Inevitably my husband was out when my sons asked about babies. I was pretty gutted as I had thought that having boys meant I could hand them over for a Man Talk. However, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t lie to the children so I turned to my usual remedy in moments of stress…. a book.
As luck would have it a friend had already recommended a book for this emergency, Mummy Laid an Egg by Babette Cole. It was exactly what was needed. It answered enough questions to satisfy the small people without traumatising the big one. Don’t get me wrong, it was edgy and it did not dodge sex, but it was funny and matter of fact about it all, in a way that was calming.
It seemed perfectly natural to me to take a book as a starting point for a discussion – new school or going on a plane – prepare with a book (Topsy and Tim for both of these), emotions taking over? Let’s look at My Many Coloured Days by Dr Seuss.
When small person number 3 went through a difficult period I discovered No by Tracey Corderoy which helped me even if it didn’t completely stop the tantrums. Angry Arthur and Shouty Arthur allowed us to think about behaviour without being confrontational or accusatory.
This ability to use books for those tricky topics was even more useful in school. There are some books that are just staples for discussing emotional literacy such as Beegu, Something Else, Misery Moo and That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown. If you ask a six year old about their response to an emotional situation, their ability to discuss it will be constrained by the fact that most of them will have a limited store of experience to relate to. Even if they have had more than their share of emotional situations they almost certainly do not have the language to talk about it. So we give them a story. Something remote and safe, rich with appropriate language and with characters they care about. And this makes these books doubly valuable, you get literacy and emotional literacy in one neat package and it is worth every penny.