Bibliotherapy has been around since the early 1800’s and refers to using storytelling to help children cope with challenges they may face. It may either involve reading aloud to children or children reading stories on their own.
Gifted children encounter social as well as emotional challenges which are often ameliorated by reading books – where they can relate to characters like themselves and learn life lessons. Bibliotherapy can be used to address perfectionism, motivation, anxiety; and, in older students, impostor syndrome. It can guide gifted children by helping them navigate difficult life decisions, become more self-aware, develop empathy for others, and learn about moral values.
Bibliotherapy can easily be incorporated in the classroom through ‘story time’ or time designated for individual reading. It should be facilitated and guided by the teacher. Students should feel comfortable enough to share within a welcoming classroom environment. Students learn how to see books as therapeutic. Bibliotherapy at school should incorporate the original basis for this therapy – identify, catharsis, and insight (Shrodes).
What are some benefits of bibliotherapy for GT children of color & low-SES? Multicultural literature engages students who see themselves as characters in the books they read who are facing similar challenges to their own. They see perceived like-interests as a positive. “Mirror books promote … racial pride, self-efficacy, motivation, & coping strategies when faced w/challenges, including negative peer pressures & isolation in predominantly White gifted classes.” (D. ford)
What are some questions parents and teachers can pose after bibliotherapy? First and foremost, parents and teachers can explore with the child who they identified with in the story or book they read. Encourage them to explain why they feel this way about the characters. Questions used in bibliotherapy for gifted children can ask about how the story relates to gifted children and the idea of being ‘gifted’. What text evidence can they find to support its impact on the story? Gifted children should be asked to delineate the book’s message/plot; how characters met and overcame challenges; and do they agree with the author’s conclusions.
Parents can provide their children with a wide variety of books that center on their child’s interests and potential challenges they may face. Frequent trips to the library are a great way to spend quality time with their child. One of the best ways to use bibliotherapy at home is with bedtime stories … a quiet and comforting time between parent and child.
A Transcript of this chat may be found at Wakelet.
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The Unopened Gifted (slideshow)
Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers (3rd Edition) (book)
Kids’ Books – Bibliotherapy (Pinterest)
NAGC: Bibliotherapy by the Campfire: Meeting the Social and Emotional Needs of Students through Picture Books (Parenting for High Potential June 2019 [membership required])
Graphic courtesy of Lisa Conrad.