Monday, 1 February 2016

The power of story - books that nurture and inspire!

I've loved putting this series together as I truly believe in the power of story as a way to nurture and inspire children - but especially children needing encouragement and extra support at certain times. Sharing a story where characters overcome a particular problem or find a good way to deal with something can give children the opportunity to discover new ways of seeing or thinking about problems or situations. Stories with quiet messages can have a powerful effect and may help readers or listeners feel less alone, encouraged and perhaps willing to talk about their own feelings if, or when, they feel ready to do so. 

In addition, I think narratives that encourage children to be still and peaceful at times - in as far as they are able to do so naturally - can introduce them to very simple, natural and useful techniques that can be relaxing, calming and anxiety reducing. This is a skill everyone needs in life - the ability to take a moment, step back or reflect is something that can be introduced to children through story and activities.  This calming stepping back idea is at the heart of relaxation methods, mindfulness, meditation and other ideas and has been found to help children unwind, focus, calm down, sleep better and handle worry.

Stories and storytelling have been around since the beginning of human time, of course. Think of our early ancestors huddled together in caves or shelters listening to the wise and entertaining stories handed down from one generation to the next. They were our way of conveying important information and messages, entertaining, educating and helped us create bonds with each other too.

A good story remains at the heart of some of the best forms of entertainment to this day - even though the means through which we access the story may have changed. So what is it about stories that attracts us and draws us in so readily? It's surely more than a desire to be entertained? I think so. Stories enable us to connect with something deep within ourselves and others. They tap into the core of us and within them we find meanings, purpose, identities, insights and understanding about life, ourselves and the lives and motivations of other people. Sometimes that can happen without us even realising. Other times we may get a "wow, yes, that's so true" moment. And other times we might come away from the story feeling a kind of warm, connected understanding.

When it comes to sharing stories with children there is an extra important element: the act of sitting quietly and cosily with your child or a group of children creates an important bond between parent/adult and child.  Research also shows so many benefits of reading to or listening to children read - from developing language, communication and social skills to aiding the growth of knowledge and empathy. So we can make stories a fun and natural way for conveying those quietly nurturing messages that we want children to absorb and which will help them develop strong emotional health, thoughts or habits for life.

A Red Ribbon Winner in the Wishing Shelf Book Awards. Just Bee with Bizzy Bee! is a colourful short picture book story about Bizzy Bee who, like all busy bees, spends his days working hard collecting all that nectar. But now and then he stops and finds a safe warm place to JUST BE!  Children are encouraged to think about stopping and pausing in order to feel calm, peaceful and quiet whenever they need to and the story ends with a simple relaxation activity which a parent etc can do with or talk a child through.   Click here to see Just Be with Bizzy Bee

Bronze Winner in The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, The Forever Tree is an interactive narrative which is intended to be shared with a child or group of children. The story encourages children to imagine they are a strong, tall tree with roots firmly connected to the ground and experiencing all the seasons and weather as the year comes and goes. A section at the end of the book on how to deal with worries, anxieties etc can be shared too - giving the chance for children to talk about feelings. Click here to see: The Forever Tree

Stories for Feelings is a collection of short stories that help children recognise and deal with different emotions, feelings and situations in life. Themes include loss, change, exclusion, worrying etc. There are two versions of the book - one with colour illustrations on each page which children will enjoy and one without illustrations which many older readers (of all ages!) might prefer. Click here to see Stories for Feelings Illustrated
Click here to see the Stories only version

The Story Therapy Series have also won the prestigious Mom's Choice (R) Silver Award.

I'm working on adding to the Story Therapy Series further - more books and perhaps some useful non-book resources too!

Strawberry Jam Books

Readers' Favorite reviewers have given the story therapy series books five star thumbs up, with the following comments included in their reviews:

The Forever Tree: "the author has so cleverly used a wide collection of vibrant colors to provide a world where children can get in touch with themselves, learn about the different seasons of time and, most importantly, the seasons of their soul...inspiring, well thought out."   for Readers' Favorite

Just Bee with Busy Bee! "a fun and instructive book that uses a bee to teach kids how to enjoy relaxation. I loved the brightly colored pictures of Bizzy at work, and appreciated the simple and subtle way in which the author introduces a different type of time out than most kids are used to. Rather than being something at best boring and, at worst, a mild form of correction, Hawkes engages the child in an activity that is mind expanding, enjoyable and restful all at once. The Guided Relaxation Exercises she includes are suitable for 'bizzy bees' of all ages as well, even those adults who happen to be sharing the book with their young companions. Just Be with Bizzy Bee! is highly recommended." Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite.

Stories for Feelings: "Hilary Hawkes' children's short story collection is a modern-day Aesop's Fables designed to help children realize that they're not the only ones who have feelings, and provides examples of how to cope with them. This collection is upbeat and filled with easily accessible tales that are neither preachy nor didactic. I especially loved the story of A Heavy Load and appreciated the creativity inherent in the tale, Broken. But perhaps the most important story in the collection is The Flower and its gentle encouragement to grow, change and not be afraid. These stories are perfect for storytime, and the accompanying illustrations are cheerful and brightly colored. More experienced young readers will also find this to be a rewarding and challenging collection of stories to expand their reading abilities. Stories for Feelings For Children: The Illustrated Edition is highly recommended." Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite.

About the author:
I'm a writer and children's author, having been published by several different UK publishers. I created Strawberry Jam Books in 2012 - a creative social enterprise project of children's books and resources that promote friendship, kindness, understanding: ourselves and each others' differences (or disabilities). I have worked in publishing and as an early years/Montessori teacher. 
You can visit my website here:

and Strawberry Jam Books here:

Strawberry Jam Books