What is bibliotherapy?
Pardeck, a frontrunner in bibliotherapy research generally refers to bibliotherapy as the use of literature to help people cope with emotional problems, mental illness, or changes in their lives. In a recent article, Sridhar and Vaughn describe bibliotherapy as a process of reading children’s literature with a “therapeutic intent” as an instructional strategy for helping children cope with stressful or temporary problems “such as a visit to the doctor, the death of a pet, or entering a new school”. Sridhar and Vaughn note that bibliotherapy can be used more “extensively” for children with emotional and behavioral problems to improve self-understanding. Bibliotherapy can be used in a broader sense with a large group or in a classroom setting to address stressors, temporary problems, or even issues such as bullying or drug abuse.
Whoa! That can be a lot to process and it might seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, many of you probably use literature to discuss everyday topics and sensitive issues already. To clarify, bibliotherapy is divided into two types: clinical and developmental. Clinical bibliotherapy is an intensive approach that is practiced by licensed counselors, therapists, and other psychology and medical professionals to address more serious emotional and behavioral problems. Developmental bibliotherapy is used by parents, teachers, librarians, and other caring adults to share information, promote healthy development, create empathy, enhance understanding, and facilitate the problem solving process. When I mention bibliotherapy in this blog and in my research, I am referring to developmental bibliotherapy unless clearly stated otherwise.
How do I apply bibliotherapy?identifying the problem, skill, behavior, outcome, or intended purpose for your bibliothearpy use
The two main components of bibliotherapy are READING and DISCUSSION. While, many researchers have outlined multiple processes and stages of bibliotherapy, Pardeck recommends four key steps that nearly all other researchers agree on:
- Identify the problem, situation, behavior, outcome, skill, or the intended purpose
- Select literature (keeping in mind the child’s attentiveness, interests, ability, and overall quality of the literature)
- Read the literature (engaged reading that guides the child to connect with a character or situation)
- Discuss the literature (I will come back to this point in my next post!)
Why should I use bibliotherapy?
There are countless benefits to using bibliotherapy as a tool for helping children with a wide range of issues and topics. I would like to point out five core benefits of bibliotherapy that highlight the strength and power of using literature as a tool with children:
- Shares information in a manner that is familiar and safe for children. Often, debunking myths or false information about the topic.
- Builds feelings of mutuality, allowing children to feel that that they are not alone in their feelings and experiences.
- Creates empathy for others. Fear and lack of information is frequently at the root of teasing and bullying. Learning how others feel and being aware of diverse situations can replace fear with understanding.
- Provides options for actions that can assist children in applying new solutions in their own lives.
- Presents hope and inspiration that children and families will be able to overcome problems and challenges they are facing, just like the children in families in the literature.
That sounds great but how can I make bibliotherapy work for me and the children I interact with?
You are in the right place! The purpose of the Bibliotherapy Hangout is to be a resource for those using bibliotherapy for children through information, book recommendations, and other resources. You will be able to look here for your bibliotherapy needs, receive tips, and ask questions specific to your situation! I look forward to interacting with you!
 Pardeck, 1994 as cited in Abdullah, M., & ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading, E. N. (2002). Bibliotherapy. ERIC Digest.
 Cook, K.E., Earles-Vollrath, T., and Ganz, J.B. (2006). Bibliotherapy. Intervention in School and Clinic. 42(2), 91-100.
*Picture credit: http://www.oregon.gov/treasury/Reading/Pages/default.aspx