Self Care with Ted and Friends might seem at first glance like any other kids book, with its brightly colored cover, a teddy-bear protagonist, and a supporting cast of cartoon forest creatures, but beyond its cheery plot and lovable characters, the book is serving an important purpose: to introduce children to the idea of self-care early on.
In this picture book, written by Najma Khorrami and illustrated by Maria Ballarin, kids can follow along with Ted as he goes about his day, meeting up with friends and taking on a variety of tasks that demonstrate how important it is to practice self-care, whether that comes in the form of being kind to yourself and others, practicing gratitude, or understanding when it’s time to let go of things from the past.
And while the message is delivered in a cheery, easily understood format, it’s rooted in years of research on the matter – Khorrami has an involved background in the field, with a Master of Public Health from George Washington University. She is also the creator of Gratitude Circle, an online platform and app that encourages users to promote gratitude, self-improvement, motivation, and stress management in their day-to-day lives.
“Self Care with Ted and Friends” is just one of two books Khorrami has recently published, and though the styles are hugely different, both focus on the central themes of self-care and personal growth. To learn about her research in a more grown-up context, her other book, A Spoonful of Gratitude, is a compilation of 68 articles that Khorrami has published, spanning five years of research.
“What I wanted to do with that book was, at first, a compilation reference for myself in the next five, ten years,” Khorrami said. “But then at the same time, have a compilation for others who hopefully, as Gratitude Circle grows, could be drawn to this topic and learn from the different, self-care [and] self-improvement strategies that I’ve written about.”
With that experience in self-care research, Khorrami says that she wanted to spread that message in a way that would allow kids to get an early foundation of understanding on this important topic.
“The idea was really to get this ‘listening to our bodies’ idea, what we need based on my understanding from the research, to really get those young kiddos started early,” Khorrami says.
“The pace of society, the pace of day-to-day activities, it’s just kind of increasing. I don’t know if it will go backwards to a slower pace, but if we don’t have self-care, this idea of stress management will just become not possible for the next generation,” she says.
At one point in Self Care with Ted and Friends, Ted decides to release the fireflies he had caught earlier back into the forest, a move that symbolizes the process of letting go of things from the past.
To spread the message and promote her book, Khorrami has been doing virtual and in-person guest visits at schools in the area, including Parklawn Elementary in Alexandria, Centreville Elementary, and the Karter School in Sterling. In April, Khorrami plans to visit her own former elementary school, Greenbriar West in Fairfax.
While on these visits, she can read the students her book and encourage them to begin thinking about what it means to take care of yourself. And while she says that most of the kids were unfamiliar with terms like “self-care,” they could grasp the concepts and understand what it meant – particularly when they’re brought up in terms and with scenarios that are catered to their age.
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