Libraries Unlimited and The Reading Agency launch ‘Reading Well for children’ book list to support children’s mental health and wellbeing.
The Reading Well for children booklist has been created in response to concerning data about children’s mental health in the UK. In 2018, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reported that schools were on average making 183 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) referrals every school day, with 56% of those referrals coming from primary schools.
Libraries Unlimited, the charity that runs Devon and Torbay libraries works in partnership with the Reading Agency to bring the Reading Well for Children project to our local libraries.
The list covers areas such as anxiety, bereavement and bullying with books by Michael Rosen, Tom Percival, Zanib Mian and Joseph Coelho selected by leading mental health experts to support the mental health and wellbeing of children.
This new Reading Well for children booklist responds to concerning data about children’s mental health in the UK. One in eight (12.8%) 5 to 19 year olds had at least one mental health condition when assessed in 2017. In 2018, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reported that schools were on average making 183 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) referrals every school day, with 56% of those referrals coming from primary schools. In 2019, BookTrust reported that over a third of parents of children aged 4 to 11 worried about their child’s mental health at least once a week.
The Reading Well for children booklist contains 33 books covering topics relevant to the children of today, including grief, anxiety, bullying and staying safe online. In recognition of the potential impact of living with diagnosed conditions and physical disabilities, the booklist explores living well with conditions including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), dyslexia, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and physical disabilities. The booklist is targeted at children in Key Stage 2 and includes titles suitable for a wide range of reading levels to support less confident readers, and to encourage children to read together with their siblings and carers. The expert endorsed reads are available free in Devon and Torbay as well as in other participating libraries across England.
Recognised by leading health bodies including the Royal Society for Public Health, the new Reading Well for children booklist has been developed by The Reading Agency, health professionals, and children with experience of the topics covered and their families and carers. The book selection panel included experts from public libraries, NHS England, Mind, the Royal College of GPs and the School Library Association. Created in partnership with Libraries Connected, the expert endorsed booklist is completely free to access from public libraries.
The books on the list, by authors including Michael Rosen, Tom Percival, Zanib Mian and Joseph Coelho, have been selected to help Key Stage 2 children (aged 7-11) understand and talk about their mental health and wellbeing. The books have been selected to encourage conversation about feelings between children and their parents or carers and to offer support outside of a clinical setting or whilst waiting for treatment.
Reading Well booklists have been created to add value to health services, and to support early intervention and prevention. The Reading Well for children booklist follows the success of the programme’s existing booklists: Reading Well for mental health, Reading Well for young people’s mental health, Reading Well for long term conditions and Reading Well for dementia. Since the launch of Reading Well in 2013, 1.2 million readers have borrowed over 2.3 million of the scheme’s expert endorsed books from libraries.
All 54 of Devon and Torbay libraries will be taking part in Reading Well for Children in order to support the wellbeing of children and their families.
Broken down thematically, the full Reading Well for children booklist includes:
What’s Going on Inside my Head? by Molly Potter, illustrated by Sarah Jennings – through talking about positive self-image, emotional intelligence, relationships and mindfulness, this book develops healthy habits and good coping strategies
Healthy for Life: Self-esteem and Mental Health by Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Dan Bramall – stress reduction and mindful techniques to deal with topics such as mental illness, phobias, and eating disorders
How Not to Lose It: Mental Health Sorted by Anna Williamson, illustrated by Sophie Beer – healthy habits for staying in control of stress levels
How Are You Feeling Today? by Molly Potter, illustrated by Sarah Jennings – a dip-in book which allows children to explore and deal with particular feelings, including notes and strategies for parents and carers
Mindful Me: Exploring Emotions by Paul Christelis, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli – mindful exercises to encourage exploring a range of emotions and relieve stress
Feeling Angry! by Katie Douglass, illustrated by Mike Gordon – using everyday situations, this book explores different reasons why children might become angry and offers advice for remaining calm, including notes for parents and teachers
Sometimes I Feel Sad by Tom Alexander – this book helps to show children that feeling sad is part of everyone’s life, and they are not alone in feeling this way
Ruby’s Worry written and illustrated by Tom Percival – an exploration of anxiety which aims to open up discussions about feelings and show that a problem shared is a problem halved
Questions and Feelings About: Worries by Paul Christelis, illustrated by Ximena Jeria – a book to help children to recognise signs of worry, featuring mindful coping tips
Grobblechops by Elizabeth Laird, illustrated by Jenny Lucander – embodying fears to help turn them from frightening to friendly
