Since probably, the beginning of time, everyone loves a story. One example is Folklore, composed of stories passed down through generations by word of mouth to preserve history and traditions with no known author. Bibliotherapy is a newly coined word for an age-old therapy—providing enjoyment and education—on any reading level. Books can play a significant role in the life of the young, but the extent to which this will be effective depends on the adults surrounding them. It is not enough to simply read to a child. Interaction and participation in the reading with the adult is a critical component to affect a positive result—spark the imagination, precipitate thinking, and elicit enjoyment. Picture books, a unique combination of text and art, offer an excellent portal for the young to begin their appreciation of reading. These depicted stories also offer a wealth of opportunities for teachers and parents to interact with the child to make the text come alive and become relevant to the age-appropriate stage in the child’s perception of his/her surrounding world.
As we become older and leave our toys behind, it is realized, by most, that reading is very therapeutic. As adults, the premise is no different than when young—it transports the reader into different worlds and takes us outside of ourselves. Unlike television, reading demands participation; it is not a spectator sport. That is the purpose behind the use of Bibliotherapy—to assist a youngster in overcoming the emotional turmoil related to a real-life problem by having him/her read literature on that topic. The story can then serve as a springboard for discussions with a possible resolution of that dilemma. Addressing personal issues is only one of many positive results derived from Bibliotherapy. Another very pointed outcome is the growing need in this country for multicultural learning. “Meaning does not reside in the text alone, waiting for a reader to unearth it, but rather is created in the transaction that occurs between a text and a reader as they are gently guided by the parent and/or teacher.” (Skinner)
Children can identify and relate to a story. They will, more likely, become empathetic to a foreign-speaking classmate when it is told through a relative story, instead of a lecture or instruction. When a story told about a foreign-speaking peer is age appropriate, students begin to identify with their classmates. Then, the door is open for insight, on their level, allowing for understanding and tolerance. Bibliotherapy may be conducted within a group setting or individually. It can be silent reading or, for optimum effectiveness, a round table, group discussion after the reading. When it is a personal problem with which the child is wrestling, it will allow them to realize they are not alone. When it is for multi-cultural understanding, Bibliotherapy is the beginning of social comprehension of not being alone, spanning different worlds. Even though a story may have its setting in another area, the feelings, hopes, and dreams of the youth are not unique. People are people wherever you go!
New ideas and topics always appear in literature, as literature itself reflects what is happening in our changing world. Today there is a plethora of reading material for children and adolescents. Technological innovations have provided the opening of extraordinary vistas for reading venues.
I have not been a professional teacher, but I do have experience in having been a parent of school-age children. I have to say that it is very encouraging to see the new-world advancements in education that are taking place since my youngest son graduated, especially, grade school. I recently completed the requisite fifteen hours of Field Observations, and was fortunate enough to observe at a very good school, Westgate in Port St. Lucie West—3rd, 6th, 5th, and kindergarten classes. For me, a lover of books, it was wonderful to experience the incorporation of and encouragement towards reading, reading reading!
I was in total awe at the end of my last day of observation in a kindergarten class. The teacher was preparing each student’s folder to take home, giving instructions, cleaning up—in essence, all the necessary routines at the end of a school day. However, for kindergarteners, this is usually a time of noisy activity. Not so in this class. The teacher drew down a screen, opened an age-appropriate library—with, literally, thousands of available books—and asked the day’s designated student to pick a book. An animated story—with highlighted words underscored as they were spoken—came to life on the big screen. A usually chaotic time of the day was not wasted with loud chatter or jittery kids who could not wait for the bell to ring. Instead, the children did not want the bell to ring until they could finish listening/watching/reading the story of the day. Now that is advancement; wonderful to see!
Kramer, P. A. (1999). Contemporary Education: Using literature to enhance inclusion.
Inclusion Education, Bibliotherapy for Children, 70 (2), 34-38. Retrieved from http://web.ebscohost.com