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Basic Primer for the Therapeutic Uses of Literature (aka. Bibliotherapy) for Children and Adolescents (Part 6)

June 24th, 2010

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  The link between the fictional subject and the bereaved reader may allow the child a huge sense of emotional relief when they realize that they are not alone.    The character’s actions may show the reader new ways to cope with unwanted feelings.   The vicarious experience may bring to light an idea that had been lying just below the level of consciousness, but never been given the needed words to formulate the concept.   This valuable piece of insight may go along way when it comes to the ability to communication.   Sharing feelings with others becomes critically encumbered if the child is groping for words they cannot find. The gift of words that accompanied any new insight will go a long way towards reaching out to and sharing with others.   A sense of empowerment and control may accompany the acquisition of new knowledge.   Empathy for others and themselves may be given life through the vicarious reading of a book that mirrors aspects of the reader’s life.   In the end there are two factors that play an enormous role in what type of positive rewards the reader will leave with.   The first is the reader and the second is the writer.   The reader brings to the story a preset range of knowledge that greatly affects how the story will be interpreted.   The writer is charged with the responsibility of writing an engaging story that reflects back to the reader a reality that is accurate and believable.   A poorly written book is likely to inspire no one, but a well-written book holds the potential to enrich the reader in many valuable ways.   

Many issues Many books

Books come at my call and return when I desire them; they are never out of humor and they answer all my questions with readiness. Some present in review before me the events of past ages; others reveal to me the secrets of Nature. These teach me how to live, and those how to die; these dispel my melancholy by their mirth, and amuse me by their sallies of wit. Some there are who prepare my soul to suffer everything, to desire nothing, and to become thoroughly acquainted with itself. In a word, they open the door to all the arts and sciences.

Petrarca Petrarch

1304 1374

            Environmental problems were used to describe how bibliotherapy might assist a child reader; however, there is a glut of other issues that might be addressed in books and provide similar therapeutic value.   There are some publishers that specialize in the publication of books that address only issues that are relevant to specific childhood problems.   Tales of bed wetting, racism, rudeness, or sharing are some topics covered by these specialized publishers.   In general these books are written with the therapeutic motive in mind, but when looking at the larger picture, most are written by authors who create believable characters engaged in well-developed plots that appeal to a large cross-section of the child and teenage population.   Whether written directly as therapeutic literature or as a general interest story the topics often move from one extreme the death of a parent, to another learning to share our toys.   These books offer an immense variety of topics that might be included within the world of bibliotherapy.  

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed on and digested.

~Francis Bacon~

1561 1626

How do you find these books?

            Therapists, teachers, librarians, or parents can find information about suitable books on the Internet and in books written just for the purpose of identifying titles that offer relevant story lines.   Reviews, topics and suggested age ranges are usually found in these sources.   The best selling book, The Lost Boy by David Peltzer, is an example of a book that might be considered valuable to a child-abuse survivor.   A review of this book might recognize its therapeutic value, but caution that the content is powerful and age appropriateness needs to be considered.   This harrowing biography may offer a teenage reader new knowledge, a sense of camaraderie, and a feeling of hope, but because of the intense details a younger reader nay feel more frightened than connected to the character.    Finding age-appropriate material is important and it can also be controversial.   Fortunately for the interested adult there is a large volume of information available to help choose good books that are interesting, applicable and age-sensitive.  

The press, the pulpit, and the stage,
  Conspire to censure and expose our age.

Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon

1633 1685

Teenagers more bigger controversial issues

            Both six-year-olds and sixteen-year-olds can sustain trauma from similar life experiences, there are, however, issues that are faced by the teen population that a six-year-old might never encounter.     Drugs, alcohol, date rape, sexually transmitted diseases and similar topics are just such issues.   As children grow the pressures that confront them also grow.   So while the core goals of bibliotherapy remain the same, as do the potential benefits, the subject matter becomes more sophisticated and at times fraught with controversy.

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