“Connectedness has the power to balance out adversity and my hope is that Books That Helps is a means of magnifying that will to connect and the will to help. Healing happens in connection, and the world is better when we work together.”
Author Clare Helen Welsh announces the Books That Help free mentorship scheme for a writer or writer-illustrator writing stories that create emotionally honest spaces for children and families
Every so often I get an exciting idea that runs away with me so fast that I can barely keep up.
Books That Help was one such idea.
The aim was to use my platform to promote picture books doing important and difficult things, advocating stories as a place for safety, empathy, and honesty when it comes to life’s ups and downs. I am a firm believer that picture books can be used therapeutically by encouraging reflection, generating discussion, and supporting connection.
Some people dismiss picture books as simple stories for the very young, but I think they are so much more. Of course, they help to develop children’s early language and communication skills, but often they are less about ‘reading’ and more about helping children explore and understand the world, stories, people, relationships. They aren’t even just for children. The best picture books inspire thinking and open the eyes of readers of all ages.
I wanted to bring together the efforts of all the important gatekeepers that think similarly – parents, carers, booksellers, publishers, authors, illustrators, librarians, educators and bloggers. I felt my teaching background and writing career put me in a good position for this.
Quite quickly, a plan was born, bringing together four overarching ideas.
A review site for grown-ups
In the main, Books That Help is a place where grownups can read book reviews by subject including loss, divorce, illness, starting school, body confidence and more. I wanted to champion books and the teams behind them and for the site to be accessible to booksellers, librarians, school staff as well as parents, carers and family members. I am excited that this is now live, with new reviews being added regularly.
Support for booksellers
With this treasure trove of lovingly crafted, carefully selected books, I saw an opportunity to support independent booksellers. ‘Books That Help’ will support a different independent bookshop each month, sharing their social media channels, website links and celebrating their expertise in getting the right books to the readers that need them most.
Resources for libraries, home educators and schools
Using my teaching background and knowledge of picture books, plus my passion for well-being, I will be working with some pilot schools and educators to create well-being libraries and well-being corners in schools and home-education settings. The aim is to create a pack of free downloadable resources to raise awareness of books that help, so they can support more people, particularly children.
And most excitingly for the writing community…
An mentoring opportunity for writers
With the help of some very fantastic and generous people, I am super excited to announce that Books That Help will be launching a free mentorship for one writer or writer-illustrator writing a book that fits with the Books That Help agenda: stories that create emotionally honest spaces for children and families. The mentorship will begin in 2023 and will involve a series of virtual sessions with myself to support the development of a picture book for 3-7yr olds.
Publisher, Little Tiger Press, will help shortlist the mentee from the applications received and are offering feedback, plus a first look at the completed text! I’m sure you’ll agree this is fantastic opportunity with a wonderful publisher of books for children. This is what Senior Editor, Perry Emerson, said, who will be helping to shortlist the entries:
I am very aware that the reach of this mentorship is limited for the time being. Because of this, Ellie Farmer (Editorial Director of Little Tiger’s picture book studio) will be offering a live webinar where she will share what she feels are great examples of picture books that help. She will also speak about what is important to consider when creating stories of this kind. The webinar will be free of charge and will be held on Wednesday 19th October via Zoom, in advance of the mentorship applications being open. Please spread the word far and wide, so we can reach as many creatives as possible.
If I were to sum up what I am hoping to achieve through Books that Help, it’s amplifying the courage, hope and expertise of people trying to make the world a better place for the next generation. The people walking with children, side by side, tracing a path through life’s challenges, joys and everything else in between. Connectedness has the power to balance out adversity and my hope is that Books That Helps is a means of magnifying that will to connect and the will to help. Healing happens in connection, and the world is better when we work together. I hope you’ll join us on this mission, wherever it may lead us.
Apply to the mentorship scheme
To sign up to the webinar on 19th October, please fill out the registration form. A Zoom link will be sent to your email address. The webinar will be recorded and a recording will be sent to your inbox, available for 14 days. Cameras and microphones will be turned off, but you are encouraged to use the Chat Box to ask questions.
Who can apply? Unagented, unpublished writers of fiction for children can apply for this Books That Help mentorship. Writers of all experiences are encouraged to send their work, including those who identify as a member of unrepresented groups. You must not be previously published in picture book, non-fiction, chapter books, Middle Grade or Young Adult, or be currently agented. You do not have to live in the UK to enter. The mentorship is open to writers worldwide.
What do I send? Please send your manuscript (800 words max) double spaced, 12pt font in a word document or PDF. At the top of your document, please add your name, email address, word count and a maximum of 500 words about you, your text and why you are passionate about it. You can include brief illustration notes if essential. Please put these in blue italics and square brackets. Please note – only one entry per person.
How do I apply? Once application open on 19th October, follow the link below and upload your document. You will receive a confirmation email, but we cannot enter into further discussion or give feedback. Please rest assured that all applications will be read carefully. The closing date for applications is midnight of 19th November.
What is considered a ‘Book that helps?’ Any picture book text that you think is relevant to children in today’s world. It might be funny, lyrical, written in rhyme or dialogue only, but it must have a social message for children at its core.
When will the mentee be announced? In Spring 2023, the winner will be contacted individually. There will be an announcement via this website and on social media. We apologise in advance that we cannot enter into correspondence about decisions.