Charity is backing lecturers’ new children’s book to address eating disorders

4 March 2021

A new children's book written by academics from the University of Derby aims to help children across Derby and Derbyshire to understand the importance of healthy eating habits.

The book, which is the latest in the Whoopsie Doodle Little Noodle series, based on the adventures of a Jack Russell puppy, is being published on World Book Day (4 March), and during Eating Disorders Awareness Week (1-7 March), thanks to funding secured by the Derby-based First Steps ED charity, which supports people living with disordered eating and disorders across the Midlands and further afield.

A total of 5,000 copies of the book, which is aimed at 4-7 year-olds, will be printed and distributed to local primary schools with a grant awarded by Foundation Derbyshire from the Ashby Family Fund. The awarding panel appreciated that eating disorders could manifest from a young age and the book could help raise awareness and begin a discussion of the issue in schools.

The books are written by Psychology academic Dr Dominic Petronzi and Rebecca Petronzi, a Teacher Training Lecturer, with illustrator Peter Seymour. The new book was also assisted by a fellow University of Derby psychologist, Dr Dean Fido.

Dominic said: "The aim of the books is to make academic research which is relevant and important to a child's development accessible for children, teachers, parents and carers.

"The books, which have Noodle the dog facing challenges or comical situations, are, in fact, all research-informed and cover a whole range of often complex issues. The feedback to the series has been really positive. People like the stories and illustrations and feel that the messages are delivered without preaching to them.

Book cover illustration

"As authors we act as a filter for that research to make it fun and engaging for families. It also ensures that the research isn't just limited to academic journals, and is reaching a much wider audience and, hopefully, making a difference to people's lives."

The series began in 2017, with support from the Prince's Trust, which helps young people to start their own business or to find a career. Previous books in the series have included research carried out at the University on nature connectedness and maths anxiety. The latest book, the fifth, entitled 'Noodle's Healthy Eating Heroics' - is the project's first collaboration with an organisation outside the University.

The experiences of service users and parents from First Steps ED, and teachers dealing with the issues of eating disorders in real life was an important part of the process of writing the new book, with their perspectives informing the finished story.

Rebecca said: "Their input was vital to ensure that the story had validity and relevance because they could provide a true picture of what it is like to have to deal with this issue.

"The support of First Steps ED has been fantastic throughout and will enable us get the books out to schools and to children to help them understand how important healthy eating behaviours are to their physical and mental wellbeing."

Kevin Parkinson, Chief Executive of First Steps ED, said: "Our team and service users have enjoyed working with Dominic and Rebecca to create this helpful book for young children, which is never more needed to help professionals and parents approach the subject of a healthy relationship with food and body image. We all know that Covid-19 is increasing the prevalence of poor body image and disordered eating and we are confident this age-appropriate book will help children and parents."

More books are in the pipeline, with Dominic and Rebecca keen to identify other areas of academic research which will create a new set of adventures for Noodle.

To find out more about the series and buy books, visit the Whoopsie Doodle Little Noodle website.

Visit the University of Derby website for more information on the impact of our academic research.