BT with Children and Young Adults

This section lists monographs, articles, short professional publications, and other sources previously excluded from other sections of this website. We have selected the following books and articles because they prove to be of help and value for librarians specifically, even if some of them are not the newest publications. Among the plethora of recent books and articles on BT for children and young adults, it is not too easy to find those appropriate for librarians: most of these monographs and papers are directed at therapists and operate with the language of psychology and psychiatry rather than LIS or education. We have only selected those which, in our opinion, will benefit library practitioners and tried to highlight the possible applications of these books in our annotations. Please contact us if you have any suggested titles to be added to the list.


| Allen et al. | AndersonBaraitser | Baruchson-Arbib | Bohning | Catalano | Chatton | ClarkCook et al. | Cuddigan & Hansen | Doll & Doll | Duncan | Gavigan | Golding | Grindler et al | Heath et al | Hepler & Salvadore |  Iaquinta & Hipsky | JensenJones | Knoth | Kurtts & Gavigan | LaitemLuMatthews | McGill | Mohr | Myracle | Pardeck & Pardeck | Powe | Prater et al. | Recob |
| Shechtman | Walker |


Anderson, M. F. (1992). Hospitalized children and books: A guide for caregivers and librarians. Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press.
(Second edition of “Books and Children in Pediatric Settings,” 1988)
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Anderson’s book aims to help librarians who work with hospitalized children. The author discusses the importance of a library or other book-providing service within a hospital setting, not only for its normalizing effect during an especially difficult time for the child, but also as an additional therapeutic intervention that “supports the process of treatment and healing” (xvi). Anderson provides practical advice on collection development, the set-up of materials, and story hour programming for various ages, and on the services for children with special needs. Although only one chapter is specifically dedicated to bibliotherapy, the entire book would be of use to librarians in pediatric settings and those who are interested in bibliotherapy with hospitalized children.

Doll, B., & Doll, C. (1997). Bibliotherapy with young people: Librarians and mental health professionals working together. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
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The book is the result of a collaborative effort between a psychologist and a library and information professional. The authors propose “a partnership among librarians, media specialists, and mental health professionals” (4) for planning and conducting bibliotherapy sessions with children and young adults. After defining and discussing bibliotherapy as it is understood by the different parties, the authors elaborate on the mental health needs of children and youth and compare the skills that the librarian possesses to those of the mental health professional. The authors devote a chapter to a discussion of the possible risks of leading bibliotherapy sessions, and offer potential leaders advice as to how to proceed in challenging circumstances. The final chapter offers a nine-step procedure that can be used in planning bibliotherapy programs whether in schools, hospitals, or public libraries. Appendices include an annotated bibliography of bibliotherapy resources, and an example of a bibliotherapy program for a fourth-grade classroom. ▲ 

Cuddigan, M., & Hanson, M. B. (1988). Growing pains: Helping children deal with everyday problems through reading. Chicago: American Library Association.
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Cuddigan and Hanson argue that literature helps children cope with the complexities of day-to-day life and promotes understanding and empathy with other people. In order to provide parents and educators with appropriate titles to present to children, the authors read and evaluated 2,000 books. The resulting annotated bibliographic guide includes books for children between the ages of 2 and 8. The guide is divided into thirteen chapters by topic, such as “behavior,” “fears,” and “hospitalization, illness, and health care.” Each chapter is further subdivided into specific behaviors or issues, and includes a corresponding annotated bibliography. The authors emphasize that the selections included in the book “are not intended to be a substitute for professional help” (ix). Librarians should also be aware that most of the titles in the bibliography were published between 1976 and 1986, and therefore may contain outdated language or information. Similarly, some pedagogical and library approaches to working with children have changed since the publication.

Golding, J. M. (2006). Healing stories: Picture books for the big & small changes in a child’s life. Lanham, MD: M. Evans.
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In this book Golding assembles and annotates a large number of picture books that address various childhood concerns. The book is divided into broad sections that discuss everyday childhood issues, such as “feelings,” “relationships,” and “families and family changes,” as well as more complex concerns, such as “loss and grief” and “trauma.” Each part is further broken down into several chapters that deal with more specific issues. The annotations are extensive and detailed, and information about the characters’ cultural background is included. Although addressed to parents, this book would be of use to children’s librarians. Some of the more complex issues, however, would be better introduced together with a mental health professional as part of a therapeutic session.

Grindler, M. C., Stratton, B. D., & McKenna, M. C. (1997). The right book, the right time: Helping children cope. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
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The main part of this book consists of an extensive annotated listing of children’s books organized according to the issues a child might face, such as “adoption,” “clumsiness,” or “poverty.” Each entry includes information about the book’s main character, an age range (indicating a recommendation for the social and intellectual appropriateness of the material rather than its readability), and other topics mentioned in the book. The authors also include three concise chapters on bibliotherapy, discussing its history, effectiveness, and process. While the book is addressed primarily to teachers and other education professionals, it could easily be adapted for use in a library setting. However, librarians should keep in mind that most materials listed have been published over twenty years ago, and thus could be outdated.

Hepler, S.I.; Salvadore, M. (2003). Books your kids will talk about! Washington, DC: National Education Association.
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The authors created a colourful and easy-to-read bibliographic guide based on the assumption that while “conversations about books are not meant to be bibliotherapy” (13), “talking about books is a powerful tool for learning” (12). The selected titles were chosen for their ability to inspire conversations among children as well as between children and adults. Each of ten thematic chapters includes an introduction; interviews with authors and illustrators; comments by parents, teachers, and students; and a “recommended books” section with annotations of related titles. Unlike in other similar guides, the authors do not focus on the problems and challenges of childhood, putting themes such as “Laughing Together” and “Exploring Imagination” alongside “Getting through Tough Times.”  This guide would be of great use to children’s librarians for programming purposes and for recommending books to young patrons and their caregivers.

