example of how we can offer this help.”
Reading Well Books on Prescription for children is the third Reading Well scheme to be delivered in Wales following the success of the dementia and mental health book collections.
For more information about the Reading Well for children books visit: reading-well.org.uk/wales