An interview and book giveaway in partnership with Sounds True
The Children’s Book Review
How many different ways are there to breathe, you ask? Dr. Christopher Willard and Daniel Rechtschaffen offer readers a plethora of fun breathing metaphors that make breathing awareness fun and easy while modeling and encouraging readers to practice values like kindness, gratitude, and empathy.
In the discussion that follows, the pair share their wisdom on how mindfulness techniques, such as breathwork, can help children tap into their emotions and learn to regulate a little better. We also get some behind-the-scenes insight into Alphabreaths Too: More ABCs of Mindful Breathing, the follow-up to their first Alphabreaths book!
Be sure to checkout the amazing six-book giveaway shared at the end of this interview for your chance to win a six-book prize pack that includes Alphabreaths Too!
Christopher and Daniel, as you both specialize in bringing mindfulness into education, what do you want us to know about mindfulness and the importance of teaching it to children at a young age?
Dr. Christopher Willard: I discovered mindfulness when I went on a retreat with Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in my early 20s, and it really transformed me and my outlook on life; in fact, it transformed my career too! I wished so much I’d had even the slightest introduction to these practices when I was younger to focus and regulate my emotions and impulses a little better, and that’s where some of this began.
Now, as a parent, we practice fun, silly breaths like these as a family and other more formal practices as my kids get older. I feel so grateful to have met Daniel along the way, who shares this passion for making mindfulness and breathing FUN!
Daniel Rechtschaffen: Mindfulness is just another way of saying being really present in your life. The earlier we learn how to be focused and compassionate, the better we get at living healthy and beautiful lives.
Breathwork seems to be one of the simplest and most effective tools in connecting with the body and returning the mind to the here and now. Can you share some insight into why this is?
Dr. Christopher Willard: When our breath becomes dysregulated, we become dysregulated—physically, emotionally, and relationally. But when we regulate our breath, we also regulate our body and brain. We can better regulate our attention, impulses, and emotions by slowing down and enjoying our breath. Alphabreaths introduces kids to having fun by exploring the power of your breath!
Daniel Rechtschaffen: Your breath is like an inner Gym to exercise your body and mind. You take it everywhere you go, and it has the capacity to make you feel relaxed, energized, happy, and regulated.
As a massive fan of Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing, I’m beyond happy to see your return with Alphabreaths Too! It’s both a companion and a standalone picture book. What does it mean to you to continue the mindfulness journey with more ‘alpha-breathing’?
Dr. Christopher Willard: Oh my gosh, Daniel and I are already brainstorming ideas for Alphabreaths Three and counting with numbers and all kinds of things. My son says the next sequel should be called TOO MANY ALPHABREATHS! So we will see what audiences want!
The hope is that kids, students, and families make up their own Alphabreaths. We’ve both gotten fan mail from around the world, videos of kids in far-off places sharing breaths they’ve created, and teachers who send hand-drawn Alphabreaths sequels they’ve made with their students. Honestly, when kids get inspired to make their own, perhaps our work is done!
Daniel Rechtschaffen: Breathing never gets old. Every breath is a new day. We are so grateful to keep offering fun ways for kids to be more conscious.
In presenting your books to readers, do you find that some kids love to practice all the different breathing techniques presented in the books, while other kids prefer to stick to a specific breath on one page?
Dr. Christopher Willard: I find it mixed—I’ve discovered it’s actually a very long book to read aloud, so usually when I read it in schools or libraries, I pick my favorites and then ask kids to make up their own and share their favorites as well. But it’s also fun seeing my kids come back to favorites or find new favorites or adaptations to old favorites. I don’t know what other people think, but I love when kids make these their own and adapt them and let them evolve, it’s just so fun!
Do you each have a favorite breathing style in Alphabreaths Too?
Dr. Christopher Willard: Ooof, I love that my son invented the drawbridge breath. It takes a few kids to practice together. I wish we had more joint practices like that or group practices. The Pirate and Excavator Breaths crack me up, but the ocean and tree breaths are the ones I actually do myself.
Daniel Rechtschaffen: I’m a big fan of hummingbird breath, mainly because my three-year-old son and I love to watch them, and he likes to run around pretending he’s a hummingbird.
