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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

UAE teacher writes a series of books to show children who worry they are not alone

Liam Kelly's children's books among the most popular on Amazon 

Liam Kelly, a teacher at Diyafah International School, has written a series of books to raise awareness of children's mental health after he had a stressful childhood. Pawan Singh / The National 
Liam Kelly, a teacher at Diyafah International School, has written a series of books to raise awareness of children's mental health after he had a stressful childhood. Pawan Singh / The National 

When Liam Kelly was a child, he got so good at hiding his worries that no one realised anything was wrong. But his smile hid a thousand concerns.

Now a teacher, Mr Kelly wants to help pupils like himself realise they are not alone though a series of books, which follow a boy through his childhood, focusing on the worries and stresses he faces.

“The main aim of the book is to help raise awareness of children’s mental health," he said.

"Because I personally don’t want children to go through some of the worries and anxieties I did as a child. My main aim through the book series is to let children know that others do worry."

Mr Kelly, who has been a teacher for 17 years and is head of year five at Diyafah International School in Abu Dhabi, got the idea for the Worried William book series during a half-term break back home in Northern Ireland.

“I had a few children in my class at the time who were going through some worries and anxieties. It was very personal to me as I had experienced some of the things that they were going through,” he said.

“You were always worried about what people would think about you. You would nearly do things for others before yourself because you were that worried about what others thought about you. It’s actually quite tiring.”

The first book only took him three days to write. He sent off a few copies to publishers in England, and had a contract within a week. It was published a year ago, and last month entered the top 3.2 per cent of children’s books available on Amazon.co.uk.

“I kind of thought at the time, someone has taken an interest. At the time I didn’t think it would get this big,” he said.

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He is planning to write 21 books in all — with several books for each school year.

“It starts off Worried William and becomes Worrying William, then it’s Wishful William. The last book ends up Wonderful William, so he overcomes these worries,” said Mr Kelly.

“Throughout the whole book series it speaks a lot about things that he has to deal with, especially in modern life now, because it will go on to speak about social media and cyber bullying.”

Mr Kelly has pledged to plough all of the money he makes from the series back into child mental health services and is sponsoring sports teams back home with the Worried William logo.

He has also set up a Facebook page where children have started sending in poems about their concerns after being inspired by Worried William.

The books are aimed at children age nine and up but he hopes that parents may also read them in order to look for signs their children may be hiding their worries, as he did when he was a child.

“It’s one little thing they could miss. The child could come home and say I am fine at maths, I am fine. But deep down they are not,” he said.

In his classroom, Mr Kelly makes sure he speaks to each child for a few minutes to see if he can spot any signs in his pupils.

“It is the downward stare or the child that is constantly tired, because worries keep you up at night. It’s the child who doesn’t eat. It’s the little things you have to look out for. If you don’t, the children can go through years of school without anyone recognising there is a problem,” he said.

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