“Meditation is to be aware of what is going on: in your body, in your feelings, in your mind and in the world.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
This is a small collection of picture books that invite children to think about their own thoughts and feelings, to feel good in their bodies and to connect with other people and living beings with greater attention and care. The books offer ways to feel calm and to have a still mind in a world full of distractions. For children, some benefits of mindfulness practises may include: reduced aggression, anxiety and stress; increased ability to self-regulate, to pay attention and concentrate; and an overall sense of well-being. I hope these beautiful books contribute to children’s enjoyment of reading, and to their awareness of themselves and the world.
Alderfer, Lauren ; illustrations by Kerry Lee MacLean. Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda. Boston : Wisdom Publications, 2011.
This brightly illustrated book offers children a very simple explanation of what it means to be present in the moment (e.g., when doing things like walking, playing, reading, eating and resting). Monkey observes that Panda seems so happy. Panda points out that his attention stays focused on each activity as he is doing it. Monkey does the same activities but his mind wanders, and this reduces his happiness. Monkey soon realizes that mindfulness means being engaged in the present moment, and not allowing himself to be distracted by other thoughts. Maclean’s soothing colour palette beautifully reinforces the book’s message about learning to live in the moment.
Goldsaito, Katrina ; illustrated by Julia Kuo. The Sound of Silence. New York ; Little, Brown and Company, 2016.
In this story, Yoshio wanders through the bustling streets of Tokyo, so vividly captured in Kuo’s illustrations (rendered in pen and coloured digitally). He is aware of different sounds but one that attracts him the most is the music of the koto. When the musician tells Yoshio that silence (ma) is her favourite sound, he begins to search everywhere for silence – in the bamboo grove, on the train platform, at his home – but silence is nowhere to be found. Only when he is truly engaged in an activity he loves does Yoshio feel stillness within, and realize that silence has always been there, between and underneath every sound. In the afterword, the author explains ma and its importance in many Japanese traditions, and in music. Goldsaito writes about composer Toru Takemitsu, whose favourite sound was silence, yet he incorporated the stream of city sounds into his compositions. This lovely book shares an important message about how both attending to sounds and finding silence contribute to being in the moment.
Hindley, Judy; illustrated by Manya Stojic. Can You Move Like an Elephant? New York: Transworld Publishers, 2003