Storybooks support mental health post-pandemic

Issue: Volume 102, Number 12

Posted: 13 September 2023
Reference #: 1HAc6u

Te Tāhuhu o te Mātauranga | The Ministry of Education has developed a series of storybooks to initiate conversations about mental health with tamariki aged 3–8 years, and in five languages to represent different cultures and identities.

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Storybooks support mental health

Te Oranga Mauri – Wellbeing Storybooks have been developed to provide kaiako and whānau with new resources to support the wellbeing of ākonga, using stories that address mental health issues caused by Covid-19 and its lockdowns. The storybooks are inspired by children’s real-life experiences.

With young people experiencing higher levels of mental health struggles than ever before, many have returned to their places of learning after lockdowns with increased anxiety.

The books were developed as part of the 2020 Wellbeing Initiative which has a focus on providing ākonga with mental health and wellbeing education.

The series has been designed and developed for ākonga from early learning through to junior primary, which is unique among curriculum resources, covering a wide age group and aligning across multiple curricula.

The books have been developed for all children but have a particular focus on ensuring that Pacific and Māori children can see themselves in the stories; as well as providing relevant books to Māori medium and Pacific immersion units.6. Storybooks support mental health 03

Te Oranga Mauri – Wellbeing Storybooks resource consists of five storybooks written in different languages:

  • Te Whānau Aroha o Tipene (written in te reo Māori only).
  • Sammy’s Koha (English and te reo Māori).
  • ‘Amanaki Learns at Home | Ako ‘a ‘Amanaki ‘i ‘api (English and Lea Faka-Tonga, and in Lea Faka-Tonga).
  • Kiara Loves White Sunday | E fiafia tele Kiara i le Lotu Tamaiti (English and Gagana Sāmoa, and in Gagana Sāmoa).
  • A Kite for Tiare | E Manu Tiare (English and te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani, and in te reo Māori Kūki ‘Āirani).

Real-life experiences

The stories are based on children’s real-life experiences during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, with the authors coming from within their communities.

The stories are designed to support the mental wellbeing of children. They recognise that the Covid-19 lockdowns had a huge effect on children – especially tamariki in Auckland.

The purpose of the stories was to capture that moment in time, providing children who were affected by the pandemic with an opportunity to discuss the events of the past. They allow them to unpack emotions or thoughts which may not have been addressed at that time.

The work is informed by advice that the aftermath of the pandemic and lockdowns were still being felt by many families. The books are a tool to deal with those memories and to have those conversations that children and families might have just pushed down.

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Support materials

Each book comes with teacher support materials that align across multiple curricula – Te Whāriki: He Whāriki mātauranga mō ngā mokopuna o Aotearoa, Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, and The New Zealand Curriculum – with adaptable curriculum content that is relevant for early childhood education through to Year 4.

There are activities such as drawing your family, discussing who they are and why they are important. In the language books, there is language enrichment.

The materials make it clear that those suggested activities are adaptable and that teachers can pick and choose what will work for them and with the group of children they are working with. For example, a Year 3 teacher might pick the material about drawing families and could expand on doing a more complex family tree, whereas an early learning kaiako teaching a group of four-year-olds could focus on drawing the immediate family, or maybe using drama or music to explore that concept.6. Storybooks support mental health 05

Notes and support materials for whānau are included in the books, with story prompts and discussion tools that can be used at home, as well as helpful tips to support language learners to understand the meaning and pronunciation of different words.

Hard copy books will be distributed to all early learning services, schools, Māori and Pacific medium kura and units. The books are also being digitised with simple animations, New Zealand Sign Language and voiceovers in each respective language.

We know that when children and people have a strong sense of wellbeing, they can engage meaningfully in learning. National and international educational research tells us that learners who are safe, healthy, secure, and confident are the best set up to achieve in learning and in life.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:00 pm, 13 September 2023

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