Never underestimate the power of a good story. The best of them not only capture your attention and imagination, but also subtly influence the way you see yourself and your world. The effect can be transformative.
Montreal author Elahea Bos has seen it firsthand, both in her own daughter, and in the many children who have found solace and solutions through the books she writes to help children cope with social, emotional and mental health challenges.
It all started around seven years ago, with a specific story for a specific child: Lola’s Words Disappear, which she wrote for her daughter Norah.
When Norah started kindergarten, she would stop talking when she got to school. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to talk, Bos said. She literally found herself unable to speak.
A child psychologist diagnosed Norah with an anxiety disorder called selective mutism, which causes sufferers to feel their vocal chords are paralyzed when under stress. But when Bos went searching for resources to help Norah understand and conquer this challenge, she couldn’t find age-appropriate information.
“I was looking for stories to help her that were specific to what she was going through, and it was very hard to find,” Bos said. “I wanted to give her something that didn’t feel like an afterthought, but was an actual book with a character who was going through exactly the same thing.”
Bos had illustrated a children’s book once before, and knew it could take years to bring a book from idea to reality. But she also wanted to offer her daughter a “real” book, believing it would ultimately have more impact. She decided to take the leap into self-publishing, writing Lola’s Words Disappear in consultation with her daughter’s psychologist to ensure it accurately represented not only what was happening, but also how it felt for kids like her daughter. The story also described the tools and strategies Norah would need to use to get her voice back.
“When I read her the book, the first thing my daughter said was, ‘mommy, it is just like me,’ and it opened the door to so many conversations,” Bos said.
Six months later, Bos’ daughter spoke her first words at school. Norah is now a teenager and no longer struggles to speak when in class.
After seeing how much the book helped her daughter, Bos began seeking other topics she could write about to help children and their families cope with thorny problems. Unlike a traditional publisher who needs to sell a large number of titles to justify a print run, Bos uses a print-on-demand service that allows her to write for niche audiences.
Bos said that if parents searching for resources find her books and they help kids the way Lola’s Words Disappear helped her child, then it is worth it for her. “Even if it only helps one child.”
Today, Bos has almost 50 titles available for sale on Amazon and via her website, ranging from books for children with rare conditions like selective mutism or sound sensitivity, to more mainstream concerns like anxiety, coping with anger, or making and keeping friends. She also has a range of activity books and gratitude journals, and free printable activity sheets designed to complement the themes in her books.
“For me, the stories are creating an opening for conversation. it’s about the child relating to the emotional struggle of the character,” Bos said. “The characters are never perfect, they never know it all. They struggle with something, and that validates where the child is in that situation… the struggle, the worry and the emotion.”
While the books are primarily aimed at younger readers, Bos said the solutions within the stories can be helpful for anyone struggling with these issues. She said older siblings — and even the parents or grandparents — who read these tales to younger children often are surprised at how much they learn too.
To visit Bos’ website, go to plantlovegrow.com.