Bibliotherapy:
Good Book ==> Happier Kid?


Young girl reading, from The Nursery, A Monthly Magazine for Youngest Readers, Volume XXIX.—No. 6. (1881, colors added)

Page contents

Some trace the notion of using books as therapy to Freud. (Well, to his therapist daughter, Anna.) Over time, though, the definition of has been stretched in various directions. But...


Defining the concept

"Bibliotherapy is the process of using books to help children think about, understand, and work through social and emotional concerns. Reading with children can be therapeutic.... Adults can use reading to help children come to grips with issues that create emotional turmoil for them. Reading can also be...very effective in preventing and resolving behavior problems."

- from Positive Child Guidance by Darla Ferris Miller

Baby with book, from The Nursery, Number 164: A Monthly Magazine for Youngest Readers, illus. unknown.

Children's issues and children's behaviors

By "issues," I believe Ms. Miller means life situations beyond a child's control, things like the death of a close relative, a move, or even molestation.

By "behaviors," I believe she means...well, you know what she means.

Many of the Berenstain Bears books are written to deal quite directly with behavior problems and childhood issues. You can tell from the titles!

from 'Too Much Teasing'


Of course, the Berenstain Bears books are picture books, and rather simple ones at that.

A number of library and educational sources on the web have put together lists of recommended bibliotherapy books . My intent is to bring you the best of all these lists by pointing you to the books that appear on multiple lists.

I was time-consuming! But I've assembled "best of" lists on all the subjects you see above. Check 'em out now!


Proper therapeutic use of books

When it comes to bibliotherapy for children, there seem to be two distinct schools of thought.

  1. Don't try this without a skilled, specially trained therapist, and
  2. Go buy your kid a children's book on the subject. Apply common sense.

I tend to lean towards 2).

You can do it!

I believe that no one knows their child better than an attentive, thoughtful, caring parent possessed of common sense.

And no one is better situated to help their child through difficult times.

A children's bibliotherapy book can be a starting point for discussion or an end in itself. If the child warms to the book's message, peripheral activities - like drawing - that relate to the text can be terrific reinforcement by repetition. Consider:

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle had imaginative cures for children's problems. She used natural and logical consequences!

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle conjured imaginative cures for kids with behavior problems, using natural and logical consequences!

"For a young child, repetition is a key to learning."

- from Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care, by Dr. Benjamin Spock

And...

"The exercise which develops life consists in the repetition, not in the mere grasp of the idea. When a child has attained this stage, of repeating an exercise, he is on the way to self-development, and the external sign of this condition is his self-discipline."

- from Montessori Method, by Maria Montessori.

Did you know I "invented" bibliotherapy...more than a hundred years after Anna Freud did?

I didn't even know I was performing bibliotherapy. I just knew that my daughter was experiencing a behavior problem and that nothing else in my parental bag of tricks was helping. It's really a neat story.

What happened was I applied my storytelling skills (I'm a screenwriter by trade) and made up for my daughter a story about a little girl who was exhibiting the very behavior problem that my daughter was struggling with.

Now I don't mean to congratulate myself too much...

...but my child's behavior problem proceeded to resolve itself almost immediately. At her request, I wrote the story in book form and allowed her to illustrate it.

(I call the story, The Time Balooga Forgot Other People's Feelings. Read what another father says about the experience of using Balooga with his child.)

I mention this because of my belief in the power of attentive, thoughtful, literate parents. There's a page on this site where I walk you through the process of writing your own one-of-a-kind storybook aimed at your child's behavior problem.

It's a long page, and a bit of a process. But at the end you'll have a piece of unique bibliotherapy precisely aimed at your child's problem behavior and its particular manifestations.

Give it a try! Alternatively...

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How Vansanna Learned
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How Timbo Learned
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How Tombo Learned
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How Smoolie Became
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How Boberto Learned to Like Being by Himself Sometimes

How Cocoona Learned to Clean Even Better Than Her Parents

How Only Baloney Got Cured of Spoiled
Taste-Buds-Atitis

The Time Balooga Forgot
Other People's Feelings

How Bobo Learned
to Be Satisfied

How Sonora Got
Her Own Room Back