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Reading for wellbeing

St Oliver Post Primary School has taken guidance from the Mind Yourself initiative endorsed by ISPCC Childline and JIGSAW. The Mind Yourself project supports mindfulness and mental health for young readers. Its “book doctors” provided a list of books that have been described as a ‘first-aid kit’ for worries, sadness, loneliness, anxiety and any number of feelings.

Our school library now has these books, as we want as many young readers to find relief and solace in seeing their lives reflected in a book. Seeing your life, or a life situation being experienced by your peers can help you understand what you, or others may be quietly going through. We want to help our young students to be resilient, to manage their feelings and navigate through difficult times.

These books will help our adolescents feel calm, safe, happy, heard, loved and connected. The thematic areas include: Relationship with Self, Relationships with Others, Life Long Conditions, Body Image, Body Positivity and Diversity, Wellbeing, Grief and Loss, Sadness and Low Mood.

There is a lot that parents, and guardians can do to strengthen their child’s resilience, and books are a very important resource. Our school recently completed a study with students about their reading habits. Many students reported that reading helps them to relax: one reported that “It helps me feel quite calm and peaceful, I’m focused more on the story than on what’s actually happening around me.” Books provided a way of getting away from reality, it can be a form of escapism: students reported that reading is a positive experience as “you can become the main character in the book, you can go into their life and kind of forget about reality, I can get away from my real life.” Reading provides an opportunity to explore and understand other people’s emotions: “It gets you so attached, like it makes you feel feelings for the characters.” Our Junior Classes have a dedicated class on their timetable to read, relax and learn from fiction. It is a time during their busy day, when they can use a book of fiction to distract them from their busy lives, but learn from the experiences of others. Reading has been shown to put our brains into a pleasurable trance-like state, similar to meditation, and it brings the same health benefits of deep relaxation and inner calm. Regular readers sleep better, have lower stress levels, higher self-esteem, and lower rates of depression than non-readers