Each of these books brings something special to inform our understanding of children’s happiness and wellbeing and how we can make a difference in children’s lives. Positive Psychology features substantially but not exclusively in this list which is my personal Top Ten. I would be interested to hear your stories of the impact any of these books have had for you. What do you think and what other titles you would recommend? The books are listed in order of publication date.
How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiousity and the Hidden Power of Character by Paul Tough. (Random House 2012)
A new generation of researchers have identified a range of non- cognitive factors which drive motivation and achievement. Stand aside IQ tests, grit and character ate coming through. Paul Tough takes us on a highly readable and engaging journey to explore this research and to meet the pioneers in the US who are putting this into action. Where the US leads I hope the world will follow.
What Children need to be Happy, Confident and Successful: Step by Step Positive Psychology to Help Children Flourish by Jeni Hooper (Jessica Kingsley 2012)
This book introduces what one Child Psychologist has done to put the research on wellbeing into action. The theory and research findings from Positive Psychology are woven together with practical ideas and illustrative case histories. There are checklists and assessment profiles for readers who want to try out The Flourishing Programme for themselves.
Smart Strengths: Building Character, Resilience and Relationships in Youth John Yeager, Sherri Fisher, David Shearon. (Kraves 2011)
The smart model of strengths coaching demonstrates how to change a school system, one person at a time to bring positive education to students and to optimise the strengths of the adults who work with them. The three authors met on the Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) and this book distils the work they have been doing since in schools to develop positive, strengths based education.
Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents by Christine Carter (Ballantine Books 2010)
An evidence based approach to bringing up children who are well adjusted and happy. Although brim full of research findings, this is not a dry read as Christine Carter livens the mix with amusing and honest examples from her own family life. She knows getting it right is tough and is willing to laugh at herself but then try again.
Teaching Happiness and Wellbeing in Schools by Ian Morris (Continuum 2009)
Ian Morris is Head of Wellbeing at Wellington College in Berkshire, one of the first schools to introduce a wellbeing curriculum. The book lucidly examines the theory and research which underpins the school’s curriculum and explores how to create a classroom ethos which helps young people to understand and manage their wellbeing.
A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age. Richard Layard, Judy Dunn (Penguin 2009)
This book is an examination of children’s wellbeing in the UK and proposals for action. The Good Childhood Inquiry was commissioned by the Children’s Society when the 2007 UNICEF report on the wellbeing of children in the world’s 21 richest countries found the UK at the bottom of the class with the USA not far ahead. The book explores the cultural and economic factors which disadvantage children and poses some solutions. A recent review showed that so far little has changed.
Celebrating Strengths: Building Strengths- based Schools by Jennifer Fox Eades (Capp Press 2008)
Celebrating strengths does not teach positive psychology as an additional subject but weaves it into the existing curriculum and life of the school. The book explores how the 24 Character Strengths in the Values in Action classification (Peterson and Seligman 2004) can be brought to life through stories, drama and celebrations in Primary schools
The Optimistic Child: a proven program to safeguard children against depression and build lifelong resilience by Martin Seligman with Karen Reivich, Lisa Jaycox and Jane Gillham. (Houghton Mifflin books 2007)
Optimistic thinking and positive problem solving lie at the root of resilience and wellbeing. Although this book is often presented as an evidence based programme to prevent depression (which it does) I would rather flip this to consider what it tells us about giving young people the tools to be optimistic and resilient.
Mindset: The new psychology of success by Carol Dweck. (Ballantine Books 2007)
One of the non-cognitive skills which Paul Tough’s book explores is the Growth Mindset. Carol Dweck’s research confirms that it is not just ability and talent that brings success but how we approach goals and sustain our efforts to achieve them. Children with a Growth Mindset believe that learning is a set of skills which grow through effort and persistence whereas children who hold a Fixed Mindset assume ability creates a ceiling on success. Guess who gives up first!
The Resilience Factor: 7 keys to finding your inner strength and overcoming life’s hurdles by Karen Reivich and Andrew Shatte. (Broadway Book 2002)
Resilience is the ability to cope with unexpected challenges and conflicts and to find a way forward. The book reveals 7 proven techniques that improve people’s capacity to handle what life sends their way. The approach moves beyond damage limitation to explore how to bolster optimism, take chances and embrace all that life offers.
Jeni Hooper is a Child and Educational Psychologist specialising in helping children to find their best selves and to flourish.
Jeni can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org