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.
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.
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
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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].