The author, who is also a young person’s counsellor, was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of five and believes her struggles with it contributed to her interest in enabling children to talk about how they feel.
Hannah joined Burgess Hill Girls in 1985 where she met TV presenter Holly Willoughby and the pair have since both gone on record about the challenges of dyslexia. She went on to become a children’s author, creating the much-loved Conker the Chameleon character, and Holly has supported her with shout outs on her social media.
Said Hannah: “It was really good to come back to school and talk to the little ones about the importance of looking after your mental health. We all know how to keep our bodies healthy but it has always been taboo to talk about keeping our minds healthy too. Conker can’t change colour with his feelings so has to learn to use words instead and I gently explain through him how we all need to articulate how we feel somehow so we can stay mentally well.”
She added: “Holly has been really supportive of my writing – we met when we were small and shared a flat in our twenties and I am really grateful for her friendship and support.”
Burgess Hill Girls teacher Shelley Allen said: “Hannah’s books, Conker the Chameleon and Climb, were instant hits with the girls with the stories also sharing important messages about mental health. As part of her workshop, the girls learnt a breathing technique to help them feel calm and relaxed and were also invited to share something with Hannah about their own strengths and unique talents. The girls came away with not only an appreciation of stories but also with some techniques they could use even in their everyday lives.”
The school also welcomed another children’s author and illustrator Sophy Henn in the same week. Years 2,3 and 4 learnt about how the World Book Day official illustrator and creator of numerous books came to create her Pizazz series and her journey into publishing for children.
Said teacher Sue Collins: “Sophy is incredibly charismatic. She had the girls joining in and they loved drawing their own Pizazz. She focused quite a bit on turning her characters inside out and upside down so Pizazz is a superhero but is a young girl who gets things wrong and even though she wears a superhero cape, she isn’t a shiny, perfect superhero. It’s a really healthy message for the girls.”