• Melanie Notaras

Building resilience in children - through gamebooks!


It’s a much darker world out there for kids than when we were growing up. Perhaps it’s only what my kids tell me, or maybe it just affects them more, but it seems like the majority of school texts they study are depressing – with subjects about war, child soldiers, social ostracism or refugees (I’ve been told it’s because the writing is more passionate, and because it covers a lot of topical areas). We regularly drive behind bus advertising about homelessness and domestic abuse, hear radio news about the threat of nuclear strikes by or to North Korea, updates on murder, or paedophilic crime. Kids feel the stress of living through divorce – financial, emotional – with domestic, drug or gambling abuse often playing a role. Not to mention social media and gaming addiction of both children and parents.

When I was a child it didn’t feel like this was around. Or maybe it was, but I wasn’t aware of it. I worried about a lot of things but mostly it was just about my own little world.

No wonder there are higher levels of anxiety and depression in kids and teens these days, with such a shaky outlook constantly rammed down their throats. When it doesn’t seem like there’s any alternative, the future can look frustratingly bleak.

I had a lovely chat with a friend of mine whose son had recently enjoyed reading my book, The Art Show That Came To Life At Bundock Primary School*. When my friend started to compliment me I thought she was going to say it was because my book simply got her son off his devices and into reading, but no. Her reason really surprised me.

She told me her son is quite anxious about life, always imagining a bad ending. She told me that he was quite pessimistic in outlook, and I could see that this was a worry for her. She said that – as a gamebook – my book showed her son that there is more than one ending, that he could choose his way forward. That he had alternatives. That it could demonstrate to him another thought process. And she appreciated this very much.

I was really touched by that.

I’m a big believer in building resilience in children, and practice it within my children in many ways. I put them into different after-school activities so they can have a chance at trying new hobbies and meeting new kids outside their school and family comfort zones (to practice the important life skill of initiating friendships). Another method is by encouraging them to try every single club, activity or exam their school offers. You – and they – will never know where they might find their talent or special friend, and trying a lot of different things can put both failure and success in the right perspective. A third way I try and build resilience is through books – allowing them to empathise and experience adventures vicariously.

Gamebooks take this to an even higher level because told in second person “you”, the reader is emphatically placed inside the story. They’re filled with adventure – and importantly – choices that the reader MUST make. They’re weighted with good and bad outcomes, just like life – but better, because you can always turn the page back. And they give kids the opportunity to add some adventure, experience and challenge to the often narrow routine of their lives.

They can take you to outer space, to ancient places, to the future – like magic, to just about anywhere. You never know where you’ll end up until you’ve picked your own path through to it.

And like my friend’s son, maybe gamebooks can help show your child that there’s ALWAYS another way.

* The Art Show That Came To Life At Bundock Primary School is a special version of The Art Show That Came To Life [At Your School Name Here] series, set in fictional school "Bundock Primary". It is available for individual sale on Amazon and through this website.

My School Adventure customises The Art Show That Came To Life At [Your School Name Here] for schools and will be releasing a second novel The Science Fair That Went Berserk At [Your School Name Here] later in 2018. For more information on how My School Adventure can assist your school please visit www.myschooladventure.com – and don't forget to ask for your school's free sample book!

Interested in more? You can connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or @MANotaras on Twitter. Or join my new Facebook community "Get Your Child To Read More"!

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