Learning disabilities are a disorder found in children with normal intelligence with difficulties in learning specific skills that include problem-solving. The introduction of bibliotherapy will therefore help them use books to solve problems with the aid of teachers, parents, therapists and health professionals. People of different ages have been using books over the years to help them find answers to difficulties in life and overcome hardship. In this essay we will focus on children of 4th grade and how literature can be used in problem-solving. I will mainly focus on how teachers can help children use the literature in attaining problem-solving skills that will help them identify alternative responses to their issues. The study will determine the effectiveness of bibliotherapy in teaching specific problem solving to fourth graders. In my report, I will identify problems affecting these children, motivation of people involved in the problem, parents for example and provide a solution to the problem.
The Importance of bibliotherapy
Researchers have been using children’s literature as a therapeutic tool for aiding emotional growth and healing. Children’s literature includes stories that they can easily relate to therefore proving motivation for change and options for thoughts, behaviors and feelings. Essentially, stories help children gain insight into real-life situations and help them learn healthy behaviors that will guard them during difficulties. The core problem of administering bibliotherapy is due to the high incidents of disabilities among school-going children especially learning disabilities. (Forgan, 2002, p.1).
The importance of administering bibliotherapy to children with learning specific skills is to help them become prepared in dealing with problems. In most cases, children with disabilities are characterized by inefficiency in recognizing and solving problems. Therefore by learning problem-solving strategies through literature helps them become independent and effective problem solvers (Forgan, 2002, p.1). The literature opens and guides their life, helps answer unanswered questions, helps children understand life and gives them hope. The books help them realize that they are not alone, educate and empower them (Imaginative Resources for Children, 2005, p.4) (Fisher, 2009, online).
Mr. Jones, a school teacher was reading to third graders a book from ‘The Meanest Thing to Say by Bill Cosby’ (1997) when a student raised his hand and exclaimed, “I am going to try that the next time my brother calls me a name. I think saying ‘so’ will get him to stop.” This student had some learning disabilities and identified literature character and identified a new solution to his underlying problem (Forgan, 2002, p.1).
The problem is that educators don’t use bibliotherapy in helping students acquire specific learning skills. Educators should use bibliotherapy as early as they identify the problem for early treatment. They should also recognize the effectiveness of bibliotherapy as it:
- helps children cope with death of loved ones, understand death and grieving.
- the children can easily make friends with the disabled ones.
- make children easily overcome anger, depression, fear, shyness, sadness and build their self-esteem.
- the books tackle social pressures that identify with body image, separation, personal safety and making new friends
- the children are able to deal with students from different racial backgrounds.
- they are also able to overcome physical challenges as the books reduce prejudice about physical disabilities.
- children identify with the characters and are able to build courage and hope to lift their spirits and accept their differences. The books also encourage them that dreams come true and allow them to dream about the future.
- the books teach students understanding and tolerance so that they can be able to deal with people in wheelchairs. The children well understand rivalry in the family and identify special needs of other children (Imaginative Resources for Children, 2005, p.2).
First, parents do not involve themselves fully in administering therapy to these children’s problem-solving skills. Parents should serve as role models by demonstrating problem-solving skills. Parents should use wide collection of bibliotherapy books to help them get answers to questions the children may be afraid to ask. Parents should set aside time to openly talk about child’s concerns and misunderstandings. They should also offer hope to the child by reading about the people and give examples of people who faced similar challenges and were able to push through. For example, if the problem is hereditary, the child should be explained why it occurred and names of family members who had the problem and pushed through. This inspires hope and courage in children’s lives. Parents should offer children reassurance that they are not alone and they should be let to know the situation they are going through is common and there is a book written about it. Parents should try and give the child a normal life; he should not treat different with other children in the family-like given special care than others. The child should be let to live normally and given chores to do just like any other children in the family (Imaginative Resources for Children, 2005, p.5).
