Stories are such a powerful tool to support children’s emotional wellbeing and now, throughout National Share a Story Month, they have never been more needed. You know yourself that when you are going through challenging times, it is comforting to know someone who has been through the same thing and then overcome it. It helps you to feel reassured that everything will be okay and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Characters in storybooks can be that friend for children and seeing as we are unable to see our actual friends and family at the moment, these characters are even more important than ever!
My business, Early Years Story Box, was inspired by my own children because I started writing and illustrating storybooks to support them through uncertain times like starting/leaving their childcare setting and starting school. When I saw my babies’ fear and confusion about the coronavirus, I knew from experience that a story would help them (and other children) to make sense of it all. Because of this, I made it my mission to create a storybook and after 24 hours of nonstop work, it came to fruition. This free storybook called “Don’t Worry, Little Bear” along with some linking activities is now available for children to help them to understand what’s going on with the coronavirus. My business, Early Years Story Box, was inspired by my own children because I started writing and illustrating storybooks to support them through uncertain times like starting/leaving their childcare setting and starting school. When I saw my babies’ fear and confusion about the coronavirus, I knew from experience that a story would help them (and other children) to make sense of it all. Because of this, I made it my mission to create a storybook and after 24 hours of nonstop work, it came to fruition. This free storybook called “Don’t Worry, Little Bear” along with some linking activities is now available for children to help them to understand what’s going on with the coronavirus.
Throughout the process of writing the story, I put out a post on social media asking people to tell me about their children’s worries. I did this to make sure I didn’t leave anything important out. As adults, we look at the world through a grown-up perspective. We can think logically about the worries that children might have, but quite often we miss the small things because to us, they are irrelevant. However, through the eyes of a child, these small things can feel huge. The list of worries consisted of:
- Why they couldn’t see their friends or family
- Why some of their friends could go to school and they couldn’t
- That there might not be enough food in the shops
- That they were going to get poorly
- That germs were everywhere and they had to literally fight (bash) them
- That people might die
- That the police might get them if they leave the house at all
In my opinion, children need to be protected from the magnitude of the Coronavirus, therefore I approached this from an angle of reassuring them that everything is going to be okay. In this story, Big Bear explains everything to Little Bear in simple terms and guides him to wash his hands and stay safe without any element of fear driving these actions. So far, much to my absolute amazement, the story has reached over a quarter of a million people on Facebook alone and the feedback has been that it has really made a difference and helped children to feel better and less worried about everything. My hope is that by writing this article, I can help even more children and seeing as though it is `National Share a Story Month’, it seems fitting that I would share this with you in the hope that you will share it too.
How activities linking to the story can nurture emotional well-being
If I came up to you and asked you to talk about your feelings, you might feel a bit uncomfortable and possibly clam up. However, if we were busy doing something fun and we were chitchatting, you’d probably open up a lot more because the focus would be on what we were doing, rather than on you and your circumstances. By linking activities to storybooks, the same thing happens. Children can be busy having fun and at the same time you can lead a conversation about the storyline and also about their own thoughts and feelings. Throughout the Early Years Story Box membership, there are digital storybooks with linking activities, so I wanted to do the same and create some free resources to go with “Don’t Worry Little Bear”.
I’ve created a Little Bear mask that is great for doing role-play and for helping children to gain a deeper understanding of the story, their thoughts and their feelings. It can be used in different ways:
- Children can wear the mask and act out the story.
- You can tell the story and get children to wear the mask as they are listening.
- You can wear the mask and get children to ask you questions pretending you are Little Bear.
- You can get the children to wear the mask and pretend that they are Little Bear. You can then ask them questions (eg: “How do you feel about the coronavirus, Little Bear?”) allowing children to answer. You might also find that they tell you how they are feeling even though they are playing a character.
I have also created a fun game that is great for getting children to retell the story in their own words and for gaining a deeper understanding of everything that is happening with the coronavirus. Each person has a game sheet and then takes it in turns to roll the dice (dice net provided). For the colour/number they roll, they have to tick off the same on their game sheet and talk about the picture. The first person to tick off all 6 pictures, wins. The game is designed to be accessible to all ages (by the dice using colours as well as numbers) and also comes with questions for each picture, so you don’t have to think of what to say. Again, by talking about the story as part of the game, it makes it fun and you will find that children open up a lot more.
How to share the storybook and activities
I’d love you to share the story and activities with children and families from your setting or anyone who you think it might help. Also please do follow my Early Years Story Box Facebook page to keep track of lots of other freebies I’m doing for everyone. There are already lots of other free resources on my website and I will continue to add more throughout this lockdown. (www.facebook.com/earlyyearsstorybox)
Here are some ideas of how to share the story with everyone:
- Share my Facebook post so that people can gain access to the storybook link, but also see future freebies on the Early Years Story Box page
- Do a video of you reading the story on your own social media platforms (please tag Early Years Story Box so that people have the opportunity to follow us and get access to future resources). You could even wear the Little Bear mask as you are reading the story!
- Put a link to the storybook freebies page on your childcare setting’s actual website (www.earlyyearsstorybox.com/corona) and feel free to use any of the images on our Facebook page linking to the book
- To encourage families to do storytime at home, you could ask them to send you a video of them reading the book too and run a competition
I truly hope that this helps you and anyone else you know. These times are very uncertain and we all have lots of grown-up problems to deal with. However, our little ones are feeling it too and it’s important for us to help them to feel as secure as possible. I will continue to do whatever I can to make this all a bit easier for people and would love for you to join me on this journey and share it all far and wide. With your help, we can reach more families and in turn, make things a bit easier for children throughout these challenging times.
Everything that I have talked about in this article is completely free. However, if you would like to join the Early Years Story Box membership, which has lots of other digital storybooks, activity packs and printable topic-based resources, you can now join for just £9.99 for the whole year (annual fee). I will also send you over £10 worth of physical storybooks as a gift because I don’t want to profit from this situation. Use the discount code CORONA https://www.earlyyearsstorybox.com/subscribe/
About the author
Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.
Sign up to Stacey’s premium membership and use the code PARENTA20 to get 20% off or contact Stacey for an online demo.