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Raising Readers - Books as Therapy for Kids
April 17, 2009

My name is Steve Barancik. Welcome to Raising Readers, the official newsletter of Best Children's Books.

Our goal: to help YOU raise better readers.


1) Pages you might not know about at Best Children's Books:
Our Bibliotherapy Section

Bibliotherapy is the use of books to help children who are struggling. Since every child is struggling with something, you'll want to learn more!

How the Right Book Can Touch the Life of a Child, by Sandra McLeod Humphrey

Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist and the author of seven middle-grade and young adult books. Her books help struggling kids!

3) Participate - Write a Story Yourself!

Each issue we spotlight a way you can participate at Best Children's Books. Did you know that we have a page where I walk you step by step through the process of writing a children's story yourself? I even help you figure out what to write about!

4) Take an Online Business Class

Thinking about a website but not wanting to go it alone?

Functionality Alerts!
If any links in this newsletter don't work, it's probably because your email software cuts off the link text at a line break, then prints the rest of the link as plain text. To use one of these links, try copying the WHOLE link then pasting it into your browser.

This email was designed to be read in an email reader that reads html. If you don't have one or yours is turned off, this letter might not look great but I'm guessing you're still smart enough to make sense of what I'm saying!

1) Pages you might not know about at Best Children's Books:
Our Bibliotherapy Section

Best Children's Books is known for its bibliotherapy resources, and many libraries link to us.

What is bibliotherapy? At its core, it's the use of books to help children who are struggling with something. On the site we have pages full of books that can help a child cope with difficult issues:

  • adoption and foster care
  • alcoholism and drug abuse by a parent
  • bullying
  • death and dying
  • disabilities and handicaps
  • divorce, separation and stepfamilies
  • nutrition and healthy eating

In addition, we offer a series of downloadable ebooks right on the site that address a variety of normal growing up issues:

  • Lying/Fibbing
  • Playing Poorly with Others
  • Shyness
  • Hard to Please
  • Not Cleaning Up
  • Needing Attention
  • Scared to Sleep Alone
  • Picky Eating

I call these ebooks Child Behavior Books. They're picture books without pictures! Each one features a child struggling with - and then overcoming - a difficult behavior. The reason they're pictureless is so that your child can illustrate them. That allows the book's message to be repeated again and again.

Now, in keeping with this month's bibliotherapy theme, our feature article is written by Sandra McLeod Humphrey, a clinical psychologist and author of seven highly respected bibliotherapy books...

How the Right Book Can Touch the Life of a Child

"The more you read, the more things you will know.
The more things you learn, the more places you'll go."

Dr. Seuss

To Touch the Life of a Child!

As a clinical psychologist for over 31 years, I am hopelessly imbued with the need "to help," so almost everything I write as a children's author has a story line or theme that hopefully will help my young readers in some way: strengthen their self-esteem, renew their moral courage, help them to feel less helpless or hopeless, and so on and so on.

I think that's why most children's writers write--to touch the life of a child in some meaningful way. And that's exactly what books do: they can bring comfort and reassurance in times of difficulty and pain.

As a children's author, I do a lot of school visits, and there came a point when I could no longer ignore the fact that the issue of bullying inevitably came up during every visit. It seemed every student had his or her own story to tell of being bullied, taunted, and made to feel "less than" in some respect.

It was these students' stories which became the impetus for my writing my book Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs.

Each of the twenty-six stories in the book depicts some form of bullying, and the book is dedicated to a 12-year-old Minnesota boy who took his own life after being mercilessly tormented by school bullies.

Bullying was once considered a character-building rite of passage for children, but now it's seen for what it is--a form of victimization and abuse which can leave lasting psychological scars.

We're all familiar with the physical forms of bullying, but the relational bullying (spreading rumors, social exclusion, etc.) can be even more problematic because it's more subtle and harder to identify, which makes it more difficult to cope with while the damage to the victim's self- esteem can be devastating. And now with the advent of cyberbullying, bullying can be done anonymously and on an even grander and more destructive scale.

As parents and teachers, we can use books to initiate some great discussions with our kids about bullying or any other issue which needs further exploration. Books can provide the means to get our kids thinking and talking about their concerns in a nonthreatening and enjoyable way.

Judy Blume's Blubber is a classic novel about classroom dynamics, shifting alliances, and the bullying that can go on unseen by adults. Trudy Ludwig's Just Kidding emphasizes the distinction between tattling (trying to get someone in trouble) and reporting (trying to help someone in trouble).

And my book Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure, Popularity, and Put-Downs offers specific bullying scenarios from the viewpoint of the bully, the bully's victim, and the bystander, which encourage readers to talk about the choices they would make in each of those situations.

