Mental health charity looks to give free books to thousands of children

Ezra Hewing, head of education at Suffolk Mind, who is behind the book appeal

Ezra Hewing, head of education at Suffolk Mind, who is behind the book appeal - Credit: Gregg Brown

Every Reception-aged child in the county could receive a book teaching them about exercise and mental health thanks to Suffolk Mind.

The appeal has been launched as part of World Book Day, as the charity looks to help improve the mental health of children – with 35% of children admitting their wellbeing has worsened as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is said movement and exercise helps make both the heart and body strong and healthy – while also burning off harmful stress hormones.

A spread from Sammy the Sea Squirt, a book by Suffolk Mind for local school children

A spread from Sammy the Sea Squirt, a book by Suffolk Mind for local school children - Credit: Suffolk Mind

All children in Reception (ages four and five) would receive the book, which follows the life of a sea squirt called Sammy, who moves with ocean friends to look after their memory and emotions.

Pictures in the book, by local illustrator Emma Graham, bring the characters to life.

Ezra Hewing, head of education at Suffolk Mind, appealed to both families and businesses alike to help fund the printing of 8,000 copies.

Mr Hewing said: “This is such an important project, to ensure that children from a young age know the benefits of exercise on their mental health. We want children to learn the skills to be emotionally resilient as they continue to grow into adulthood.

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“Nobody wants their child to experience poor mental or physical health. But what can parents and carers do to protect their child? How can they support them to grow up to be positive and emotionally resilient adults?"

Sammy the Sea Squirt, the protagonist of Suffolk Mind's new book

Sammy the Sea Squirt, the protagonist of Suffolk Mind's new book - Credit: Suffolk Mind

Figures collected before the pandemic showed 60% of young people (aged 11 to 19) had experienced a mental health problem themselves or are close to someone who had.

Research from the University of Essex also found the decrease in childhood fitness was so great that the least fit child in a class of 30 in 1998 would be among the five fittest in a class today.

James Reeder, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for public health and prevention, said it would be "wonderful" to give the book out to children.

Mr Reeder said: “We know that physical activity helps children to build strong muscles and bones, helps build their confidence, improves their ability to learn and helps maintain their mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Suffolk’s Most Active County campaign is therefore delighted to endorse the Suffolk Mind crowdfunding appeal for the ‘Sammy the Sea Squirt’ book, which will provide parents with an exciting and engaging way of talking to their children about the importance of movement, through storytelling."

Emma Graham, the Illustrator working on the project, added: “It is wonderful to be asked to work on such an important project. I love illustrating children’s books and bringing Sammy and friends to life from Ezra’s story has been fun.

"I look forward to creating the finished illustrations and book, as I know Sammy’s story will encourage children to move, exercise and have fun, and keep their brains healthy too.”

Those wishing to donate can do so here.