New book aims to improve children’s motivation and achievement

Researchers at the University of Portsmouth have produced a new children’s book that uses innovative research to raise pupils’ motivation and achievement.

My Hero’ is the seventh in a series of beautifully illustrated books, which help children to manage and change their emotions so they can learn from mistakes and not to fear them. They are designed for parents or teachers to read with younger children or for independent readers aged 4-11 years.

The books are based on the concept of ‘Growth Mindset’, in which a person believes they can develop their ability and bounce back from failure by adopting coping strategies like trying again, trying harder or trying a different way in order to succeed.

On the other hand, a Fixed Mindset is the belief that ability is something that you can’t change very much, you are born with it. With this belief, failure is harder to recover from. Those with a Fixed Mindset will adopt self-protection strategies including avoiding difficult tasks and misbehaving in order to avoid trying and failing.

Professor Sherria Hoskins, Head of the Growing Learners research group at the University of Portsmouth, developed the Growth Mindset research programme. The programme has been testing an intervention to improve learning and attainment in school children, based on the Implicit Theory of Intelligence (Mindsets). This theory argues that intelligence is flexible and that teachers can help pupils develop a Growth Mindset by praising their effort, strategy and persistence, over their innate intelligence.

Professor Hoskins, who is also Dean of the University’s Faculty of Science, said: “Our first step as researchers is to test the theory, but we wanted to test it in real-life settings, with teachers and pupils in schools, not in the lab. When this showed promise we wanted to share what we had learned with parents and carers. So we decided to help them to support their children through children’s books with guidance notes on the theory and research underpinning them.”

In ‘My Hero’ the hero in question is Albie, a young and dynamic Labrador puppy, who avoids water because he can’t swim. Using a story based on the Growth Mindset theory, the book can be used to help children overcome their fear of a particular subject at school.

Previous books have looked at a variety of issues. In ‘Joseph’s Play’ the hero overcomes the anxiety of appearing in school play, which explored the wider issue of anxiety that could prevent a pupil from succeeding at school.

The books use creative writing students from the University and young illustrators (some from the University) to produce the books. The students are taught about the Growth Mindset theory to write the stories and they then work with researchers who check the underpinning theory.

The eighth and last book in the series ‘The Mystery of Mr Cotter’ is out later this year. The book is inspired by a maths teacher who helped Professor Hoskins conquer her fear of maths and put her on her career path.

To buy ‘My Hero’ click here or for any of the books in the series, go to and search for ‘Growing Learners Team’.


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