Marianna has reached the age now where she is starting to enjoy being read to. We use all the usual board books, etc, but we're also reading her full story books - and sometimes just whatever it is we're reading, be it novels, comics, or committee agendas!
As riveting as that last is, I'm sure you can understand how pleased I was to be sent a couple of cute stories to read instead:
The Feelings Basket Series is the work of Debbie K, a NLP child therapist and family coach. It is aimed primarily at children in the 5 - 8 age bracket, along with their parents and teachers. In Debbie's words, 'the books encourage children to explore early life events and the feelings associated with them in a fun, entertaining and educational way.'
We were sent two books. The Magic Basket is the first in the series, and introduces Amy and her readers to the concept of a magic basket filled with physical representations of feelings. The second, Brave Beats the Bullies, follows Amy's experience of being bullied at school - and how she deals with it.
Marianna, clever as she may be, is still only 16 months old so for some extra opinions I took the books with me when we visited my parents over the weekend. My dad read The Magic Basket and Marianna had great fun looking at the pictures and repeating the words she knew. We all agreed that this was a nice introduction to the series, and liked the magical elements like the growing basket. It would make a good bedtime story.
My mum read the second book, while Marianna busied herself lining all her toys up in a row. (To wait for an imaginary bus. I think the bus driver would take one look at the motley crew and keep going!) This was my favourite of the two, and both my mum and I were really impressed with how well the concept of the feelings basket worked to unpack the emotions surrounding being bullied.
Amy talks things through with her feelings and with her mum, and the possible reasons why the bully is behaving that way are discussed without belittling the hurt their actions has caused. Instead of just reducing everything to one emotion, I liked that the book dealt with how conflicted children who are being bullied can feel - angry, ashamed, lonely, sad. The end message is great, and I especially loved Brave, with his little knight's outfit, who helps Amy rise above the bullying and move on.
At the end of both books are discussion prompts and blank pages for children to write down their answers or draw pictures. I really like this aspect; not only does it provide a fab way to start potentially difficult conversations, it could also serve as the beginning of a wider series of activities around the problem. Those pages can then be looked back upon to see if and how things have changed.
I'm certain Brave Beats the Bullies is a book I'll return to often over the next few years, and the concept of the feelings basket in general is one which I'm keen to try and use with Marianna to help her deal with emotions, and to teach her about empathy.
There are three other books in the series: Starting School - Confident Leads the Way, The New Arrival - Love Lends a Hand, and Dad's Leaving - Curious Clears the Fears. All five are available from Amazon, priced at £4.99 each. For more information check out the Feelings Basket website, or connect on Facebook and Twitter.
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