Following on from the recent success of the Perfectly Norman storytelling sessions, Discover, in partnership with Thrive LDN and Healthy London Partnership, recently gave another two free performances designed to get parents and children talking about mental health.
Over one day, the Discover storytelling crew performed at Islington Central and Stanmore libraries, bringing Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival to life in a fun and engaging way. The children’s book sees a young boy suddenly grow wings and details his struggle with hiding his difference and his eventual acceptance.
The themes of the storytelling session were not lost on six year old Enitan, who said: “Norman realised it wasn’t the wings that were bothering him, it was his coat.”
Ben O’Donnell, head of learning at Discover, said “What we’re trying to do is provide an easy way in. We don’t want the idea of discussing mental health to be really onerous and we don’t want it to be focused on the negatives.
“What we wanted to do was provide an event that opened up a possible conversation and give every parent and child an opportunity to say ‘yeah, I felt this way before’. As well as demystifying the idea that it is something that’s taboo. It’s really important that parents, carers and children are able to talk about how they feel.”
Janella, a parent from London who came along to the Islington session with her son Enitan, said: “The story is a really good way of giving parents, or teachers, or anyone who works with children, the opportunity to talk to your child about things they might be hiding inside.
“The story was very simple, it wasn’t specific about what or why Norman was hiding something but that he was hiding something – which can be anything. It really gives you the opportunity to talk to your child.
“It could be a tragedy or a sadness that they had to go through. It could be that they’re very shy and they don’t want to do things in front of other children. From simple things to very complex things, the story covers a lot.
“It’s defiantly beneficial for parents. Children can take it at many different levels or they can just take the story at face value. But for parents, there’s almost a sense of relief in listening to the story because you think, ‘I could use this story to just gently give my child an opportunity to talk about something or I can say something. Don’t put on your yellow coat today, just be brave and go out and do the things you want to do’. Which is wonderful, I’ve not read a story like this before.”