Written by educator and psychologist JoAnn Deak and beautifully illustrated by Sarah Ackerley, Your Fantastic Elastic Brain is a picture book that explores the brain in a way that makes it understandable for young children, offering a valuable insight into its different functions. The book also highlights the brain’s elasticity and passes on an important message that through learning, practice and by making mistakes the brain becomes “stronger” and a child’s skill set grows.
This book is educational and provides an easy but interesting way for parents and teachers to introduce young children to the topic of the brain and start important conversations surrounding its functions early on. If we are able to have such conversations earlier, this may lead to positive outcomes, as children become more aware of their brain’s functions and how to maximise their learning and potential.
This book is best suited to children aged 5-9. Older children may wish to read this book alone, but younger children may benefit from having a parent/guardian read it to them. Primary school teachers may also wish to use this book as a learning tool – perhaps they could read it to their class and accompany this with a lesson on the brain.
The book demonstrates the high elasticity of a child’s brain, a feature that makes it highly susceptible to learning new ideas and skills, something that children, parents and teachers should be aware of so that they can take full advantage.
The book also provides a simple introduction to growth mindset, making it timely as the use of growth mindset has become increasingly popular and important in education. Part of having a growth mindset means not giving up and stopping when you cannot master a skill or ability immediately, but instead having the belief that through practice you can improve and achieve. Recent research has shown the positive impact on learning of developing such a mindset. We always get asked how to introduce the ideas around growth mindset into children at a younger age. This book certainly fits the bill and could be very useful when teaching young children how to learn better.
For example, one study showed that children who were given an essay to read on how the brain is a muscle and when challenged it can grow, showed significant improvements in their levels of motivation and their grades, in comparison to a control group. Therefore, if children use this book to grasp growth mindset concepts at a young age, it can only be beneficial in helping them develop and maintain a growth mindset which has the potential to help them be better independent learners in later life.
This book can be used by both parents and teachers. Parents can read this book with their child at home, whilst teachers could read this book to their class and supplement the information taught with a lesson about the brain and its different functions.
Ackerley has beautifully illustrated the book to make it feel less academic and to ensure that children remain engaged. There is also the addition of two characters, a mouse and an owl who are used throughout the book and make comedic comments surrounding the material.
Whilst the book provides simple explanations making it suitable for young children, it does still have a scientific basis. The book does name areas of the brain such as the cerebellum, hippocampus, amygdala, which could be words that the reader are unfamiliar with. However, whilst these words are complicated, the book usefully gives phonetic pronunciations and child friendly explanations as to the brain area’s function. Examples that children can relate to are also given, making understanding the brain easier e.g. learning the piano is used to show how the different parts of the brain work together.
The book is good value at £10.12 on Amazon.
Whilst this book will grab the attention of young children with its colourful illustrations, it is also educational and gives parents and teachers a way to introduce and promote discussions surrounding the function of the brain and important concepts such as growth mindset. If we can teach children these concepts earlier rather than later, it is more likely they will be able to practice effectively and integrate this into their everyday lives.
Bubble Gum Brain: Ready, Get Mindset… Grow! Written by Julia Cook, illustrated by Allison Valentine – another educational book written for children aged 4-8. The book uses two characters Bubble Gum Brain and Brick Brain to demonstrate the advantages of a growth mindset.
The Teenage Brain – A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults by Frances E. Jenson with Amy Ellis Nutt – this offers a comprehensive guide for teenagers and adults, exploring the development of the teenage brain and the rationale behind some of the seemingly strange decisions teenagers make. To read more about this book read our review here.
If you would like to expand your knowledge of growth mindset further, we have written many blogs on the subject. Here are a few of our most popular to get you started:
Or why not read our e-book, which is packed full of useful information from our Growth Mindset Conference with Kingston Grammar. Speakers at the conference include Olympian Dame Katherine Grainger and leading education experts. Click here for a free download.