During lockdown my daughter, Adele, had times when she felt low and was missing her uni friends. I know from my own experience with depression that reading is good for children’s mental health so I’d give her a book to read and she said it made her feel better.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and this year’s theme of loneliness really resonates because of the pandemic. In one YouGov survey over a third of parents reported that their children had felt isolated and lonely during lockdown. Research shows that loneliness is linked to mental health. In a survey by The Co-Op Foundation 70% of young people who felt lonely said it affected their mental wellbeing, and 82% said loneliness made them feel more anxious or worried.
Books help depression
One thing I know for sure helps my own mental health is reading. From a young age I’d always turn to a book whenever I got low. I realised that if wasn’t reading I’d feel more depressed so I’d get stuck into a book again and it really helped lift my mood. How I felt is backed up by numerous studies that show reading can support children’s mental health by reducing stress and depression.
It’s great to see that reading helped children’s mental health during the pandemic. In a survey by the National Literacy Trust nearly 60% of kids and young people said reading during lockdown made them feel better and around a third said it helped them when they felt sad not being able to see friends and family.
They must have felt like I do when I’m reading. When I’m immersed in a book it stops me being obsessed with my own negative thoughts. I forget about what’s happening in my life and totally lose myself in the story. Reading takes me out of my world and into a new one.
It would have been the same for kids during lockdown when they were feeling anxious and isolated. Reading can distract you from what’s going on around you and help you feel more positive about the future. Stories transport you to a different place and give you hope for better days.
Make a reading nook
Interestingly, in the National Literacy Trust’s survey they discovered that a third of children and young people read more during lockdown and over a quarter enjoyed reading more, too. I love that! Hopefully more reading meant less time on mobile phones as studies suggest screen time is linked to children’s mental health issues like depression.
It can be easy for kids to get distracted from reading and a great tip from bibliotherapist Ella Berthoud is for them to make a ‘reading nook’, a special place with all their favourite books within each reach. Actually, it’s what our children’s bookcase is designed to do – give kids their own little reading spot.
Once children get into the habit of reading regularly, like me they’ll be hooked. And hopefully, as I discovered for myself, their mental health will be all the better for reading a good book.