April 14, 2024
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New Book Empowers Children to Build Resilience

Educators, librarians and parents searching for child-friendly ways to encourage kids to persevere and bounce back from mistakes now have a new resource with a new children’s picture book, “One Step at a Time!”

A debut children’s picture book by author Sara Y. Aharon and illustrated by Bryn Pennetti, “One Step at a Time!” (Enterprise Leaf Press, ages 4-8) reveals to young children how to break down overwhelming emotions, like feeling scared and intimidated, into smaller pieces so that readers can build their sense of bravery step-by-step.

The story centers around the heroine, Emma, and her journey toward bravery after a significant mistake she makes at school. When Emma becomes scared to face herself and her class, her father advises her to “put one foot in front of the other.” Not understanding the figurative meaning of the phrase, Emma experiments with all kinds of physical steps, including stomping, jumping and twirling, which bring her closer to school. Through Emma’s literal and figurative step-by-step process, young readers learn from her growth toward becoming brave and resilient.

Aharon was inspired to write the book after coming across research revealing that self-compassion is connected to resilience in facing life’s mistakes and challenges, including among children and teens. Research shows that self-compassion and self-kindness are associated with higher levels of happiness, optimism and connectivity.

“With the ever-present challenges of bullying that children and young adults face in the social media age, my hope with this story is to encourage all readers to build more self-compassion, which then also can help increase compassion and empathy for others,” said Aharon.

Recent research reveals that support systems, rather than just individual nature, are critical to developing resilient children. Ann Masten, PhD, Regents Professor of Child Development at the University of Minnesota and one of the reviewers for Aharon’s children’s book, has conducted research on child resilience for decades. Masten’s perspective is that individual resilience often stems from drawing strength from surrounding sources.

By highlighting supporting secondary characters in the book, such as Emma’s friends, parents and teachers, Aharon shows aspirational examples of positive support systems for her readers. “Meaning, it’s not solely about how one person approaches their own mistake,” explains Aharon, “but also how the readers as classmates, parents or colleagues can respond encouragingly when someone else makes a mistake that adversely affects them.”

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