THE CROSS-AGE READING ACTIVITIES PROVIDED BY READING PALS CONTRIBUTE TO 4 OF THE 5 STEPS, RECOMMENDED BY THE NHS, TO SUPPORT AND IMPROVE MENTAL WELLBEING.
1. CONNECT –
- Strong relationships with family and friends allow us to share our feelings and know that we’re understood.
- They provide an opportunity to share positive experiences, and can give us emotional support.
- They give us a chance to support others, something else that’s known to promote mental wellbeing.
- There’s also evidence that wellbeing can be passed on through relationships.
- Being around people with strong mental wellbeing can improve your own mental wellbeing.
Staff and children who have used Reading Pals all agreed that it led to strong friendships, that were mutually supportive. Often these friendships continued into the playground. The questions facilitate discussions that allow the children to share their experiences with each other and thereby build empathy.
2. KEEP LEARNING – LEARNING NEW SKILLS CAN GIVE YOU A SENSE OF ACHIEVEMENT AND A NEW CONFIDENCE.
Learning often involves interacting with other people. This can also increase our wellbeing by helping us build and strengthen social relationships.
Reading Pals scripts teach the children how to facilitate reading and develop good communication skills. Learning new skills will help the children to feel more confident in their literacy but also in their ability to interact with others successfully.
3. GIVE TO OTHERS – EVEN THE SMALLEST ACT CAN COUNT, WHETHER IT’S A SMILE, A THANK YOU OR A KIND WORD.
- Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness, small and large, are associated with positive mental wellbeing.
- Giving to others and co-operating with them can stimulate the reward areas in the brain, creating positive feelings.
- Helping and working with others can also give us a sense of purpose and feelings of self-worth.
- Giving our time to others in a constructive way helps us strengthen our relationships and build new ones.
- Relationships with others also help mental wellbeing.
Reading Pals gives the children opportunities to help others. Older Pals are supporting Younger Pals, who can then go on to help their younger peers. Being of benefit to others is often particularly important to children from socially deprived backgrounds, or children who have not developed strong self-esteem. Understanding they have skills and qualities that will be of benefit to others impacts positively on their confidence and feelings of self-worth.
4. BE MINDFUL –
- Be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
- An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.
As an introduction to the Reading Pals sessions the children engage in short activities that help them to focus on the present moment, using physical sensation, breath and sound. Helping them to let go temporarily of distracting thoughts and feelings.