We believe that all classrooms, and all schools, should be emotionally honest spaces. Spaces where every child and young person is encouraged to express their emotions in an honest way, certain that it’s safe for them to do so. Our book, Bottled, was created for this purpose.
We are Tom and Jo Brassington – siblings, both primary school teachers, and the co-creators of Bottled book. Five years ago, we were both at the beginning of our teaching careers. We would regularly ring each other for support, to discuss ideas, and to share what we were seeing in our individual classrooms. Before long, we noticed a common thread. In every classroom we worked in, we saw children struggling to access learning because they were overwhelmed by their emotions. Whether it was anger spilling over from an argument at break time, frustration at a mistake made, or sadness carried into school from home the inability to discuss and navigate emotions was limiting children.
Together, we both started to explore ways to support children to begin talking honestly about their emotions. We tried to provide them with the language to do so, the skills required, and the opportunity to practise. Quickly, we realised that one of the best ways to build empathy, and to provide children with the opportunity to practice emotional regulation, was through picture books. Picture books are magical. They are a window into other worlds. They allow children to rehearse empathy, and to step into the experiences of the characters they read about. Sometimes this mirrors their own experiences, other times it helps them to understand experiences that aren’t their own. Either way, through exploring the emotional experiences of characters in a book, children can rehearse empathy and emotional regulation when they aren’t overwhelmed by the emotion themselves.
Working together, we began to build our own empathy libraries in our classroom book corners: a collection of books which could be used to introduce, unpick, and discuss a variety of emotions that we saw our children struggle to understand. Over time, we were beginning to see real changes in individual children, and in our classrooms. Our children were becoming emotionally honest, and our classrooms emotionally honest spaces. There are so many fantastic children’s picture books which allow you to explore a variety of different emotional experiences by empathising with their characters.
But we felt there was one book missing. We wanted a book that would introduce the concept of emotional honesty and make it easy for children to understand how important it is that we learn to discuss our emotions with trusted friends. We wanted a simple metaphor which children could understand and remember. After a long time struggling to find the perfect book, we started to create Bottled.
Bottled is a rhyming picture book designed to help children share their feelings. It started as rough ideas on a shared note on our phones, and quickly became a full first draft. We edited, and revisited, and tweaked the text to ensure that the conversations it supported could be as rich as possible. This was a book written by teachers, for teaching. Eventually, with a draft we were happy with, we created a small hand-drawn book for our classrooms.
Bottled has been on a journey since the hand-drawn book in just two classrooms. Following a successful crowdfunding campaign with the publisher Unbound, Bottled published earlier this year. Within two weeks of publication, we sold out of our first print. Thousands of copies of Bottled are now in schools up and down the country. Teachers are using Bottled to begin the journey of making their own classrooms more emotionally honest spaces, and the feedback has been astounding. The support we have had from teachers who see the importance of this work has been overwhelming – and it is so heart-warming to hear stories of the children that Bottled is helping.
If you’re interested in purchasing Bottled, there is a handful of first editions still available on the Unbound website: https://unbound.com/books/bottled/
Our paperback prints are on their way and should be available in all booksellers very soon. You can follow Bottled @BottledBook on Twitter and Instagram to find out more.