Problem Solving Help from Books

Question: Is there any easy way to help your children deal with problems? - Frustrated

Answer: You may be able to help your children deal with problems just by reading a book with them? This method is called bibliotherapy. It involves selecting and reading books with children for a therapeutic intent. Bibliotherapy works well in helping children deal with stressful or temporary problems, such as entering a new school, going to the hospital, handling the death of a pet or having no friends in school. It will also enhance reading comprehension, build self-concept and improve the behavior of children who have learning or behavior problems.

In order to use bibliotherapy with your child, ask a librarian to help you select a book in which the main character has similar problems and is about the same age as your child. For example, if your child is hyperactive and has problems staying in his or her seat at school, you might choose "Shelley, the Hyperactive Turtle" by Deborah M. Moss. The turtle has similar problems to those of a hyperactive child. Before reading the book with your child, talk about its general theme to help your child identify with Shelley. The closer the emotional ties that children establish with the main character, the more effective the bibliotherapy will be.

A key feature of bibliotherapy is the discussion that you have with your children after reading a book. You should ask questions that will help them express their feelings about the problems the main character is going through. After reading "Shelley, the Hyperactive Turtle," you might ask: How do you think Shelley felt? Why did Shelley get out of his seat? What did Shelley do before he got out of his seat? Has this ever happened to you? What would you do if you were Shelley? Be sure to discuss other ways Shelley could have acted that might have been more appropriate.

Other activities that enhance bibliotherapy include: encouraging children to retell the story, role-play the story, draw a picture about the story or even write a letter to the main character offering ways to help turn the situation around based upon personal experience. It is also a good idea to discuss how the outcome of the story could be changed if the main character had acted differently.