Harness the potential of a book

As a child in the21st century, there is so much to worry about. From not being able to play outside to dangers on the Internet. They’re hardly left alone and adventures from books in the 70s seem like another world. While some children are able to talk about their fears, many do not have the language or the emotional confidence to voice their anxieties.

There is not a lot of time to sit down and listen, to ourselves, our inner voices and our children’s unspoken fears. Our lives are full of commute, routines, school work and social media. How do we then settle down quietly to talk about such anxieties? Will it even work if you asked a child, if he/she is afraid of something? This is where books come in. Reading books that touch upon anxieties within a story can often help a child reflect on their own anxieties. They might even mention if they had the same question. They might come forward with something they had worried about.

NHS advice says while younger children often have separation anxieties that will slowly go away when they grow older and go to nurseries or sleepovers, other anxieties especially social ones start to manifest. Many anxieties are not serious enough to see the doctor about and can be dealt with one important medication all parents hopefully have access to – books.

A story for a child is never just a story even when it’s full of fun and adventure or fart and poo. Look closely and you will see the gateway into themes that a parent can pull into a discussion.

  When I wrote You’re Safe With Me, at first, my only real goal was to reassure the animals in the forest about the thunderstorm. I approached it as a storyteller first and then as a poet. When the book was written and beautifully illustrated by Poonam Mistry, and published, it created wonderful responses from children. I’ve discussed their fears about natural disasters and they have been able to tell me that they feel reassured after reading the book. Read one of my earlier posts about how children can deal with the fear here.

So when I started writing You’re Snug with Me, a few things were in the back of my mind. The two polar bear cubs born in the snow den, are going to encounter a fierce natural environment they have to cope with. They have never left the warmth of their mother’s embrace for almost nine months, and then when they find this vast region of ice and snow, would they worry?

As a child, growing up must be exciting and worrying in equal measures. What if I sit next to a boy or girl I’m not friends with? What if my new teacher is stricter than the one I had now? What if my new school is too far away? They’ll be picking up on the conversations they overhear in school or at home about teachers, about other children in their class and wonder how it would affect them.

The bear cubs too have similar questions. Who will they meet when they get out of the den? Will Mama leave them alone or would she stay with them? How fierce are the snowstorms and drifts? And more importantly, will all this ice stay frozen?

Of course, at the outset, the story is about polar bear cubs. But then if you use the text to steer the conversation about similar fears children might have – will the giraffe go extinct before my next birthday because I’d like to go and see them in the zoo? Will there be more floods and earthquakes as I grow up and what can I do to stop it?

Then go further – ask them what other things might worry them? Especially if a child is going to the nursery for the first time or transitioning from nursery to reception, talk to them about embarking on that adventure – exciting as well as scary as it might be.

Books are wonderful resources to discuss children’s anxieties. Parents can gently ease into these. Also there is a wide array of books available that either focus or touch topics on the periphery – as a parent you know when you want a big dose of something and when just a pinch is more than enough.

All my books come with activities too – from colouring to solving word puzzles, go further than the book. The more children interact with a subject matter, the deeper their introspection gets. Put your listening hat on and jump into the joys of a book.

An Earth Day Message

Earth Day was founded decades ago in 1970 to diversify, educate and activate the environmental movement worldwide.

For me personally Earth Day has always meant the day we celebrate the workings of this planet and get out of its way. As humans, we have exploited its riches, corroded its wealth and in many situations ignored the earth’s reactions to our actions.

As a spiritual Buddhist and a practicing Hindu, I believe that every action we take changes the world in a small way. That action can’t be undone and that action sets off a chain reaction into this world – be that a smile or a plastic I discard.

The other thing I believe is the earth has patterns and intelligent behaviour. It moves with certainty and it knows the steps of the dance. From the tides of the ocean, to the winds of autumn to the thunderstorms that bring torrential rain.

While many natural phenomenon are terrifying – be it a volcano or a forest fire or a thunderstorm, the earth has a reason. And therefore understanding them, having a healthy respect for their powers is an important lesson for all humans.

One of the reasons I wrote You’re Safe With Me was to demystify thunderstorms – not with facts but with imagination and a bit of poetry. They’re not fearful – they have a job to do for this earth. The wind brings seeds from faraway places to plant the forests. Thunder brings clouds full of water. The river eats the shadows of the night and as the night clears, she too is clear and sparkling.

Earth Day is for everyone who wants to do their bit to fix the planet we live on – because this is the only one we’ve got. And this year, 2018 is the year we pledge to rid our lives of plastic. Find out more here about how Earth Day movement across the world this year is mobilising citizens of this world to End Plastic Pollution.

Here are some Earth Day Tips that everyone can follow in their everyday lives.

Check out more here. And do you have other ideas? Tweet them to @csoundar or share them with your friends and family.