Before the teacher or a parent decides to read the book, they should first pre-read it then decide which areas affect the child’s life and emphasize the illustration. By doing this, parent and teacher maximize focus on what is causing the child’s problem and are able to handle it effectively. The child should be told why the book is being read to him or her. The opening script should be simple to avoid tongue ties. The book should reflect the current situation the child may be going through such as death of a pet or a family member. Also change of lifestyle should be addressed. For example if the child is going back to school using a wheelchair, he should be made to understand the situation and how he can live with it. He should also be let to ask questions and express his feelings freely. Parents and teachers should try and maximize listening and talking skills by reading to the child in a quiet, calm and uninterrupted environment that will help the child listen attentively. If the reading is done in the house, TVs, audios and computers should be turned off. After reading the book, the parent should try and ask the child some questions concerning the literature. The questions asked should be open-ended so that the child’s thoughts, feelings and concerns are well expressed (Imaginative Resources for Children, 2005, p.6).
Secondly, bibliotherapy is not introduced in school curriculum. Educators should make efforts to introduce this therapy in current school syllabus as the child spends most of her life in school and interacts with different communities. The educational field helps a child learn problem-solving skills that are beneficial to his development and offers sneak preview of the real world situations. should be able to identify problem-solving skills to suit every child’s needs as learning disabilities vary, able to recognize the cause, effect of relationships and identify educational opportunities which promote child’s development. If a child is not able to identify a problem through the literature involving family relationships, he may end up being hostile towards all family members whenever a problem occurs. The child may sense the problem but be unable to identify with it and if the problem remains unsolved, the child may run away or even commit hostile behaviors (Harbaugh, 1984, p.18).
The interested parties in the use of bibliotherapy are parents, teachers, therapists and mental health professionals. Bibliotherapy can not be effectively used as the only treatment for learning disabilities since it does not automatically influence all attitudes and behaviors. The therapy also does not help every child with every situation but as we have seen its benefits, it’s essential to every child with learning disability’s life. When frustrations and anger occur in child’s life it makes it hard for them to understand the emotions attributed to it. The literature will therefore help the child express his feelings in any situation arising in their lives. Educational opportunities available to the child are very crucial in influencing the development of problem-solving skills to the child. As seen earlier, literature is the main educational opportunity for a child. Children’s storybooks promote logical, analytical thinking that develops cognitive functioning thereby giving the children the ability to organize facts and make inferences. The books help the children practice thinking clearly making them develop the ability to think maturely and obstructively and able to come up with solutions to problems on their own (Harbaugh, 1984, p.12).
Thirdly, bibliotherapy does not introduce to the child real life situations that are related to the literature. When reading literature, the child should be helped to relate the story to real life situations. Storytelling through literature is very interesting and should not be used for entertainment purposes only. The children should be helped to identify the relationship between the cause and the effect. They should be let to predict what will happen at the end of the story as this helps them develop problem-solving strategies. Normally, reasonable solutions to problems are based on our understanding of the cause and the effects of it as well as our ability to predict the consequences. Children’s literature should be approached the same way. Life experiences are the only way a child develops his skills. The problem is still unsolved due to lack of role models in children’s life. Teachers have been given all the responsibility of reading literature books to children and the real-life practice needs to be carried out at home. Parents should be included in this program to help children in identifying problem areas and apply what they learned at school (Harbaugh, 1984, p.13).
In conclusion, bibliotherapy is a very important factor in child’s development as it improves problem solving skills that will be very useful in their adulthood. Parents and teachers should therefore employ their maximum efforts towards the child’s development by identify child’s problems areas and pick appropriate books that suit their problem areas. It might be very hard for a teacher to identify specific needs for each student but it would be helpful if the teacher identified a variety of books that relate to real-life situations Open-ended questions should be formulated in way that children are able to elaborate on their feelings and concerns towards the literature. Parents and teachers should therefore work together to help children develop problem-solving skills that will be helpful in their lives.
Fisher,T. (2009). Unwrapping the Gifted. Web.
Forgan, J.W. (2002). Using Bibliotherapy to Teach Problem Solving. Intervention in School & Clinic, 38, 1.
Harbaugh, K. J. (1984). The Effectiveness of Bibliotheraphy in Teaching Problem Solving Skills To Female Juvenile Delinquents. 1-123.
Imaginative Resources for Children. (2005). Bibliography For Children: The use of books to support children needing to process difficult personal events that are painful, confusing and overwhelming.Helping Children Through Challenging Times, 1-9.