About Well Aware

About Well Aware

We see it every day: students who are repeatedly distracted, preoccupied, sad, angry, or disorganized, or who feel confused and hopeless. We realize that as educators we have the opportunity and the responsibility to help students thrive, flourish, feel hopeful, and become socially and emotionally responsive.

Addressing mental well-being in our classrooms can be a sensitive and even a controversial subject. That is why we hope Well Aware will help you to feel confident as you share important positive mental health information, strategies, and skills with your students through powerful literature and non-fiction texts.

The Well Aware series offers

  • engaging student books at a variety of reading levels and in a variety of text forms to elicit students’ interest and promote thoughtful conversation in a variety of settings
  • supportive Teacher’s Resources that include research related to positive mental health and current literacy approaches, plus comprehensive teaching plans with a menu of ideas and strategies from which to choose so you can connect learning about mental health to a variety of curriculum areas
  • resources that allow you to integrate mental health literacy into your literacy program so there is no need to fit an extra program into your already packed schedule

Resource Overview

Student Resources

Grade 4

19 Things: A Book of Lists for Me

Alison Acheson

A child develops mindfulness by creating a variety of lists about favourite and non-favourite things. Lists include “Things I Can’t Control” and “What I Am Thankful For.”

(Non-fiction–Report)

Mental Health Focus

  • Connecting emotions to actions
  • Friendship
  • Risk-taking
Three Plays

Deborah Ellis

Characters in these plays discuss and learn about dealing with their emotions and consider some coping strategies.

(Fiction–Plays)

Mental Health Focus

  • Promoting self-esteem and confidence
  • Understanding the signs of stress in ourselves and others
  • Collaboration and cooperation
Get Real!

Robert Cutting

Grandpa teaches Jake how the teachings of their Kanienkeha’ka culture support emotional well-being.

(Informational Fiction–Aboriginal)

Mental Health Focus

  • Healthy, harmonious balance
  • Respect and responsibility
Creepy Crawley

Steve Pitt

Joseph makes friends with Doug Crawley at his new school. But why does Doug start avoiding Joseph? This story features a family coping with the stigma of mental illness, and learning that it’s more helpful to talk about their difficulties than to hide them.

(Realistic Fiction)

Mental Health Focus

  • Stereotyping and stigma
  • Bullying
  • Empathy

Student Resources

Grade 5

My Best Friend ... NOT!

Mahtab Narsimhan

Rina’s friendship with Trish is threatened by Trish’s threats and bullying. But Rina has no other friends at school. What can Rina do to survive with her self-esteem intact?

(Realistic Fiction)

Mental Health Focus

  • Self-talk, self-regulation
  • Recognizing and addressing stress
  • Promoting positive relationships
Striking a Balance

Kevin Sylvester and Teddy Katz

Canadian athletes discuss how they deal with stress and competition in their chosen sport.

(Non-fiction–Profile)

Mental Health Focus

  • Life balance
  • Self-regulation
  • Strengthening resiliency
  • Creating positive change
Sink or Swim

Marty Chan

Swim-team member Katrien is obsessed with bettering her swim time. Katrien learns to deal with this stress in an effective manner after helpful discussions with her father and her friend Maya.

(Readers’ Theatre)

Mental Health Focus

  • Self-regulation
  • Competition vs. cooperation
  • Life balance
  • Friendship and humour
Welcome to the Circle

Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden

For many Aboriginal peoples, the circle is an important symbol, signifying the connection of all things. Within the circle, within our communities, we feel connected to others, and we know we have somewhere to turn when we need help.

(Non-fiction–Information; Aboriginal)

Mental Health Focus

  • Mindful listening
  • Connecting to nature
  • Celebrating community

Student Resources

Grade 6

The Blue Raven

Richard Van Camp and Steve Keewatin Sanderson

A stolen bicycle brings together two friends. Brody shows Trevor how Aboriginal traditions and values can help him have respect and appreciation for what he has.

(Fiction–Graphic Novel; Aboriginal)

Mental Health Focus

  • Dealing with loss and grief
  • Importance of friendship, family, and community
  • Drawing support from culture and traditions
Art Works

Kevin Sylvester and Laura Carlin

Profiles of Canadian figures in the arts, outlining how art works for them in various media to find self-expression and balance in their lives.

(Non-fiction–Biographies)

Mental Health Focus

  • Inspiration and positive role models
  • Confidence and perseveranc
  • Defying labels
  • Creative expression
Minding Nana

Tanya Lloyd Kyi

A young girl struggles to respond to her grandmother, who is suffering from dementia. In the process, readers come to share the writer’s empathy for her grandmother and to appreciate the writer’s resilience in the face of seclusion.