Me and My Fear by Francesca Sanna – using the examples of moving to a new country and school, this picture book shows the importance of talking about feelings of fear and worry
All Birds Have Anxiety by Kathy Hoopmann – using colourful images, explanations and gentle humour to explore living with anxiety day-to-day and how to deal with it
Worry Angels by Sita Brahmachari, illustrated by Jane Ray – this fiction book looks at dealing with your own and other people’s worries, and is particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers
Outsmarting Worry by Dawn Huebner, illustrated by Kara McHale – practical advice to help shift from thinking about worries and fears to dealing with them
The world around you
Dealing With Bullying by Jane Lacey, illustrated by Venitia Dean – an interactive book offering examples of verbal and physical bullying and methods to deal with bullies and peer pressure to bully others
Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian, illustrated by Nasaya Mafaridik – a fiction book about being different, growing friendships and dealing with bullying behaviour
Ella on the Outside by Cath Howe – in addition to dealing with change (new school, physical changes) this book explores the pressures of trying to please people and struggling to fit in
#Goldilocks by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Tony Ross – a humorous cautionary tale for a new generation of internet users
In the news
Something Bad Happened: A Kid’s Guide to Coping with Events in the News by Dawn Huebner, illustrated by Kara McHale – offers advice for having tough conversations with children about world events such as natural disasters, terrorism and war. It addresses common questions and provides tools to calm fears
Dealing with tough times
When someone dies
Mum’s Jumper by Jayde Perkin – this picture book tackles coping with the loss of a parent. Developed in collaboration with Cruse Bereavement Care
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake – acknowledging that sadness is not always avoidable, this book deals with death and loss
If All the World Were by Joseph Coelho, illustrated by Allison Colpoys – a poetic picture book about coping with the death of a loved one, specifically a grandparent
Clownfish by Alan Durant – this book follows a boy who believes that his father has been reincarnated seven years after his death as a fish and is now in his local, soon to be shut down, aquarium
Tough times at home
The Boy Who Built a Wall Around Himself by Ali Redford, illustrated by Kara Simpson – using a simple metaphor to explain how some children cope with painful and traumatic experiences, this book encourages exploration and communication around feelings
Up and Down Mum by Child’s Play, illustrated by Summer Macon – this book helps to understand the causes of mental illness and how to live with someone experiencing it. Developed in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust
The Colour Thief: A Family’s Story of Depression by Andrew Fusek Peters and Polly Peters, illustrated by Karin Littlewood – for children living with parents with depression, this book helps them to understand the causes and effects of depression, and offers reassurance that it can pass and that their parents are not lost to them
When you have a condition
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Can I Tell You About ADHD? by Susan Yarney, illustrated by Chris Martin – written from the perspective of someone with ADHD, this book encourages readers to learn about ADHD, how it feels and how others can help someone experiencing it
Check Mates by Stewart Foster – this fiction book explores dealing with ADHD and concentrating in school
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
Questions and Feelings About: Autism by Louise Spilsbury, illustrated by Ximena Jeria –practical help, tips and advice as well as exploring everyday situations living with autism
M is for Autism by The Students of Limpsfield Grange School and Vicky Martin – drawing on real life experiences, this book explores the highs and lows of being different in a world of ‘normal’
The Illustrated Guide to Dyslexia and Its Amazing People by Kate Power and Kathy Iwanczak Forsyth – by showing what dyslexia is and asking the reader how it applies to them, this book offers an engaging means of working out how dyslexia affects the individual specifically, and includes tools and tips to deal with it
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Double Felix by Sally Harris, illustrated by Maria Serrano – this fiction book explores what it is like living with OCD through the eyes of young protagonist Felix
Having a disability
Questions and Feelings About: Having a Disability by Louise Spilsbury, illustrated by Ximena Jeria – this hands-on picture book is designed to help children with their questions and feelings about having a disability
Cressida Cowell, UK Children’s Laureate says: “I’m delighted that The Reading Agency have put together their Reading Well list. The mental health of our children is vitally important, and books are a way into discussing lots of different issues kids and parents face every day. More widely, we know that reading anything for the joy of it gives huge mental health benefits: that’s why it’s so crucial children have access to new books in public and school libraries.”
There are additional Reading Well booklists for adults and young people on mental health, long term conditions and dementia. To find out more about this free resource please ask in your local library or visit
 NHS Digital (2018). Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017 [PAS].
 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (2018). School referrals for mental health treatment rise by a third.
 BookTrust, (2019). ‘New BookTrust research shows half of children in the UK don’t discuss their mental health and wellbeing with their parents.’