Bedtime Stories: Reading books for children’s mental health

Jamie @adayinthelifedad
📝 Freelance writer, Podcaster & Raising Awareness
Talking all things Men’s Mental Health, family and the environment
Dad to Edie & Arlo
Lover of all creatures great and small 🐳🐕 🐢

I’ll be forever grateful to have been in the fortunate position since becoming a father, of being able to enjoy bedtime stories with my children. Thanks to always working locally or from home, it’s always been a part of our evening routine and I’ve always loved it.

So it’s fair to say I’ve read a few children’s stories in my time. Some have been incredible, and we’ve returned to them repeatedly, and some have been instantly forgettable (but annoyingly, the kids want to return to them anyway). Interestingly, and probably because of my interest in mental health and wellbeing, some of the books that have stayed with me most during my time as my kids’ chief story-teller are the ones that enable the children to think a little (sometimes subconsciously) outside of the usual realms of boy wizards and purple-prick-covered-beasts – The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein for example is one of my favourite children’s books of all times with kindness at the centre of its messaging.

Books that allow children to reflect on their feelings and emotions have been around forever but have often been counterbalanced by dangerous messaging such as ‘boys don’t cry’, or the tale would leave kids feeling sad, confused or angry but with no guidance on how to address such reactions. Thankfully, I think there’s been a notable shift in recent years, what with the increased media coverage of mental health and the push for more mental health support for children. Books that are far more transparent and helpful with their mental health messaging are becoming more readily available and popular with parents, schools and children.

One book that I really want to focus on that has become a staple part of my children’s bedtime routine in the last couple of months is The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy.

As the title suggests, the story follows a boy who befriends a mole, a fox and a horse, and throughout the beautifully illustrated pages, they all experience an array of emotions, all of which are relatable to children and adults alike, but the beauty of the book is the simplicity and power of the advice.

“I’m so small” said the mole. “Yes” said the boy, “but you make a huge difference”.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”. “Kind” said the boy.

“What do you think is the biggest waste of time?”. “Comparing yourself to others” said the mole.

“Most of the old moles I know wish they had listened less to their fears and more to their dreams”.

“One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things”.

“Being kind to yourself is one of the greatest kindnesses” said the mole.

These wonderful words are just from the opening pages of this wonderful book. I keep the book on my bedside table and often find myself opening it at random pages just to help me focus on some of the positivity that each page exudes.

Although the book was given to me, as I said, I’ve read it to the children on countless occasions now. It’s suitable for everyone in the family and it’s one of those books that everyone should read, no matter if they have children or struggle with their mental health.


“Often the hardest person to forgive is yourself”.

“Sometimes I feel lost” said the boy. “Me too” said the mole, “But we love you and love brings you home”.

“Tears fall for a reason and they are your strength not weakness”

“What is the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy. “Help” said the horse.

“This storm will pass”.

“We have such a long way to go” sighed the boy. “Yes, but look how far we’ve come” said the horse.

These beautiful words, plus the most stunning illustrations make this one of the most powerful books the children and I have read, not only in recent times, but during the entirety of their short lives (and even my middle-aged one).

I could go on and on, but I think in this instance, the best thing you could do is go and buy this beautiful book; For you, for your children and their bedtime and for all our mental health.

“Always remember you matter, you’re important and you are loved, and you bring to this world things no one else can”.