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During February and with the imminent arrival of Valentines Day, we are thinking about the season of love and what it means to the children in our classrooms. We’re not talking about the commercialised holiday as such, but more about children’s own knowledge and experience of love. Many will know love from their close family and friends; some families might look different to others, but what they all have in common is love.

Children start to learn this emotion from infancy; they don’t have the understanding or vocabulary to describe it, but they know that love is safe and warm and resembles home and familiar people. And love doesn’t really change as we grow older – it’s still safe, warm, homely and familiar.

We hope that children also learn to love themselves. This one is a little trickier, as our society is so focussed on material wealth and appearance. Low self-esteem is a growing issue for children and teens according to the Education Policy Institute (read the BBC News Article here) This has a huge impact on children’s wellbeing and mental health. In fact, 1 in 6 children between the ages of 5 and 16 were identified as having a mental health problem in 2021 (YoungMinds) – could some of this be attributed to low self-esteem?

Books play a vital role in supporting and promoting positive body image, confidence and self esteem. Having shelves stacked with stories that reflect a range of backgrounds, people and experiences mean that children see themselves reflected in books – and seeing themselves promotes acceptance and understanding. The effect is two-fold because not only does this encourage confidence in the individual child, but also fosters empathy and understanding in other children. This leads to better relationships, open conversations and, ultimately, fosters a more loving environment.

Similarly, books that show a variety of families promote the idea that love is the key that holds us together, regardless of our differences or family situation. Children understand the world around them better when they learn about families that are different from their own. Representation in books is, therefore, a key factor in championing love in all it’s forms and fostering acceptance.

So, how do you promote and support love in your classroom? Let’s start with these fantastic books that reflect and represent different families, love and self-acceptance.

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

Age Range: EYFS

A beautiful board book that celebrates all kinds of families, and all the wonderful things trusted adults do to help children feel safe. It is a simply-presented champion of the beauty of love, perfect for Nursery and Reception.

Hair Love by Matthew Cherry and Vashti Harrison

Age Range: KS1

A beautiful story about a Dad and his daughter. It shows how tender and loving their relationship is, as Dad carefully styles Zuri’s hair for a special event. Zuri’s tale helps us to embrace our natural features and celebrate who we are.

 

A Different Kind of Freedom: A Romani Story by Richard O’Neill

Age range: KS2

A fascinating tale that tackles themes of family traditions and new passions. It follows a community of Romani people in 19th Century Sheffield, with it’s focus on one particular young boy named Lijah. It shows Lijah’s deep-rooted love for his family and their way of life, and explores how difficult it is to fit this with his other great love…football.

All About Ella by Sally Nichols

Age Range: KS2

A heart-warming story about family love and the challenges that it sometimes brings. This book deals with some big themes; family. illness, siblings, jealousy…but it does so in a gentle and brilliant way.

Resources

Mind has some brilliant ideas for helping to support young people with self-esteem and confidence – click here to read more.

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