Using Bibliotherapy to
Peterson, K. (2014).
Helping them heal: How teachers can support children who experience stress and trauma .
Lewsville, NC: Gryphon
Karen Peterson , Ph.D.
Department of Human Development
Vancouver, WA 98686 petersok@Vancouver.wsu.edu
The use of selected literature to help the reader grow in self understanding and resolve real life issues
The term “Biblio-therapy” for some is used only if there are accompanying activities to help the child draw healing or perspective insight from the book. (i.e. discussion, role playing, creative activities, follow-up on ideas and further information shared.)
Adult facilitation separates bibliotherapy from “self-help” where the child manages the book content alone.
A bit of history…
Early 1800’s…movement toward the moral/humane treatment of the insane
Institutions founded and administered by the early Friends (Quaker) Societies embraced this approach
Reading became one of the most commonly used therapeutic interventions, second only to physical exercise
Late 1800’s to early 1900’s…Reading materials only for adults intended to distract patients; engage in positive thinking (hope); connect them to the outside world during lengthy stay
American Library Association active in establishing libraries for hospitals and other therapeutic institutions
Few materials for children - most focused on living a “moral life”
Early 1900’s – 1920’s) books for children were instructional (how behave in more appropriate ways) and did not contain a creative story line
Influence of Freud and the “emotionalrelease” effect of reading - medical model approach
Freud and Adler and emergence of
“Play therapy” for children
1930’s-1960’s focused on preparation for medical experiences, learning about differences (many stereotyped), and managing negative feelings
Present day: Cognitive-behavioral therapy approach – variable quality!!!!
Emotional-management of feelings
Social-connection to others and the process of story telling
Increase self-awareness and reduce feelings of isolation
Clarify emerging values and ways of communicating with others
Develop one’s ethnic/cultural identity
Increase empathic understanding of others
Increased appreciation of different cultures, viewpoints and lived experiences
Develop perspective-taking (how others think, act, or solve problems)
Reduce experiences of negative emotions such as stress, anger, anxiety and loneliness can be reduced
Clarify (mis) understandings about events and causality; distortions
Categories for Bibliotherapy
Siblings-the new baby, siblings, twins
Cooperation and Love
Family types – blended, step, extended
Death – incidental, illness
Immortality and the
School and peers
Portrayal of men and boys; women and girls
War and Peace
Experience of Stress for Young
Physical sensory overload – short and long term impact
Inability to self-regulate (calm down; focus)
Lack of cognitive skills to “de-stress”
Loss of problem-solving ability; vocabulary use tied to emotional experiences; deficit in thinking flexibility
Clear sense of loss, confusion, fear, regression
Adapting: Use of coping skills
Disruptive; ineffective; resistant to change
Goals for “Intervention”
Build capacity for connection, selfregulation & building competence *
Being a part of the group; identification of friends and friendship characteristics
Understand expression of feelings
(typical) and options for managing in socially appropriate ways
Identification of specific elements of stressful events (divorce; bullying; homelessness)
Recognizing specific, personal skills and preferences
Trauma-Informed Care (Steele & Malshiodi, 2012)
Six Goals for using Bibliotherapy in the
Provide children with information regarding events or emotional conditions which are stressful
Let children know that other people share their concerns
Provide insight into a child’s uneasiness or uncertainty about events and/or feelings
Create an alternative way to understand a concerning events or feeling
Provide solutions to problems
Communicate new perspectives, values, and attitudes
How does bibliotherapy work?
The child identifies (relates to) with a book character and events in the story, either real or fictitious.
The goal is to help the child “see” themselves (or another) in the events of the story AND how the characters manage their situations
Characters who have similar life situations and/or characteristics are essential for younger children.
The child becomes emotionally connected to the story
Increase awareness, appreciation and/or understanding
Able to recognize, and hopefully label emotions or conditions
May be able to release pent-up emotions under safe conditions
(often through discussion or follow-up activity)
The child becomes aware that his/her concerns might be
Recognizes solutions or resolutions posed in the story and how the character is portrayed in terms of feelings
Discovers ways these concerns might be addressed or solved.
Reduces the experience of isolation — offers possibilities
Implementing biblio-therapy experiences…
Clarification of the issue
Selection of materials
Consideration of presentation
Reading – telling of the story
Discussion and questions
Follow-up and extending the experience
Revisiting (the story again but different)
Is the book being used to….
Prepare children for a forthcoming stress event?
Experienced by many children?
Small group of children?
Respond after a stress event?
Address a “group” or individual emotional behavioral issue?
Expand children’s understanding/perspectives on a social issue (diversity of family, ethnicity, gender, etc.)?
Expand children’s understanding/perspectives on different emotional states and feelings?
