Guest Post: Hannah Davison on Reading for Resilience
Personalised picture books have been around for a long time. For the most part, we see these as a charming gift to make a child’s face light up as they see their name and likeness in print.
Now, we are seeing an evolution take place. The science behind personalisation in children’s books has proven it to fire up neural pathways in a child’s brain, enabling them to better recall information encountered through personalised content.
A study conducted by Dr. Natalia Kucirkova, a Senior Research Fellow at the UCL Institute of Education UK, found that: ‘... children showed significantly better knowledge about the words that were in the personalised sections of the books than the words in the non-personalised sections.’ She concluded that, ‘Personalised books increase children’s vocabulary more than those without personal information about the child ... Books and digital stories to which children can add their own texts, sounds or pictures engender the feelings of agency, empowerment and sense of ownership.’
New Zealand company, My Big Moments, has taken this science one step further by writing and publishing a series of personalised children’s books in consultation with child development experts including, neuroscience educator, Nathan Wallis from X-Factor Education, and registered play therapist, Abby Linn from Creative Coping. The ideas and activities shared in their books are designed to be an effective tool for helping children and their families cope with the challenges, changes and milestones they face together.
‘Our intention is to create an environment for growing wholehearted humans who live lives a little fuller, and a world a little kinder. Through the magic of story time, parents can share these beautiful and powerful resources with their children, opening important conversations in an environment that is safe, secure, and full of love,’ says My Big Moments designer and co-founder, Flicka Williams.
The concept for the personalised book series was conceived by the two friends, Flicka Williams and Hannah Davison. Both mothers of young children, they confided in one another the feelings of isolation and being overwhelmed that parenthood sometimes brought with it.
Soon after the seed was planted for the initial idea, Hannah Davison’s own children endured the 7.8 magnitude Kaikoura earthquake in New Zealand’s South Island in November 2016. Only 10 km from the epicentre, their home suffered extensive damage, forcing them to flee in the middle of the night. As she guided her children through their trauma, it became clear to Hannah that their book concept could provide a lifeline to parents like herself through challenging times. After a discussion with Williams, the My Big Moments project started in earnest.
‘Flicka and I often talk about how to navigate the bumpy road of parenthood,’ says author and co-founder, Hannah Davison. ‘We aspire to raise our kids in a way that prepares them for the complex world they’ve been born into. We want to help other parents and caregivers find the right words in the right moments and make that tricky job of parenting just a little bit easier.’
The series is aimed at children aged between 2 - 7 years and deal with various topics including everyday milestones, to the more unexpected challenges children might face. Their topics cover starting school, getting a new sibling in the family, grief and loss, and, going to hospital. The focus of the next book title is on building resilience and after that, they aim to tackle the topic of divorce and separation.
‘By using science and storytelling, we can give children language and practical ideas they can use in their own specific situations. It’s all about helping kids and their families develop resilience for handling the experiences that will shape their lives,’ says Davison. ‘We see it as putting a rainbow in every cloud.’
Today, as the world spins more slowly through an international lockdown, the two founders see this as the perfect training ground to role-model what building resilience looks like to children. Their current focus is to provide their audience with proven resources and information and support every household to develop more qualities of resilience.
‘In a time that can feel so uncertain and overwhelming, it helps to see the silver-linings that this situation can bring. I believe families can go through an amazing personal evolution during the time we spend together now,’ says Williams.
By Hannah Davison, co-founder and author at My Big Moments