I love the collaborative effect of Drawbridge Breath and Gift Breath. Beyond the calming effects of breathing, the various breaths also encourage kindness, gratitude, and love. What do you hope readers will take away from this reading experience?
Dr. Christopher Willard: I hope for all of that. Number one: I hope they have fun; number two: I hope they find it helpful; and number three: I hope they get inspired and creative to invent their own breaths.
Daniel Rechtschaffen: We want kids to feel the inner healing and empowering experience of breathing while doing these breaths with family and friends. We hope these breaths can support the whole family and support a more peaceful and caring world.
I can see both Alphabreaths and Alphabreaths Too being shared between children and their grown-ups in the home environment. But I can also see it being used in group settings at preschools and elementary school classrooms. Do you have any tips or examples of how these books can be used in personal and group settings?
Dr. Christopher Willard: Yeah, a lot of schools have kids invent a breath for the first letter of their name. Other schools I’ve heard do an assembly where they perform Alphabreaths like a play, and I absolutely love that too.
Daniel Rechtschaffen: We recommend kids come up with their own Alphabreaths, drawing them and sharing them with each other. We have had many schools where the kids make their own Alphabreaths and then put them on the walls or lead the whole class in some of their breaths every morning.
Do you each have a favorite illustration in Alphabreaths Too?
Dr. Christopher Willard: Starfish breath and pirate breath are my current favorites for illustrations.
Daniel Rechtschaffen: Fireworks breath is awesome!
For parting words, is there anything else you feel we should know about Alphabreaths Too or yourselves?
Dr. Christopher Willard: We hope people buy enough to make Alphabreaths Three or our counting 1-10 with breaths book! Because my four-year-old daughter will not leave me alone until unicorn breath is in print! (“Inhale and roll your wings back like a Unicorn, exhale your breath and extend your horn!”)
Daniel Rechtschaffen: Chris and I have had so much fun writing Alphabreaths, and we want kids and adults to know how much fun it can be to practice mindfulness!
Written by Christopher Willard and Daniel Rechtschaffen
Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Ages 4-8 | 32 Pages
Publisher: Sounds True, Inc (2022) | ISBN-13: 9781683648574
Publisher’s Book Summary: Teach children the basics of mindful breathing―along with their ABCs―in this playful and interactive picture book.
In Alphabreaths Too, children learn their ABCs along with the basics of mindfulness through fun exercises and illustrations they’ll want to come back to again and again. Each letter of the alphabet teaches a simple mindfulness, or compassion-based, practice to help kids focus their thoughts, feel calm, express gratitude, and hold positive feelings for others. A great standalone title or a companion volume to Alphabreaths: The ABCs of Mindful Breathing, this is a perfect book for the classroom or home library.
Breaths like Astronaut Breath and Fireworks Breath help children use their imaginations, while breaths like Gift Breath and Kite Breath help them fill their hearts with gratitude and send good wishes to others. They can breathe with a partner using Drawbridge Breath, relax with Ocean Breath, or get their wiggles out using Pirate Breath.
Alphabreaths Too offers a meaningful introduction to mindfulness for children, all while keeping them delighted with imaginative inspiration and hours of fun. It’s as easy as A-B-C!
Buy the Book
Book GiveawayAlphabreaths Too Giveaway
About the Creators of Alphabreaths Too
About the Author
CHRISTOPHER WILLARD, PsyD, is a clinical psychologist at Harvard Medical School and author of more than 18 publications for children and adults. An internationally sought-after speaker and mindfulness educator, his books include Growing Up Mindful, Raising Resilience, The Breathing Book, Alphabreaths, and Alphabreaths Too.
DANIEL RECHTSCHAFFEN, MA, is a marriage and family therapist in the California Bay Area. Learn more at danielrechtschaffen.com.
About the Illustrator
HOLLY CLIFTON-BROWN is a freelance illustrator living in London. Learn more at tugeau2.com/holly-clifton-brown.
This interview—Christopher Willard and Daniel Rechtschaffen Discuss Alphabreaths Too: More ABCs of Mindful Breathing—was conducted between Christopher Willard, Daniel Rechtschaffen, and Dr. Jen Harrison. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Alphabet Books, Gratitude, Mindfulness, and Positive Thinking.