Identification of feelings and the existence of similar situations In others
Identification and alternative ways of managing or responding
Within the “children’s picture book category” there is no subject-matter listing
A check list to consider….
Adult’s personal like/preferences
Representation of diverse and appropriate characters; carefully consider stereotyping
Material is factually accurate and up-to-date
Story line that has a clear beginning, middle, and resolution; not too long
Story content depicts characters/situations that are similar enough to children’s experiences to facilitate some level of identification
Illustrations that expand and clarify the text and can possibly “stand alone” without the text
Story focus is not too “preachy,” valueladen, or overly dramatic/negative
(provides a bit of distance from negative interpretation)
Made available for “reading” after group time
Provide an end or closing to the active reading experience
Clarify the important points
Initially from the adult’s asking of questions
Allow children to modify the character’s experiences (also story line) to their own frame of reference
Allow children to hear other others views, words, and responses
Review/restate possible options for behaving/responding
Reinforce new terms and words
Meet the learning needs of auditory and verbal processing children
. What was the story about?
2. How did the main character [____] feel in the story?
3. What was your favorite part of the story?
4. Turning to the last page of the book…What happened at the end of the story?
5. Keeping on the last page of the book...What do you think might happen next in the story?
6. What character was your favorite? Was there one you did not like very much?
7. What new word(s) did you learn from the book?
8. What will you remember about this story tomorrow?
9. What about the story made you feel [insert an emotion]?
10. What would you do if you [were that character or in the story]?
11. If you could make up a new end to the story, what would it be?
12. If you told your ____ (mom/dad/grandma/friend) about this story what would you say?
Goal: Provide opportunities for children to further express ideas and feelings about the story contents and message
Address multiple learning options
Offer choices for personalization and communication
Allow for adult interpretation of events, feelings, and options for coping
Reinforce vocabulary and clarification of ideas (both child’s and factual)
Telling the story again or with different characters (use of dolls, puppets, drama activity)
Writing activities – letters, stories, short play
Drawing, painting, illustration, clay/play dough
looking at friends/pictures (what do you see?); taking pictures of active child engagement
Water/sensory, miniatures, block, dramatic, telephone conversations
We KNOW children cannot de-stress themselves – it takes mature adult involvement to assist them in rebalancing (even for a short time)
Goal of re-balancing is to work around the effects of stress and build a secondary structure of resilience
Choose books are memorable because of the story and illustrations
End reading with a short “happy book”
Use of good children's book & the experience of being read to in a group is one significantly positive pathway to building resilience
The “Story S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-R-S” series by Shirley C. Raines and Robert J. Canady (Lewisville, NC:
Bruce, Nefertiti and Karen B. Cairone. 2011. Socially Strong, Emotionally Secure. Silver Spring, MD:
Golding, J. 2006. Healing Stories: Picture Books for the Big and Small Changes in a Child's Life.
Lanham, MD: M. Evans & Company
Karges-Bone , Linda. 2015. Biblio-herapy. Dayton, OH: Lorenz Educational Press
Landy, Sarah. 2002. Pathways to Competence: Ensuring Healthy Social and Emotional Development
in Young Children. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks.
Paley, Vivian G. 1991. The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter & 1998. AND The Girl with the Brown
Crayon: How Children Use Stories to Shape Their Lives. Both from: Cambridge, MA: Harvard
Pardeck, J.T. and Jean A. Pardeck. 1993. Bibliotherapy: A Clinical Approach for Helping Children. New
York: Routledge. Peterson, K. (2014). Helping them heal: How teachers can support children who experience stress and trauma. Lewsville, NC: Gryphon House.
Steele, W. & Malshiodi, C. (2012). Trauma-informed practices with children and adolescents. New
~“Helping Books” Index of resources and links for therapy book lists. http://www.helpingbooks.org/links_biblio.htm
~American Library Association provides extensive annotated book lists for children of all ages by topics including award winning books. Also review professional books on presenting stories to children of varying ages in group settings and working with parents/families. http://www.ala.org/alsc/compubs/booklists
~“Children’s Books” are a part of the on-line “About” website lists of children’s books by age and genre are listed, along with tips for parents on purchasing and reviewing books for children. http://childrensbooks.about.com/
~“Teachers First” is a collection of lessons, units, and web resources [most focused on literacy] designed to assist classroom, especially kindergarten and first grade. http://www.teachersfirst.com/100books.cfm
~The Carnegie Library of Pittsburg-excellent listing of book of young children by therapy topics. http://www.carnegielibrary.org/research/parentseducators/parents/bibliotherapy/
~The University of Miami – Children’s Picture Book Data base- therapeutic lists by topic. http://www.lib.muohio.edu/pictbks/