Saturday, May 3, 2008

A tribute to my thesis

Once upon a time, and a variety of other cliches later, I wrote a senior thesis. I almost titled this as a memoriam to my thesis, but I know when I say that I'm finished I only refer to the fact that I'm finished studying the topic at my undergraduate institution. For bibliotherapy, the subject of my thesis, will always be a part of how I think, write, and most importantly for the next few years, teach.

Giving an overview in bibliotherapy is harder than it seems. Take the books in biblio and tack therapy on the end for a rousing fun time. Bibliotherapy is at the same time one of the most accessible and intricate forms of therapy around. How do I condense 135 pages of writing into a blog post? I can't, but I will continue to incorporate it into my book recommendations and I can tell you, the teachers and people within the education community who I'm hoping read this, why bibliotherapy can and should be used in education.

Books are used in classrooms, that's a given. Children are constantly reading, learning, and studying. What's the harm in carefully choosing a book and creating a simple follow up activity that additionally soothes the soul? Well, there isn't any harm. It's as simple as choosing a book about a child with growing independence for children breaking free or a book about divorce for that kid going through a rough time and then, talking about the book. Books serve as abstractions from children's own emotions. The monster lurking through many books is a step away from the real monsters, or the power struggles, in children's lives. The divorce or death on the paperback pages is far enough away for children to talk about the issue, gain some catharsis and insight, and not have to publicly announce their problems. One of the keys to bibliotherapy with children is follow up activities, which range from discussion, art projects, dramatic play, and more. Is that not what already happens in the classroom? One of my arguments in my thesis is that if the books are there, the teacher should consciously be looking for books for individual children that touch on their developmental, social, emotional, and behavioral needs.

Okay, so this is a just a part of bibliotherapy, but a very important one. In order for bibliotherapy to move from an adjunct to taking center stage more adults need to use books therapeutically. When I talk of "need" I talk not just of the need for adults to use books in this manner but the need children have for the soothing pages of a book. Books have served a therapeutic purpose hundreds of years, but the now formalized method allows more children everywhere to be served by bibliotherapy.

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