Featured guest interview on Bibliotherapy with Amy Murrell, PhD.
HAPPY INTERNATIONAL SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING DAY from Psyched Writer! Since Psyched Writer Blog is all about bibliotherapy, and bibliotherapy is a major avenue toward social-emotional learning, I thought this would be a perfect day to celebrate! How are we going to celebrate, you ask? By launching Psyched Writer's first-ever video interview! As promised, I am featuring an interview of Amy Murrell, PhD, the author of this month's book selection, Becca Epps Learns to Be.
Amy Murrell will be speaking on the subject of bibliotherapy as she has reviewed the research extensively in this area. She will also be presenting a sneak peek of the recently released and upcoming books in her Becca Epps series.
This is the first I've heard of international SEL day, but I totally support the idea. Social-emotional learning is crucial in life. The benefits to kids are numerous, including improved social-emotional skills, enhanced well-being, increased empathy and decreased behavioral issues. SEL has a definite positive impact on academic and social outcomes over time. So, grab your favorite child and your favorite bibliotherapy book and get reading!
I hope you take the time to enjoy the video below!
A Book Review of Becca Epps Learns to Be
Becca Epps Learns to Be focuses on behavioral issues typically associated with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), however, the issues and behaviors within the story can relate to all children at one time or another. Children struggling with ADHD types of issues will surely relate to Becca. Through Becca, the author clearly captures the workings of the ADHD mind, with the tendency to act on impulse, daydream and become overwhelmed easily. Despite these issues, Becca is presented as a likeable character with her spirited personality shining through.
This book is packed chock full of coping strategies, which are part of the ACT therapeutic process. The coping strategies presented relate to mindfulness and can benefit all children, and adults alike. The first strategy demonstrated is one that I've used often in my practice and find very helpful. It is the stoplight strategy, which is a great visual self-control tool to assist kids in slowing down to think before they act. Many strategies for focusing on the moment and paying attention to your body are modeled by Becca and presented in a child-friendly way. The book realistically addresses the difficulty in focusing your mind on these strategies and carrying them through.
The illustrator, Melissa Londoño Connally, captures Becca's spirit and energy throughout the book. Becca is depicted as a character in the older age ranges of a picture book. Therefore, this book can be used therapeutically for a broader age group ranging from 4 to 11 years old.
Ms. Murrell provides a wealth of helpful information at the end of the book, including a note to adults, discussion questions and further activity ideas. This book will be a very helpful addition to your therapeutic, home or classroom library.
Check it out and purchase here, along with other helpful books in the Becca Epps series.
***I have an exciting announcement this month! I am going to feature, Amy Murrell, the author of this book, in an interview at the end of the month! She has reviewed research extensively on the benefits of bibliotherapy and will share with us her findings, as well as share more about her book series. Check back at the end of the month for this exciting and informative interview!***
I have provided an activity idea below based on the stoplight self-control strategy presented in the book.
Activity Idea for Becca Epps Learns to Be
The most important activity to go along with this book is to practice the mindfulness exercises presented. If you practice these skills with the child often when they are calm and attentive, they are more likely to use them at times when they are most needed. Make these strategies a part of your routine!
-cardboard or heavy paper
-glass to trace circles
- X-acto knife
-Cellophane in red, yellow and green(or tissue paper can work)
-flameless tealight candles -3
***I got a little over-excited and extravagant with this project! You could also simply use a piece of cardboard, glue on 3 circles cut from construction paper for the lights and move on from there! This might work much better for the younger kids.
The winner of the February drawing from Psyched Writer Blog is Tasha Kearney!!! CONGRATULATIONS TASHA!!! I will be sending you a copy of In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek! Thank you all for following my blog and celebrating my 2nd Blog Birthday!
A celebration is in order this month, as we are not only celebrating Valentine's Day, with a beautiful heart-felt book of feelings, it is my SECOND BLOG BIRTHDAY!!! To mark this momentous occasion, I am doing my first giveaway. I will be giving away a brand-new copy of this month's book, In My Heart: A Book of Feelings, to a randomly selected follower on this blog. So hurry, if you're not yet a member, follow my blog immediately for a chance to win! A winner will be chosen on February 28 and you will be notified by email. (U.S. only, sorry.) The winner will also be announced on the blog, so check back! It has been a joy to provide mental health book recommendations and activity ideas to you every month for the past 2 years. Thanks for being here and for being dedicated to the mental health needs of our precious little ones. Now, moving on to our special Valentine's post . . .
A Book Review of In My Heart: A Book of Feelings
In My Heart: A Book of Feelings is full of heart, literally and figuratively! It is constructed with a fun, colorful die cut heart that extends throughout the pages. The reader is sent on a journey through the heart of the main character. This book is a great introduction to emotions for young children. It is appropriate for children ages 2 - 7 and presents the topic of feelings in a visual, kid-friendly manner.
