The other week I was visiting a local primary school and I asked the children what made them happy.
Their families, friends and pets won the day for my audience of 4-7 year-old’s. They then proceeded with the task they’d been set; to devise a character for their own story that would make them smile.
As they did so, there was audible laughter and giggles throughout the school hall as they selected various colouring pencils, thought up a sentence to describe their creation, and then made a beeline to show me what they’d achieved.
As a children’s author, this is something that makes me incredibly happy – knowing that I am able to pass on my love of reading and writing to others, especially children.
And whilst I’m extremely lucky to be able to do this, it also makes me wonder how often we do things for others and indeed ourselves, that really makes us happy.
On this International Day of Happiness, wouldn’t it be good if we simply exchange a smile with the person we’re sat next to on the bus, the train or indeed whoever we come into contact with?
Nothing more needs to be said, but it is this small act of kindness, and reaching out to others, that can make a massive difference.
We’re currently faced with so much uncertainty in the world. But one thing we can be sure of is that we’re all here together. A simple smile can have such a unifying quality.
I always think that you should treat others how you would want to be treated yourself, which is why I say “good morning”, to the guard on the train platform, or smile at the tube worker, who might be looking a bit downcast every time I see them.
It doesn’t cost me anything and truth be told – it makes me feel good too.
Projecting positivity to the next person, in such a small way can make a huge difference to not only them, but also how you view the world and everything in it.
Dwelling on negativity will only breed more negativity, whilst embracing everything in a positive way with a can do attitude, really does make things somehow easier. It also opens you up to new opportunities, which all of a sudden seem to appear from nowhere.
And without you even realising it, the positive energy that you’re feeling is reflected in everything you do and everyone you meet.
Every morning I get up at around 5am, which might sound like a crazy time to you if you’re reading this, but I love to be able to have some quiet time just for me where I can map out my day ahead.
I’m incredibly lucky to be where I am, and to do what I do, but a lot of it hasn’t just happened overnight. It has been more a case of hard work, taking action and embracing every opportunity or mishap in a positive way.
Being a mum and an entrepreneur means I constantly have to juggle my time and how I approach everything. But I wouldn’t change it at all. And I’m incredibly grateful for everything.
To help kick start your positive thinking, here is a really simple exercise that can work wonders to turn your day around, no matter what it’s been like so far:
At least three times in a day, take a moment to stop what you’re doing and look around you.
What can you see that makes you happy? It could be something as simple as the book you’re reading, your surroundings, or feeling the sun on your face.
Soak in these moments, and remember them. And then smile.
As a child I used to do this all the time.
I used to love taking the time to smell freshly cut grass, feeling my feet beneath me as I ran, enjoying the time playing on my swing at home.
Such happy memories. Made all the more special because I stopped, and took the time to remember how I was feeling.
On the whole, it’s second nature for children to have a naturally positive outlook on life and to appreciate their surroundings.
Let’s take a leaf out of their book and make a change to how we view the world, one small step at a time, starting today, the International Day of Happiness.Amazon now… x
Last weekend my husband, our two year old and I went for a woodland walk. It became apparent very quickly that this wasn’t going to be just any run of the mill amble through the countryside. We were going on a hunt for the Gruffalo.
Our walk ended up consisting of a series of, “Is he in there” type scenarios, looking for a log pile house, trying to spot the owl in the treetops, and ended with lots of splashing in the muddy puddles we found along the way.
Within weeks of him being born, I read to J. He enjoyed looking at the pictures, and seeing the shapes of the words. Now he asks to read his own book, once it has been read to him. A sure sign that, as with most things at the moment, he would like to have some more independence in this area of his life too.
But he still loves story time and will ask for at least four books to be read to him every night.
Not long after his first birthday, I created a reading corner for him in our lounge. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he has soft cushions, a small mattress covered in a throw and a selection of books that he can choose from. It’s also a break out area for him to be able to get some “me” time away from everything else.
Invariably either my husband or I are invited to sit next to him in the corner, and it’s here that we discover the latest things that are fascinating him.
Whether it’s a more seasonal reading of The Snowman by Raymond Briggs, seeing Percy slide into the sea as part of the Thomas the Tank Engine series, or hearing his fascination with Elmer the patchwork elephant, it’s an incredibly special time.
I am well aware that as a parent, these fleeting moments, will soon be but a distant memory, although I’d love to preserve them for as long as I can. And long may his love for books and learning continue.
Another scary prospect, which will be soon upon us, is the start of school. With this in mind, I visited a local primary school recently to see whether I could imagine him being as happy there as possible. During the tour with the head teacher, she said that a love of books was more important to her than the completion of any homework. My heart was filled with joy in that moment, as I also believe this to be the case.
Not only do books encourage a love of reading and writing, but they take children on a journey to a magical place where their imaginations can run riot. Many an evening I have spent falling into a bog thanks to Julia Donaldson’s Room in a Broom, or creeping past a big blue dinosaur, following one of many readings of Dinosaur Roar.
This is one of the main reasons that I became an author. I would love to inspire children to have a love of books and reading from as young an age as possible. Seeing the profound effect that books can have on children, both at home and during school visits, has only reaffirmed this aim.
I disagree with parents who say, “Oh they won’t understand books yet.” Who are we to decide when something might inspire them, or capture their attention?
I don’t think that children can ever be too young for books, to be introduced to new characters, and to explore the world through the safety of the written and pictorial world.
What has intrigued me as I’ve been promoting my own book, is the number of parents who say but “she’s only eight months old”, it’s too soon. Too soon for who? Too soon to be able to share that amazing bonding time together? Too soon for parents to buy books rather than another piece of plastic? Or too soon for their child to appreciate the beautiful world that can quite literally unfold in front of them?
On this, the 20th anniversary of World Book Day, no doubt parents with slightly older children will be frantically scrambling around trying to make a suitable character costume for the relevant school activities.
But what we shouldn’t overlook is that reading to and with your child should start ideally from weeks of them being born.
It’s an incredible gift to pass on, and one that I feel should be the duty of all parents to do. Finding the time to read together and instil a love of reading and subsequently writing is one that should hopefully last a lifetime.
What an incredible thing you are giving to your child. To know that you have set them on the right path from the beginning – so they love their books and story time.
There’s so much to discover and so much fun to be had. Research has proved that books and imagination go hand in hand.
So what are you waiting for? It’s never too early to buy a book and to start that journey together.
And of course have a lot of fun along the way.