An illustrated book featuring a "positivity dog" is helping rural children to build good mental health habits by teaching them to cultivate awareness of what makes them happy.
Sir Port the Positivity Dog is written and illustrated by retired teacher and farmer Pauline McLeod.
McLeod, who is based in Morrinsville, now works with the Waikato-Coromandel Rural Trust and is on a mission to share the book's message with rural schools in the area.
"We know there are actual physiological benefits to feeling positive emotion, like opening us up to connect with people, learning, creating, and strengthening our resilience in the face of adversity," she says.
The book is about a working dog who lives with a farming family that despite facing some challenging times "can find joy in even the little things", says McLeod.
"Reading about Sir Port and his family and filling a joy jar is a really tangible process to get children to take a look at what is around them and build awareness of what makes them happy – rather than defaulting to playing a computer game, for example."
McLeod is now offering small workshops at schools in the area to spread the message and help children build good strategies towards mental health habits as they move on to become teenagers and adults.
Principal of Kiwitahi School Nicholas Jensen says the book "opens the opportunity to talk with children about the challenges of rural life".
"The joy jars, in particular, are a great way for children to see how being grateful for the things they have in their daily lives is important."