For Book People's Bedtime Story Competition, in support of Action for Children, we received 1,000s of amazing entries from young storytellers from all over the country. One thing we learned, though, was that over two thirds of children expressed their worries about bullying, loneliness or being different.
We have picked out these fun and encouraging books which will show them that everyone deserves and can find true friendship, and will allow children to enjoy time alone with a wonderful story; and we've asked the experts at Action for Children for their take on the importance of children's books that tackle themes of isolation and loneliness. Action for Children is a charity that does what's right, what works and what's needed for disadvantaged children, young people and families across the UK.
Eric Carle | Toddlers
As the sun sets, a firefly is born. It heads off into the darkening sky and flashes its light, searching for other fireflies. Although it sees many lights - including a lightbulb, headlights, the reflective eyes of animals, and some glittering fireworks - none of them are the light of a firefly. Finally, however, it finds the firefly friends it was looking for, and doesn't feel lonely anymore. This wonderful tale will reassure young children that they're sure to find friends if they look for them.
Kathryn Cave & Chris Riddell | 3+
Something Else finds himself excluded from everything because he's different. But one day, an equally curious creature called Something turns up, hoping to make friends. However, Something Else turns Something away; he believes they're not the same and shouldn't be friends. But then he realises that he's behaving just like all the others who sent him away. Ultimately, Something and Something Else become the best of friends. This beautiful story has a wonderful ending and shows children that they should be open to all sorts of friends.
Salina Yoon | 3+
Some children shout, some children sing, but Dennis never says a word; he mimes. Being a mime can be rather lonely, but when Dennis meets a girl named Joy, he discovers the power of friendship and how special it can be when you find someone you really connect with. This gorgeous book subtly and sensitively explores the world of children with autism and communication barriers in an appealing and engaging way.
Simona Ciraolo | 5+
Felipe the little cactus just wants a hug, but his cactus family are stern and strict and think everyone should stay in their own personal space. So Felipe goes searching for a true friend whom he can hug, but finding such a friend can be difficult for a cactus! Ultimately, Felipe finds the perfect friend: a little rock, who's also looking for a friend and plenty of hugs. This touching story shows that everyone deserves friendship, and can find it if they try.
Clive King | 7+
No-one believes Barney when he claims he's met a new friend. Stig is indeed real, but strangely, he lives in a dump and doesn't speak English. Nonetheless, the two boys embark on many enthralling adventures together, developing a close and unique bond. With unforgettable characters and a thrilling plot, this timeless tale is about the wonderful friendship that ends the loneliness of two isolated boys.
Jacqueline Wilson | 9+
Gemma is boisterous and full of energy; Alice is more graceful and reserved. But these two very different girls have been the best of friends since they were born on the same day in the same hospital. However, their close bond faces a huge challenge when Alice and her family move hundreds of miles away to Scotland. Will they be able to overcome their sense of loss and loneliness and still remain best friends? This poignant tale will be relatable for any child who has had to face a similar experience.
Carol Iddon, Managing Director of Operations at Action for Children
'Loneliness can be a difficult experience for children and young people to face and can be caused by many different things. Long-term loneliness can have damaging effects on children's well-being and self-esteem, can erode social networks and affect their ability to form healthy new relationships. If this persists, this can also affect their education and even their own parenting style in later life.
At Action for Children we believe that reading can fuel a child's imagination so they can escape their loneliness and immerse themselves in a different world. Books featuring lonely characters can act as a reminder to children that everyone can experience loneliness and how they can cope with it.'