Read to Be Happy!

Think of your happiest moments. How many of them are connected to reading and sharing stories? What are the happiest books you have read? And think of those joyful moments of reading either on your own in a comfortable place or with others. Reading to someone else, being read to, and reading on your own, then discussing or recommending books with others areall be activities that contribute to our sense of well-being.

On March 20th United Nations celebrates and observes International Day of Happiness with two simple but powerful goals:

“1. TO ESTABLISH A SET OF PRINCIPLES for addressing the complex, interrelated challenges faced by humankind in the ultimate quest to achieve happiness.

2. TO PROMOTE, PRESERVE, AND CELEBRATE the principles outlined in UN Resolutions 65/309 and 66/281, especially that happiness is a universal human right and goal.”

How shall we approach the idea of happiness in well-being in the classroom? Happiness, like many other abstract notions and feelings is a very personal and subjective matter which can be addressed but not explicitly taught in school. Still, we can raise awareness and dedicate time to it by talking about it, getting our students to consciously think about the activities which make them feel happier, and we can motivate them to do and read things that will make them feel better by dedicating more time to this topic in the classroom.

Plus, by giving time and space to reading, we might just be giving time to more happiness in our students lives. In 2015, the editorial group Mauri Spagnol commissioned Cesmer, (Centre of Studies of Roma Tre University ) to carry out research on the relationship between reading books and individual happiness. Here are some of the findings:

  • Readers in Italy are overall happier than non-readers.
  • Readers in Italy feel positive emotions more often than non-readers.
  • Readers in Italy feel negative emotions less often than non-readers.
  • Readers are more satisfied with how they use their free time compared to non-readers.
  • For readers in Italy, reading is the most important use of their free time.
  • For readers in Italy, reading comes fourth among free time activities for the amount of happiness gained.”

Read the full press release and research presentation on the website of the Federation of European Publishers.

Join the Day of Happiness celebration in your school and online here:


1 Talk about happiness. Ask each student to talk about a happy moment in their lives.

  • Tell the story in 6 words.
  • Write an acrostic poem with the word HAPPY. It will be a five-line poem, each line starting with a letter of the word ‘happy’ (H-A-P-P-Y), and the subject should, of course, be happiness!
  • Write a short narrative based on the above two

2 Do a writing activity on emotions.

We have adapted the activity Places for emotions from the resource book Writing Stories.

Write the word HAPPINESS on the board and brainstorm ideas expressed through single words or short phrase for a place that expresses happiness. Let your students use dictionaries if they wish. Use these expressions to create a description with the ideas you have collected.

3 Talk about your happiest reading memories.

Do you remember bedtime stories? How did they make you feel? Do you remember the happiest book moments of your life? How did you feel when you finished reading your first book in English? Can you describe your favourite reading spot?

4 Collect only happy and inspiring stories which make you feel good.

Is it a bedtime story? Is it a poem, a graphic novel, a play, a short story or a novel? Ask your students to share their own memorable reading experiences and get inspired by them.

5 Share quotes about happiness and talk about them with more advanced students. Can you recognise which novels these quotes come from?  (Scroll down for the solutions.)

1 “There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.” — Charlotte Brontë

2 “Anne was always glad in the happiness of her friends; but it is sometimes a little lonely to be surrounded everywhere by a happiness that is not your own.” — Lucy Maud Montgomery

3 “I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.” — Charles Dickens

4 “He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.” — Charles Dickens

5 “I shall take the heart,” returned the Tin Woodman; “for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.” — L. Frank Baum

Plus a music video! Just play Happy by Phrarrell Williams to your students to get them in a good mood. There is also a special 24-hour music video.


Here is our list of happy books for little and big ones from the Helbling Readers series.

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Activity 5 solutions:

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  2. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  3. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  4. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
  5. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

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