Using Bibliotherapy to




IECC 2015

Tacoma, WA

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

WSU Vancouver

Vancouver, WA 98686

A rose by any other name…

 Bibliocounseling

 Bibliopsychology

 Bookmatching

 Literatherapy

 Library Therapeutics

 Guided Reading

 BiblioGuidance

 And…

So then… Just what ‘IS’ Biblio-therapy?

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

 Cognitive-understanding

 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



 Examples…..

 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


 Family& Lifecycle

 Siblings-the new baby, siblings, twins

 Cooperation and Love

 Facing Responsibility

 Adoption/Foster care

 Divorce-Aftermath, Managing

 Family types – blended, step, extended

 Sexuality

 Aging

 Death – incidental, illness

 Immortality and the


 Societal

 School and peers

 Portrayal of men and boys; women and girls

 Environment

 Cultural Heritage

 Special Needs

 Medical conditions

 Abuse

 War and Peace

 Emotions

 Other categories


Focus on



 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

 Psychological impact

 Clear sense of loss, confusion, fear, regression

 Adapting: Use of coping skills

 Disruptive; ineffective; resistant to change


Focus on



 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?

Children receive the benefits of biblio-therapy by passing through three stages:





 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.

 Fictional characters

 Animals


(Emotional release)

 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


 Introductory process

 Reading – telling of the story

 Discussion and questions

 Follow-up and extending the experience

 Revisiting (the story again but different)

Clarifying the


 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




A check list to consider….

 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




& Reading


Identify the book and why it is being read

Link the reason for reading to the adult’s interest or an upcoming known event shared by the group

Give a very brief overview and name a few “key words” that might be new of help clarify the focus of the story




& Reading


Use 1-2 “focus” exercises with the children prior to starting the story reading

When reading, emphasize important emotional labels, action verbs/words, and names of the characters; slow down at the ending

Show the children the book and some of your favorite

“happenings” within the story

Discussion &


 Goals………

 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

Sample Questions


. 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?


Extending the


 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

 Artistic expression

 Drawing, painting, illustration, clay/play dough

 Skills

 looking at friends/pictures (what do you see?); taking pictures of active child engagement

 Play opportunities

 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

Biblio-Therapy Resources

The “Story S-T-R-E-T-C-H-E-R-S” series by Shirley C. Raines and Robert J. Canady (Lewisville, NC:

Gryphon House)

Bruce, Nefertiti and Karen B. Cairone. 2011. Socially Strong, Emotionally Secure. Silver Spring, MD:

Gryphon House.

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

University Press.

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

York: Routledge.

~“Helping Books” Index of resources and links for therapy book lists.

~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.

~“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.

~“Teachers First” is a collection of lessons, units, and web resources [most focused on literacy] designed to assist classroom, especially kindergarten and first grade.

~The Carnegie Library of Pittsburg-excellent listing of book of young children by therapy topics.

~The University of Miami – Children’s Picture Book Data base- therapeutic lists by topic.