Wednesday, January 9, 2019

A Mindfulness Story For Kids By Kids


“From the creators of the hugely successful Master of Mindfulness, this charming children’s book for readers ages 4 to 7 tells the story of Nessa and Leo’s friendship, and how mindfulness helps them deal with strong emotions such as fear, shyness, and anger.”
-Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley


By Sam Piha

We have been promoting the use of mindfulness techniques in afterschool, for both young people and adult staff self-care, for many years. We are happy to announce that a second book created by young people on this topic was recently released. Below is an interview with Laurie Grossman who organized this effort.  

Laurie Grossman
Q: Can you say a word about what this book is about?
A: Breath Friends Forever is a book about two best friends who share the same birthday. One is often calm and the other often frustrated. As a birthday present, Leo teaches mindfulness, the power of using her breath when she gets upset, angry, nervous or sad. Leo teaches readers a few mindfulness techniques that are easy to use, one of which, the Sharkfin was originally created by Temescal Associate’s own Stacey Daraio.

Our world has become, it seems to me, more difficult to navigate for all of us, little ones included. Teaching kids mindfulness to deal with the challenges they face even at very early ages, can help them develop emotional regulation, deal with difficulties with more calm and make their lives happier and healthier. 

Q: Can you share some of the back story about how it was developed? 
A: In 2014, I was doing lots of volunteer work bringing mindfulness to Reach Academy in Oakland, CA. One day, Mr. Musumeci, a fifth grade teacher, mentioned to me that in selecting superheroes, one of his students thought they should have a mindfulness superhero. 

Several weeks later, while practicing mindfulness, it occurred to me that we should write a book. I asked the teacher what he thought and he thought it would be a great learning experience for the kids. I came into the class and asked them if they liked mindfulness. 100% did. I asked them if they thought other kids should know about it. 100% did. Finally I asked them how we could tell other kids about it and eventually someone said we could write a book. Voila, the beginning of the first book, Master of Mindfulness: How To Be Your Own Superhero in Times of Stress


That book did well so the publisher, New Harbinger, asked us to do one for older kids. Angelina Manriquez, the book designer, thought it would be more important to begin with the little ones, thus Breath Friends Forever was born. 

Chasmin Moses, a fourth grade teacher at Reach was a huge advocate of mindfulness. When I inquired about her interest in participating, she jumped at the chance. This book seemed much harder because we wanted to make it a story book for Pre-K through 1st or 2nd graders. We had no idea what the story would be or if the characters would be animals, zombies or people. It took about three months but we finally got the ball rolling and things started coming into place. 

Q: Can you say something about how this book can be used in afterschool programs?
A: All kids love birthdays and all kids need mindfulness. It's a great read a loud. Kids could practice what is taught in the book and kids can also listen to the practices the authors dictated to learn mindfulness. 

Older kids could read it to little ones. Kids could act out the story and they could also write their own books about mindfulness. Knowing that kids like them wrote and published a book could inspire them to do the same. 

Q: Is this book only for children who have experienced mindfulness practice?
A: No, because Leo teaches Nessa how to practice mindfulness so readers can learn too! Also, the authors' audio practices lead students through a variety of mindfulness practices.

Q: Are there any resources that afterschool leaders could use?
A: There are many resources providing research evidence, case studies of how schools have used mindfulness techniques, and guidance to program practitioners. Many of these can be founds by doing an online search of mindfulness techniques for youth. I have listed a few below: 

  • Temescal Associates’ Mindfulness in Afterschool: A 16-Session Curriculum of Mindfulness Activities for Young People in Afterschool Programs 
  • Inner Explorer is a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide mindfulness in schools for PreK-12 classrooms, helping children develop self-awareness, self-control, resilience and compassion. Each series contains 90 audio-guided practices that can be used every day by simply logging in and pressing play. Students and their teachers participate together in the brief (5-10 minute) daily practices. No prep, planning or curriculum changes required.
  • Past LIAS Blog Posts on Mindfulness in Afterschool 

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Laurie Grossman, one of the founders of the mindfulness in education movement, has been an activist since 1975. She believes that mindfulness in schools is the tool most likely to help achieve social justice. Over the last two decades, she started two innovative programs: one that created partnerships between private and public schools, and one that brought mindfulness into schools. In 2007, as part of Park Day School's Community Outreach Program, she and two colleagues launched a pilot program of mindfulness in an Oakland, CA, elementary school that was covered in The New York Times and on NBC. Grossman is cofounder of Mindful Schools, now one of the largest mindfulness-in-education programs in the world. She currently works with Inner Explorer, an organization focused on bringing daily mindfulness practices into schools to improve educational outcomes and the well-being of children and teachers. She is passionate about Inner Explorer because the organization has made mindfulness scalable, providing easy and immediate access to every K-12 classroom, anywhere, anytime.

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