(Non-fiction—Memoir)

Mental Health Focus

  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Managing emotions
  • Coping with loss
Todd on the Edge

Deborah Ellis

Todd and his mother struggle to deal with some difficult changes in their lives. They leave their home because they are afraid of violence from a family member. Both gradually learn to cope with this stressful situation in their own way.

(Realistic Fiction)

Mental Health Focus

  • Effects of uncontrolled anger
  • Coping with change and stress
  • Support systems
  • Taking charge of our own happiness

Student Resources

Grade 7

Castaway Club

Jacqueline Guest

Changes in Kari’s life—a new school, strange city, and an unwell parent—are making her miserable. She makes a new friend, and the pair form a club to provide support for other new or lonely students at school.

(Realistic Fiction; Aboriginal)

Mental Health Focus

  • Coping strategies
  • Building self-confidence
  • Effecting positive change
Always Even

Don Aker

Teri is exhibiting symptoms of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Her father, who also has OCD, lets her know that her symptoms can be managed with professional help.

(Realistic Fiction)

Mental Health Focus

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Dealing with challenging situations
  • The stigma of mental Illness
Not Guilty

Rukhsana Khan

A young Muslim immigrant to Canada explores his feeling of exclusion following a series of terrorist attacks reported on the news, and his sense of fulfillment when he realizes that his friends accept him as himself, and not as a stereotype.

(Free Verse Poetry)

Mental Health Focus

  • Stereotypes and prejudice
  • Coping with stress
  • The power of creative expression
The Only One

Rosemary Sadlier

In this autobiography, Rosemary Sadlier describes her sense of isolation growing up as the only African Canadian child in her school, and distinguished by being “the only one” in several other ways.

(Non-fiction–Memoir)

Mental Health Focus

  • Identity and Individuality
  • Self-confidence
  • Self-regulation

Student Resources

Grade 8

Whistle

Richard Van Camp

Darcy writes letters from a group home to the victim of his bulling. Through his writing, he comes to understand how he can break his cycle of destructive behaviour and bullying.

(Realistic Fiction; Aboriginal)

Mental Health Focus

  • The HALT Approach
  • Exploring Anger
  • Restorative Justice and Empathy
  • Finding Value in Life and Good Choices
Villainous

Marty Chan

Tanner is in crisis. The son of a super villain, this criminal mastermind-in-training feels isolated at school, because he can’t reveal the family business nor can he talk to anyone about his crippling anxiety.

(Fiction–Satire)

Mental Health Focus

  • Anxiety, Panic, and Stress
  • Dealing with Others’ Expectations
Upside Down: A Family’s Journey Through Mental Illness

Clem Martini
Illustrations by Olivier Martini

Clem Martini recounts the diagnosis of his brother Olivier as schizophrenic, exploring the difficulties for the whole family, and the lessons learned as Olivier found treatment and support.

(Non-fiction–Memoir)

Mental Health Focus

  • Schizophrenia and Other Illnesses
  • Myths About Mental Illness
Red Carnation

 Alicia Raimundo with Deborah Ellis

Alicia Raimundo is a mental health advocate, working mainly with young people. This story traces her experiences in a psychiatric ward after a suicide attempt, as she recovers physically and emotionally.

(Non-fiction–Memoir)

Mental Health Focus

  • Reducing stigma
  • Building resiliency and moving Forward
  • Writing to understand your thoughts and feelings

Teacher's Resources (one per grade level to accompany the four texts)

The teacher’s resources tie current, relevant, and positive mental health strategies to your existing literacy curriculum with a range of practical options. Each teacher’s resource features ideas for supporting critical thinking, oral language, and other literacy strategies, with prompts and tips to help teachers feel comfortable facilitating conversations generated by the student materials. Each resource also includes information on how to establish an atmosphere of safety in which students feel comfortable discussing sensitive issues.

The goal is to provide

  • Specific strategies to connect literacy skills to resiliency skills and help students thrive, both academically and emotionally
  • Enhancements to what you are already teaching without giving you more to do
  • Clear parameters on what we can and can’t do in relation to the mental health and well-being of our students
  • Examples to help recognize signs for everyday stresses, such as worry and peer pressure
  • Suggestions that support an inclusive experience for all learning styles and needs, literacy levels, and cultural norms
  • Specific ideas on how to involve and support parents and the community

These comprehensive resources include

  • Research related to positive mental health and current literacy approaches
  • Comprehensive teaching plans, referred to as Invitations to Learning (see below)
  • A glossary of terms
  • Activity or information line masters available online

Invitations to Learning

The Invitations to Learning provide you with a menu of ideas and strategies from which to choose so you can connect the student texts to learning about mental health and a variety of curriculum areas.

We have endeavoured to appeal to the needs, interests, learning styles, and abilities of you and your students. However, it is not expected that all activities will be covered in all situations or with all students. You know your students and their strengths best, so you can determine which ideas to pursue and the amount of time you would like to devote to each.

Learn more about the Invitations to Learning