Since the publication of my bullying book, I've received emails and snail mails from all over our country, Canada, Australia, Japan, and even the Ukraine.

Unfortunately, bullying is alive and well in contemporary societies all over the world, and some of these letters are heartrending.

Some students tell me how they have been bullied to the point that they no longer want to live.

The good news is that these kids who write to me have found solace and comfort in books. They have discovered that they're not alone--that there are others out there who are facing the same problems and that there is always hope.

Bullying is just one example of how books can enrich our lives. There are books for every situation, every problem.

Are you looking for a smorgasbord of creative ideas, games, and projects to fill a child's time with healthy, stimulating, and rewarding play? Check out Bobbi Conner's Unplugged Play: No Batteries. No Plugs. Pure Fun.

Is your child obsessed with perfectionistic tendencies? Check out Trudy Ludwig's new book Too Perfect when it comes out in May, 2009.

Is your tween or teen having a rough time "fitting in" at school? Check out Odd Girl Out and Odd Girl Speaks Out by Rachel Simmons.

Do you know a child who's having problems with visitation following a divorce? Check out How to Go to Visitation without Throwing Up by 12-year-old Joshua Shane Evans.

And how about a child whose mom is serving in the military? You might want to check out My Mommy Wears Army Boots by Verna Harps-Morrow.

And for someone of any age who's grieving, there's always Tear Soup by Pat Schweibert and Chuck Deklyen.

Whatever the situation, there are books to help us get through it. And that is the miracle of books and literacy! Books can give help to the helpless and hope to the hopeless. As a clinical psychologist for over thirty-one years and a children's author for over fifteen years, I am truly beginning to understand the importance of literacy.

Books can open doors to new learning, they can kindle our imaginations, they can help heal wounded souls, and they can inspire us to soar to new heights. There is no more precious gift than the gift of a book and no more precious gift we can give our children than the love of reading!

Author Bio

Sandra McLeod Humphrey is a retired clinical psychologist and the author of seven middle-grade and young adult books. She is the recipient of the 2005 Helen Keating Ott Award for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Literature, a 2008 Mom's Choice Gold Award, and a 2008 American Authors Association Silver Quill Award. She invites you to visit her Web site Kids Can Do It and check out her ongoing essay contest for kids.

Her books include:

  • If You Had to Choose, What Would You Do? (Prometheus Books 10/95)
  • It's Up to You...What Do You Do? (Prometheus Books 1/99)
  • Keepin' It Real: A Young Teen Talks With God (CSS Publ. 1/03)
  • MORE--If You Had to Choose, What Would You Do? (Prometheus 5/03)
  • Dare to Dream!: 25 Extraordinary Lives (Prometheus Books 3/05)
  • Hot Issues, Cool Choices: Facing Bullies, Peer Pressure,
  • Popularity, and Put-Downs (Prometheus Books 12/07)
  • Me, Myself, and I: Youth Meditations for Grades Five through Eight (CSS Publishing 7/08)

3) Participate - Write a Children's Story Yourself!

Steve here again. All this talk about the therapeutic value of books reminds me of a page I wrote on the site long ago...a very loooooong page. It's the page where I show grown-ups how to write a therapeutic children's book themselves!

The reason it's such a very long page is because it's written for non-writers. I wrote it so that any adult could simply follow the instructions and end up with a nice little story. And get this: the story will be directed at one of your child's problem behaviors!

It's not an easy exercise, and it will require a real time commitment from you. (Though there's no reason you can't stretch out the steps over a number of days.) The results, I think, will be worth it. You'll have something that you wrote that your child can illustrate...that both of you can treasure forever. And as an added benefit...

It might just help with one of your child's problem behaviors!

4) Take an Online Business Class

You'll often hear me talking about the company that showed me how to create the Best Children's Books website.

You see, anyone can slap up a website, but most websites don't end up getting found. This company, Site Build It, gives you all the tools and instructions to build a website that draws lots of attention!

If a website exists, but no one ever sees it, what's the point? An unvisited website doesn't reach anyone, and it certainly can't make you any money.

Like I said, Site Build It gave me a suite of tools and an elaborate set of instructions. I love instructions! Most people don't. But now there's a Site Build It for people who don't like to learn alone. It's the online classroom version of Site Build it.

  • 12 weeks of live, interactive, online classes
  • A dedicated instructor and guaranteed small class sizes
  • Online instruction modules
  • Homework!

You may wonder why I put an exclamation point after "homework." Well, because when you've finished the homework, you'll have your very own functioning website. Talk about a graduation present!

Sound good? Learn more. Have questions? Ask!


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