Tech For Good: Tipping the Scale on Children’s Mental Health Through Digital Reading


In South Africa, where two out of three children face mental health challenges and approximately one in seven have a treatable mental health condition – most children will carry the brain burden through to adulthood, due to the country’s chronic lack of specialists and facilities to support the unique needs of young minds.

It is no wonder then that South Africa ranks as one of the worst countries regarding mental health: According to a report by Sapien Labs, South Africa recorded the lowest average score on the mental health wellbeing scale, with the rate of citizens experiencing distress or struggling with mental health issues increasing by 8%, from 28.5% in 2020 to 36% by the end of 2021

Children learning to use a computer

However, as parents and legal guardians seek for solutions to improve their little one’s mental health, the narrative around wellbeing should not be centred around statistics or the causes, but rather on how to resolve the challenge.

With the rapid evolution of technology, addressing children’s mental health challenges can be tackled through apps like Nooksy, an interactive South African reading application that enables faraway families to effortlessly read meaningful children’s books to their little ones and strengthen family relationships – all the while creating cherished memories through the power of storytelling.

Early Childhood Development Specialist at Nooksy, Katie Modrau says: “Some children have predispositions to mental health impairments or have experienced significant trauma, and all these experiences play into the mental wellness of a child. While there are many factors to consider in children’s wellbeing, what’s going to assist them in working towards a healthy mental state starts from connection and relationships.”

Children studying together; Source – Nooksy

Modrau adds: “The research shows that the most important factor in developing healthy neural networks is from an environment of nurturing emotional connection and of feeling a sense of safety. Relationships are the key factor that lays foundations for all forms of the child’s development, including mental health and interpersonal skills. Therefore, the lack of these connections can negatively impact a child’s developmental path.” 

Founded by Yon Kahlon in 2018, the interactive reading app allows faraway family members to read meaningful children’s books, from a world-first and ever-growing impact literature library to little ones with the aim of creating positive connections that help raise children that are conscious and mindful of the world around them. The app offers content that fosters the cognitive, social and emotional development of children and promotes a love for reading and learning.

App for children

Kahlon notes: “The heart of Nooksy has always been to create a space where we can connect and have conversations, which is a foundation for the promotion of good mental health. The space allows family members to bring up difficult issues such as bullying and promoting kindness, compassion and caring as the content has characters that are relatable. Therefore, we created a tool that allows families to connect and influence positive behaviour in little children, while enjoying a reading session.” 

Due to the fact that some children may have difficulties in expressing their feelings, identifying mental disorders in children can be tricky as it presents itself in a unique manner, varying from case to case. The disorders are generally defined as delays or disruptions in developing age-appropriate thinking, behaviours, social skills or regulation of emotions.

Children reading

Children may not have the language to communicate that they are struggling or in distress, therefore parents may pick up behavioural changes such as withdrawal, anger and personality change.”

Modrau concludes: “Reading has massive developmental benefits for children, even reading to an infant or unborn baby fosters a connection between the child and the parent, as they develop their senses, such as listening to the rhythm of the parent’s voice. Therefore, when family members are in-tune with their little ones, through regular traditions such as reading, they are able to quickly pick up on behavioural changes that children may have and respond quickly by getting the necessary assistance.”

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