Ms. Witek, the author, describes a heart "like a house with feelings living inside," which is a beautiful way to bring the abstract concept of feelings to a tangible level for kids. This also serves to normalize feelings and introduce them as simply a part of being human. The book presents a full range of emotions, alternating between the intense and the mellow that keeps the story from becoming overwhelming. The feelings are presented in an empowering way displaying to the child that they have control over them, rather than vice-versa.
The aspect of this book that I feel is most helpful is the fact that the author focuses on how these emotions feel in the body physically and how a person might express specific feelings. Developing a feeling vocabulary and connecting it to how it feels in the body is key to self-understanding. Once we're able to name the emotion we are feeling, and express it in words, the less powerful that feeling becomes and the more confidence we have in managing it. For example, if a young child is having an outburst, if you name the feeling for them and why they may be having it, they de-escalate much faster as they feel understood. With practice, the child will be able to do this on their own. Without emotional education and practice, the skill of regulating our emotions is not developed and this can haunt us through adulthood.
The illustrator, Christine Roussey, provides a clear pictorial representation of specific feelings through fun, whimsical drawings. The book captures the attention of the youngest of children, with active and colorful illustrations throughout. By looking at the page, you can actually feel the emotions the main character is experiencing.
This is a sweet, gentle book which is empowering to children and can build their confidence in recognizing and learning to regulate their own emotions. The take away is that our feelings, whether intense and ugly, or calm and beautiful, are a part of us and all are okay. The book ends with having the reader consider his/her own emotions, which is a great jump off for a discussion on the child's own feelings and how they feel in their body.
To find this book and other books by this author and illustrator, click here. Below I provide an activity idea to take a journey through the heart of your child/client/student. To help me celebrate my 2nd blog birthday, I have a special guest today helping me with the project!
Activity Idea for In My Heart: A Book of Feelings
-Cardstock or construction paper(in 4 different colors)
- glue (I used a stronger silicone glue)
-twine or ribbon
A Book Review of The Princess and the Fog
Many kids are not in school, so they are missing out on live social contacts with peers and supportive teachers. They have often been restricted from seeing grandparents and other significant family members and have been spending more time in the house and without many outlets of sports or community activities. Many may have sustained significant loss due to the death or long-term hospitalization of a family member due to Covid. Additionally, children often mirror the feelings of their parents (no pressure here!). Parents may be moody and irritable due to their balancing of responsibilities of teaching their kids while working from home, lack of social contact and family support. There also has been much political upheaval recently and in the past year(s) that affects parents, and in turn, affects their children.
Depression can be triggered in children as an understandable response to disruption in their relationships and routines. Short periods of sadness in response to difficult situations are common. However, if the depression lasts for longer periods of time and becomes severe, it is important to seek help for the child. Depression runs in families and can also come on for no apparent reason and become quite severe.
Through the text and brilliant illustrations in his book, The Princess and the Fog, Lloyd Jones approaches this tough topic in an enjoyable and child-friendly manner. He lightens up the mood with many humorous illustrations. The "fog" and "black clouds" are used as metaphors for depression, which is tangible and easier for children to understand.
The book covers symptoms of depression, such as:
-slow(low energy), tired
-trouble concentrating or doing the simplest things
-anhedonia, which is the loss of interest in the things a person loves to do
In addition to the symptoms addressed in the book, other symptoms of depression in children include:
-changes in appetite and/or sleep
-physical complaints, such as stomachaches and headaches.
Many coping mechanisms are also presented in the book, which include:
-Talking to others
-Setting daily challenges
-doing things that make you happy
-possible medication -in severe cases
The most important coping strategy prevalent throughout the book is the accessing of your support system, or as I call them, The Crown Jewels of Your Kingdom.
This book is appropriate for children ages 4-9 who are suffering from short periods of sadness or a more long-term issue with depression. The content would be helpful for kids who have a family member who experiences depression as a way to gain insight. The Princess and the Fog is also appropriate for all children to learn and recognize the signs and how to cope as "the fog" might enter their kingdom at some point. It provides insights for parents into the symptoms of depression in children and how to help them cope. Additionally, there is a guide for parents at the end of the book written by a psychologist with helpful information.
This book is available for purchase on Amazon here. I have provided a related activity idea below to help children further explore this issue.
Activity Idea for The Princess and the Fog
After reading the book, discuss the symptoms of depression and inquire whether the child has ever felt that way. Talk about sad times they may have had in the past or present. Discuss what the princess did to feel better and who helped her. Name the support people or crown jewels in the princess' life.
In this month's activity, we are going to explore THE CROWN JEWELS OF OUR KINGDOM. What do I mean by crown jewels? Crown jewels are those very special people in your life(or kingdom) that you know you can depend on. The people who are there for you when you need something. They are people that will listen when you talk to them and take what you say seriously. Who are the crown jewels of your kingdom?
For the project today, we are going to make a crown with the jewels from our own kingdom!
-Crown template - click here to access
-cardstock or heavier paper
-small pictures of support people-if available (optional)
-glue (I mostly used silicone glue for faster and stronger hold)
-jewels, buttons or stickers
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