Local author Theresa McKay’s book helps children learn how their brains deal with stress

Upper Beach author and educator Theresa McKay has recently released the children's book Amy G. Dala and the Mind Full of School. Photo: Submitted.


Amy G. Dala and the Mind Full of School, a book written by Beach resident Theresa McKay, is the second children’s picture book she has written and it is about a young student’s stressful journey through the years of COVID.

McKay is a musician, writer and an Ontario community college teacher who lives in the Upper Beach area and loves her community. She has lived in the Main Street and Kingston Road area for nine years.

“I love the area because my neighbours are so fantastic. I also teach music at a school in the area,” she said.

“It is the sense of community that exists here that is so special to me. Even though it’s a big city, we have gorgeous trails, ravines and a quick walk to the beach with a small-town feel.”

McKay’s book talks about the experiences of the main character, Amy and her journey during COVID-19 and how she learns exactly how her brain works under stress.

When Amy tries out new strategies for “noticing” and calming herself down, she builds resilience and student success, inspiring and changing her whole school.

McKay said that being a teacher has really inspired her to write and become a children’s picture book author.

“I have seen firsthand how stressful it has been for children through the last few years. Writing stories for children is a way of teaching, but more importantly a way of helping and offering strategies that might offer a young person comfort and success,” said McKay.

She said she finds it relatively easy to come up with the idea, plot, and main character for her books.

“Coming up with ideas is never a challenge because I’m immersed in children’s literature and always interacting with students. The title of my new picture book, Amy G. Dala and the Mind Full of School is a play on words for the important part of the brain (the amygdala) that I teach students about in regard to stress,” she said.

“The school is aptly named “Hippocampus” elementary and touches upon other regions of the brain that become activated in the stress response and how it affects and impacts learning,” added McKay.

She said she believes that the most important lessons for children in her books come down to being in tune with how they feel.

“The most important message is the strategy of just “noticing. Noticing and checking in with how they feel, and thinking about this with a growing awareness. This is the essence of ‘Mindfulness,’” she said.

McKay is also the author of another children’s book titled Pet Bee, which discusses the magic of the natural world with a tale of a young girl who longs for the friendship and company of a large, yellow bee. It is a story about unconditional love.

McKay said she hopes that Amy G. Dala and the Mind Full of School will have an impact on children’s lives.

“I hope my book empowers young people with brain health knowledge and strategies to support their well-being and success,” she said.

All the illustrations in the book are done by artist and graphic designer Sarah Crane.

Amy G. Dala and the Mind Full of School will be available for sale on McKay’s new website in September. It can presently be bought by contacting McKay by email  at theresa.mckay57@gmail.com

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