Britney Winn Lee, a four-time author and associate pastor at Grace Community United Methodist Church in her hometown of Shreveport, La., had no experience teaching anyone meditation techniques, especially children, and particularly since she had only come to the practice herself as an adult.
“I was raised in a religious setting that was a little more body-neglecting, and dissociated from spirit and body,” she tells PW. “Connecting with myself to find out what is needed to regulate has been huge for me.”
After her son began suffering from anxiety during the pandemic lockdown, however, Lee was compelled to introduce him to body-scan meditation—the practice of checking in with individual body parts as a method for relaxation. “Learning how to listen to what my body’s trying to tell me has been really important and powerful, and something that I wanted to start my son off with earlier than I had,” she says.
The resulting success led Lee to write a new children’s book, Good Night, Body: Finding Calm from Head to Toe (Tommy Nelson, Feb 7), featuring illustrations by Norwegian artist Borghild Fallberg.
“We take a big concept of body scanning, which includes regulating breathing and emotions, and pull that down to a child's level in a way that could activate actual physical experiences,” Lee says of the book for readers ages 4-8.
She knew teaching children meditation would be challenging, as children aren’t used to the conceptual nature of the practice. “If you instruct a child to feel their feet, they might take it very literally and reach down and touch their feet. We invite a child to feel in a different way than literal,” she says.
Body-scan meditation has helped Lee and her son “co-regulate,” which she describes as “the effort of two parties to stabilize their emotions together in a shared and stressful environment or situation.” She believes co-regulation is particularly helpful because parents tend to become simultaneously overwhelmed alongside their children. To her, working with your child to regulate at the same time brings “a state of joint peace that can be reached more quickly and with less damage.”
Parents who were struggling with stressed-out kids also played a role in Lee’s idea for Good Night, Body. After sharing her son’s experience and tips for body-scan meditation on Instagram, feedback poured in thanking her for the tool. “I got lots of direct messages from parents saying they needed this,” she says. Her post also caught the eye of Tommy Nelson.
Bri Gallagher, acquiring editor for Tommy Nelson, says Good Night, Body is particularly important in this moment. “We’ve all gone through so much in the last few years, but especially kids,” she tells PW. “I think where we’ve seen the biggest need is helping littles recognize those feelings and understand how to let go of them, and this is exactly what Good Night, Body walks kids through.”
Books on meditation and mindfulness for children have become an industry trend, Gallagher adds. “I think we will only continue to see more and more mindfulness books in the children’s market.” She notes that with its focus on body-scan meditation, Good Night, Body stands out as “truly one of the first of its kind in the children’s market.”
Lee worked closely with Fallberg to create evocative imagery that children could relate to, such as hands opening like blooming sunflowers and moving fingers like wind chimes. “We wanted to encourage very specific movements, but with something they could bring to mind that they’ve seen before,” she says.
And it was important to both the author and illustrator to include characters of varying races and physical abilities. “With a subtitle as descriptive as Finding Calm from Head to Toe, it brought to mind that not everybody has the same body, body parts, or mobility that we’re mentioning,” Lee says. “We wanted to recognize that not all parts of this book would be relevant or useful for everyone.” She takes care to note differing abilities in a letter to readers at the start of the book, noting, “I hope a good number of people and children specifically can find themselves in the pages.”
She adds, “I sense that we need this as a tool in this world right now and I hope that it gets to be one.” Kids and parent have “taken on a lot” lately, Lee says. “We don’t have to take this into our sleep or the next day, if we can process some of it together right now.”
Lee will sign copies of Good Night, Body during an event at Barnes & Noble in Shreveport on March 4. Marketing and publicity for the book also includes giveaways on Goodreads as well as on MOPS.org—an online community for mothers, ad placement on Edelweiss, and a Bookstagram tour running from February 6 to March 1, according to the publisher.
Past books by Lee include Deconstructed Do-Gooder (Cascade), a theologically analytical memoir, and Rally (Fresh Air), a social justice-focused Christian prayer book, as well as two children’s titles that are part of a series with Beaming Books: The Boy with the Big Big Feelings and The Girl with the Big Big Questions. A third title, The Kid with Big Big Ideas, will follow in August featuring a non-binary character.