How Bookbug can help to buffer the effects of adverse childhood experiences

There has been a lot of media coverage around adverse childhood experiences, more commonly known as ACES. These are stressful experiences that are known to have a lasting impact on children’s development. ACES can affect mental or physical health, and the lasting effects can stay with children into adulthood.  

I recently attended the ACE Aware Nation Conference where the focus was around understanding ACES, how they affect our biology, and more importantly, how we can support children and families who are experiencing ACES.

The keynote speaker, Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, is a paediatrician. She was telling the story of a young girl, and her mum. Although the girl’s ACE score was high, she was thriving remarkably well. Dr. Burke-Harris’ words stuck with me – she talked about how the mum’s positive interaction with her daughter was acting as a buffer for the stress. In turn, this minimised the psychological and physiological effects of stress. ACES didn’t have to mean a poor outcome for that family.

finding even a few minutes here and there to share a story, a song or a rhyme, can help to buffer stress

If you’re a parent or carer, this is a hopeful message. Knowing about ACES can be scary. But it's important to know that finding even a few minutes here and there to share a story, a song or a rhyme, can help to buffer stress. Stories, songs and rhymes are a great way to help children, and adults, regulate emotions. Spending some time connecting as a family is also central to helping minimise the effects of stress.

If you’re a Bookbug Session Leader, you can focus on being kind, compassionate and welcoming to all families, especially if they arrive late or seem distracted during the session. We won’t know (or need to know) what ACES families are dealing with when they come to a Bookbug Session. The Bookbug Session might just be that 30-minute break a family needs. Using simple songs and rhymes that are easy to join in with, and providing lots of opportunity for cuddles and laughter can make a big difference to a family’s stress level and help buffer the effects of ACES.

At the heart of the ACES movement is understanding the effects of stress, but also how we can help support families who are experiencing stress. A central theme of the conference was the importance of relationships – helping families develop their relationships, but also about professionals developing respectful, meaningful and purposeful relationships with families. Bookbug bags, Bookbug Sessions and Bookbug for the Home can go a long way in supporting families; ensuring every child, regardless of what challenges their family experiences, is able to develop a love of stories, songs and rhymes.


The NHS website offers a simple introduction and features an informative video on ACES.