Starting “big school” can be an anxious time in the life of a young child – and their parents! But a new book created by clinical psychologist Lynn Jenkins and illustrator Kirrili Lonergan is helping to provide the tools young children need to feel “brave” enough to overcome their worries and tackle new adventures head on.
Brave tells the story of Loppy the LAC (Little Anxiety Creature), who is beset by fears about going to school – “What if he got lost? What if he didn’t know what to do? What if he didn’t make any friends?”
Thankfully, Loppy has a friend named Curly, a “Calmster” who helps Loppy see that by using his imagination he can tap into his inner confidence and “find his brave.” The book is the second in a series of five “resource tool” picture books being produced by the Newcastle pair, who are passionate about early intervention.
The first, Lessons of a LAC, gave children a very simple way to understand and manage their anxious thoughts and feelings by introducing them to Loppy and Curly.
Brave provides children with a strategy to do things they are worried about doing, while Perfect Petunias (due to be released in January 2018) deals with perfectionism, Grey Glasses-itis (2019) examines how different perspectives affect a child’s moods and Tree (2020) looks at how to cope with feelings of loss.
Lynn said the books deal with the most common issues she encounters while working with children as a clinical psychologist. She said increasing numbers of parents were seeking professional support for their children, especially those struggling to deal with anxiety.
“Anxiety’s a thing where patterns develop; kids start off, and they’re supposed to head in a particular direction in life, so their brain is ready and waiting to develop those pathways, but if they’re quite prone to anxiety, they develop pathways to support them still being anxious,” she said.
“If they can get some intervention early in their lives, so they know what to do about it and have the tools and confidence to be able to use them, then they develop pathways to support them being able to manage it.”
Lynn and Kirrili have also developed a Lessons of a LAC program for school classroom visits and teacher professional development sessions, with a range of complementary resources including Loppy and Curly finger puppets and plush toys, stickers, teaching plans and “Courage Cards” printed with some of Curly’s most insightful quotes.
The Newcastle-based mothers – Lynn has three children while Kirrili has four - still find it hard to believe just how well the concept has taken off, after partnership publishing the first two titles with Little Steps Publishing and more recently signing a deal with EK Books for the final three in the series.
The books and products are also sold through educational book distributor, Lion Crest Education.
“The intention was just to sell in my rooms in the little anxiety groups that I sometimes do with kids and then the schools got hold of it and it went from there,” Lynn said.
“We were actually just going to print about 100 books and now we’ve printed about 4000 Lessons of a LAC.
“From there we developed a school package and from parents’ feedback they said the kids would like something little they could take to school with them in their bags or their pockets and so we developed the other products.”
Kirrili said the simplicity of the books – from the techniques Lynn wove into the words to the way she visually brought the characters to life through her illustrations – were the key to their success.
“I think the feeling, the looking, the seeing of the characters and relating to what they’re about is what’s drawn kids into being able to actually use the techniques,” she said.
“There are only two characters, and they’re the same in every book, but I love the simplicity of it because there’s not a lot for a child to take in, it’s just a simple message that they can tap into easily.”
To find out more about Lessons of a LAC and Brave, visit www.lessonsofalac.com