Books as a solution to teen issues

Nikhil Eyeroor

Preteen or tween is the time of amazing developmental changes and at the same time constant problems. The problems students face in school can vary from bullying, social exclusion, fear and anxiety to jealousy and many more. Unless we identify what is bothering our students and nip it in the bud, these problems can grow to disrupt their academic and personal lives. Stories are a beautiful way to induce alternative thoughts, nurture moral values and help control emotional imbalance in the reader. A good book is like a window to a new world and can have a cathartic effect on an emotionally troubled student. 

What is bibliotherapy?

Samuel Crothers (Presbyterian minister, writer and anti-slavery advocate) coined the term “Bibliotherapy”. It involves storytelling or reading texts with the specific purpose of healing. When an emotionally troubled person reads or listens to  a story whose characters are going through similar problems, then he/she not only feels less alienated, but the way these characters overcome their problems also gives a sense of confidence to the reader. Scientifically, it has been proved that when we are immersed in a story, our brain releases a neurochemical called oxytosin, which helps us empathize; we begin to identify with the fall and rise the character in the story and imagine our own struggles and ultimate release from them. 

Who is the bibliotherapist in school?

Teachers and librarians have to collaborate to provide bibliotherapy to students who are in the need of it. Librarians have a knowledge of books and the teacher knows his/her students. If the teacher can identify what is troubling his/her student(s) and talk to the librarian, together they can fnd the right book, story or movie to help the student tide over their problems.

Bibliotherapy process

The process of bibliotherapy can be classified into three stages– (1) Identification (2) Catharsis (3) Insight.

The first stage is perhaps the most difficult. In this phase the teacher has to identify what the student is struggling with and the librarian has to identify the right book for the student. The success of bibliotherapy will depend on how well the problem was diagnosed and what was prescribed.

The second stage is the cathartic stage. When the student becomes emotionally involved in the story, he/she will be able to release his/her emotions along with the character. This release of emotions can be through journaling or expressive writing. 

The final stage is insight. This is the phase of realization. Like the character in the story, the student/reader will realize that they are not facing such problems alone and that they too can fight and come out stronger on the other side.

Conclusion

Transforming traditional reading into instructional learning to meet life’s challenges, is a skill worth developing. The major challenge for teachers/librarians is to find that right book for each student whose problems may be unique. When a book helps a student sort out his/her personal issues, lessen their anxiety and improve confidence, the teacher/librarian have succeeded in providing bibliotherapy. A note of caution though. While books can help, to a large extent, solve teen problems, extreme cases of depression and stress will need professional psychological help. 

Bibliotherapy : Books for  young children with social and development problems

Challenging childhoods

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne
The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt
Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Coping with grief and loss

Sunny: the death of a pet by Judith Greenberg , Helen H. Carey
Bird by Zetta Elliott
Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories by Audrey Penn
Stones for Grandpa by Renee Londner

Natural disaster

Twister by Darleen Bailey Beard
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana
Rani in Search of a Rainbow: A Natural Disaster Survival Tale  Shaila Abdullah

Childhood sexual abuse

No-no the Little Seal by Sherri Patterson, Judith Feldman
The Ticket by Nicole Martin

Body image

Little Miss Jessica Goes to School by Jessica Smith
Freckleface Strawberry by Julianne Moore and LeUyen Pham
The Whale Who Wanted To Be Small by Gill McBarnet

Healthy eating

Berenstain Bears and Too Much Junk food  by Stan Berenstain,Jan Berenstain
Gregory the Terrible Eater by Mitchell Sharmat
The Boy Who Loved Broccoli  by Sarah A. Creighton
The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman

Bullying

Blubber by Judy Blume
Trouble Talk by Trudy Ludwig
Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

School refusal and anxiety

Fancy Nancy: Jojo’s First Day Jitters by Jane O’Connor
Leaving Mrs. Ellis by Robinson
Hey Warrior! by Karen Young
David and the Worry Beast by Anne Marie Guanci
 Do I Have to Go to School?: A First Look at Starting Schoolby Pat Thomas

Fear and phobia

Franklin in the Dark by Paulette Bourgeois
Brave as a Mountain Lion by Ann Herbert Scott
There’s an Alligator Under My Be by Mercer Mayer
Curious George Goes to the Hospital by H.A. Rey
The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist by Stan and Jan Berenstain
Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco
There’s No Such Thing as a Dragonby Jack Kent

The author is a library professional from Thiruvananthapuram. His research interests lie primarily in the areas of social psychology and anomalistic psychology. He can be reached at [email protected].

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