High school students have a different attitude to literature taught at school. Some of them enjoy reading exciting stories on a variety of topics while the other ones always humble about great volumes they have to devour. Only a couple of them will ever think what is the goal of such subject as literature and why it is one of the main disciplines studied.

In fact, literature plays a significant role in the lives of young people. Modern children and adolescents face numerous problems on a daily basis from development changes and family issues to coping with fear and making important decisions. Each of them needs a non-threatening and trustworthy way how to get out of these life situations without severe consequences and literature is a perfect means for that.

Books have been described as tools that give space to reflect, interpret and discuss (Lucas, Soares, 2013), could address, educate (Stamps, 2003) and guide children’s needs (Goddard, 2011). However, there is a special science known as a bibliotherapy created for this purpose.

According to dictionary.com bibliotherapy is defined as the use of reading as an ameliorative adjunct to therapy. In medicine, its definition sounds in the following way: it is a form of psychotherapy in which selected reading materials are used to assist a person in solving personal problems or for other therapeutic purposes. In both cases, it is possible to understand that the main goal of this science is to help people and children, in particular, cope with problems by reading and analyzing the material read.

More exact goals of bibliotherapy were formulated by scientists who have been researching this topic. According to their viewpoint, the main objectives of bibliotherapy are:

  • Providing information and supporting exploration on a variety of topics;
  • Encouragement to understand and recognize children’s own feelings and experience through literature;
  • Helping adolescents with disclosing any fears, problems, negative emotions and offering ways how to adjust to or cope with them;
  • Development of critical thinking and skills to build a strategy to manage difficulties;
  • Showing that a teenager is not alone in dealing with the similar problems.

The bibliotherapy healing is performed in several sessions each of which consists of four stages:

  • Pre-reading
  • Activating
  • Reading
  • Analysis and discussion

At the first stage, it is important to identify the problem and select the appropriate literature. The word “appropriate” in this context means ones that contain characters facing similar problems, corresponds with the age, interests, emotions and other needs of the reader and offers the ways how to build skills or find ways out of the problems.

The activating stage is used for encouraging an adolescent to think over any experience from his or her life related to the topic announced. The reading stage includes the process of reading aloud or listening to the content of the book.

The last and the most important stage is the discussion aimed at identifying the problems of the character and successful solutions to them. At this stage, a young person answers the questions of the adult that help him or her understand the core and find out what to undertake in one or another life situation. The next step of the discussion is to determine any parallels of the story of the own life of the child and to encourage to express the emotions and share the feelings and concerns. In general, for the treatment to be effective every adolescent should make five important steps: get involved in the discussion, identify the problem, experience it, make an insight into the personal life and find a universal solution.

Girl drinking hot tea and reading book in bed

Bibliotherapy deals with very different problems. These are emotional troubles including stress, frustration, aggression etc as well as many other issues related to school, family, interpersonal communication, identity, senses. Fortunately, high-quality and the abundance of reading materials raise a variety of topics and offer great solutions to them, so the efficacy of the procedure should not be questioned.
There have been many types of research on bibliotherapy conducted for the last 50 years. The main aspect of all of them is a problematic character. Books are used only as the adjunct to the psychological therapy so it is quite difficult to determine the amount of its contribution to the overall effect from the healing (Reynolds, Nabors and Quinlan, 2000).

According to Pardeck and Pardeck 1984, they confirmed the effectiveness of bibliotherapy on the basis of 24 studies. On the other side, there are researchers, who mention about inconsistent results like Riordan and Wilson 1989, for example. The study of 2005, mentioned in the review of Heath, Sheen, Leavy, Young, and Money states that this approach is very effective for working with children and families that face problems of loss, transition, adoption, communication but still there were rather poor results in improving social skills or changing attitudes.

One more research was based on comparing bibliotherapy to skillstreaming, one more way to treat psychological problems. It was conducted by Rahil and Teglasi in 2005 and has proved that bibliotherapy is several times more effective in assisting the therapy than skillstreaming.

The analysis of a big number of sources made by Paul Montgomery and Kathryn Maunders in their research “The effectiveness of creative bibliotherapy for internalizing, externalizing, and prosocial behaviors in children: A systematic review” allows making a conclusion that bibliotherapy is a necessity important for the treatment. It makes it more effective and painless. Patients like this process greatly as it is not only exciting but also unusual. Especially, it concerns adolescence age when problems are perceived more severely than they are in reality and professional help is required.

There is nothing surprising that literature is taught at every school. Books are not only entertainment but also a wonderful healing tool that can help with serious problems. Bibliotherapy is preferred by many specialists thanks to its sparing way of treatment and there is hardly any better approach with adolescents.


Bibliotherapy: Crucial in the Lives of Adolescents

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