Have you ever heard of bibliotherapy? I recently learned the term myself when I read about a new study from the University of Cincinnati. Although the word was new to me, the concept behind bibliotherapy is not new at all. As a matter of fact, one of the hallmarks of my picture books is that they are designed to be used for bibliotherapy.*
But what is bibliotherapy? The author of the study, Jennifer Davis Bowman, PhD., describes bibliotherapy as using “books with characters that are facing challenges similar to their reading audience, or books that have stories that can generate ideas for problem-solving activities and discussions.” This works especially well with children.
Although the focus of Bowman’s study was on training parents to use books to help children who deal with social struggles related to conditions like autism or Down Syndrome, all children deal with social struggles of one kind or another and can benefit from parental interaction using bibliotherapy. For instance, what child doesn’t have to deal with peer pressure, bullying, self-image issues, or self-esteem problems? Some children might also struggle with dyslexia or other learning challenges.
Bowman’s study reinforced the foundation established by previous research — that “bibliotherapy can improve communication, attitude and reduce aggression for children with social disabilities.”
Throughout the course of the study, parents took an active role, selecting books based on the values and principles taught by the stories, and the results of the study showed that this was key in helping to teach the children that they have choices.
Children are not born with coping skills; they have to learn them. The role of teacher is primarily occupied by the parents.
Parenting is a challenge even under ideal circumstances, but parental guidance can be much more effective if parents teach their children ahead of time about their options for thinking and acting, rather than just scolding them for unwanted behaviors after the fact. When children see a storybook character dealing with the same feelings or the same challenges that they have, it helps them feel understood.
It’s also much easier for both parents and children to be objective about behaviors that work (or don’t) when they see those behaviors illustrated by characters in a story. Talking about the choices and behavior of a character in a book can be a non-threatening transition to talking about a child’s choices. It can be as easy as saying something like, “What would you do (or have done differently) if you were in this story?”
Reading together opens the doors to so many kinds of conversations that parents can use to help their children.
*How can Don Winn’s CBA books be used to help children in dealing with social issues?
All my CBA picture books are designed for parents/teachers to read aloud with children. Each book has a theme that parents can use to illustrate common life lessons and all the stories have questions for discussion so parents can start conversations about important topics. For a list of topics contained in all my CBA books check out the Lesson Reference Guide.
The hardcover picture books have additional creativity questions at the end that can be used to help kids to use their imaginations and “think outside the book.”
All Cardboard Box Adventures picture books have been named among the best in family-friendly media, products and services by the Mom’s Choice Awards®.