Laitem, Magali. (2014). A book for children exposed to intimate partner violence. (Doctoral dissertations). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. (3620300).
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Laitem summarizes the problem of intimate partner violence (IPV), its impact on children who witness their mothers in abusive situations, and the goals of existing interventions to protect children and decrease the likelihood of future violence, aggression, troubled relationships, and depressive symptoms. The context of the study was a bibliotherapy program for children exposed to IPV. The aim of Laitem’s doctoral dissertation was to analyze 23 children’s books, written specifically about IPV, based on the therapeutic messages contained therein, types of IPV acts portrayed, and a variety of other factors. The author used these variables to inform a new children’s book called Ana’s Story. The value of the dissertation is its thorough analysis of the chosen titles. Its limitation, however, is the fact that only books directed related to IPV by subject are considered while other children’s fiction, which could have an impact on children exposed to IPV, is excluded. Although Ana’s Story is written from a well-informed standpoint, a single title should not be considered an appropriate book for all children exposed to IPV or any other traumatic situation.

McGill, P.A. “Bibliotherapy in the children’s literature of Jean Little.” Masters Thesis, University of New Brunswick, 1995.
• In ProQuest Dissertations and Theses
(Please check your library for availability)

In this thesis, McGill argues that “Little approaches her readers as a bibliotherapist, intent on enriching their lives through a literary connection” (iii). She believes that Little can act as a bibliotherapist not only because of the difficult themes she raises but because she advocates for the importance of books and reading suggestions that help younger readers through their life challenges (3). This thesis is valuable to children’s librarians because it provides a thorough overview of Little’s works (including plots and themes, in Chapter One) and because it presents a unique glimpse into the life of Little (in Chapter Four).

Mohr, C., Nixon, D., & Vickers, S. (1991). Books that heal: A whole language approach. Englewood, CO: Teacher Ideas Press.
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The authors created 24 literature guides to children’s novels in a way that aims to combine bibliotherapy with a “whole language” approach, which “emphasizes real reading and writing” (xi). The guides are divided into thematic groups (such as “poverty,” “coping,” and “self-concept”), with three books discussed in each group. Additional books on the topic are listed at the end of each section (mostly published in the 1970s and 1980s). Each individual literature guide contains a brief summary of the novel’s plot, and a large number of questions for students to reflect upon. The questions aim to encourage students to think deeply about the book, to evaluate the work, to respond to it creatively, and to connect it to their own lives. The authors also provide activities that link to other subjects, including science, music, and social studies. While this book is mainly aimed at teachers, school and public librarians could use some of the suggested activities or modify them to fit a library context.

Pardeck, J. A., & Pardeck, J. T. (1986). Books for early childhood: A developmental perspective. New York: Greenwood Press.
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This book discusses bibliotherapy as “a technique for helping children handle developmental needs” (ix). Focusing specifically on the needs of preschool children (two- to six-year-olds), the authors identify nine developmental topics that are of particular importance at that age: anger and other emotions, attitudes and values, family relationships, fear and fantasy, motor development and physical change, peers and school, self-image and sex roles, single-parent and blended families, and special developmental needs. The first chapter introduces the idea and practice of bibliotherapy and reviews major theories of child development. The remaining nine chapters deal with the topics listed above. Each chapter includes information about the particular developmental issue, suggests activities that can be done in response to the literature, and provides an annotated list of corresponding children’s books. Librarians who are not trained in child development would find this book useful, though caution should be exercised when using this resource since the books included in it were all published between 1980 and 1985.

Powe, A. R. (2014). Hospital storytelling outreach. In K. Harrod & C. Smallwood (Eds.), Library youth outreach: 26 ways to connect with children, young adults and their families (pp. .12-17). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
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This chapter describes a special program of the Brooklyn public library, where staff and volunteers conduct outreach to medical facilities such as hospitals and clinics. The mission of the program is to reach children and youth who are unable or unlikely to access the public library’s resources. After being trained by the library, staff and volunteer “readers” regularly visit medical facilities throughout Brooklyn for individual and group read-alouds. They also conduct brief readers’ advisory sessions and distribute free books to the young patients and their families. The program is a good example of the use of literature for the purpose of supporting young people and their families in challenging times without overstepping professional boundaries.

Recob, Amy. (2008). Bibliotherapy: When kids need books: A guide for those in need of reassurance and their teachers, parents, and friends. Bloomington, IN: iUniverse.
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Recob provides a brief outline of the benefits of bibliotherapy and suggestions for its use in three scenarios: in schools, by parents, and by those seeking not to address their own problems but to better understand the situation of a loved one. Following the introductory material, this book is essentially an annotated bibliography of titles that address different potentially distressing life situations. Organized alphabetically by topic, the list includes both fiction and non-fiction, and suggests an age range for each title. Topics range from the more objectively traumatic (abandonment, cancer, rape) to the more situationally difficult (moving, sibling rivalry, childhood remembered). As an annotated list, this book might serve as a useful gateway to reading options; however, as a 2008 publication, it is outdated and should be used critically. Additionally, Recob is a non-fiction children’s author and marketing professional rather than a practitioner of bibliotherapy. Librarians should exercise good professional judgment and caution.

Shechtman, Z. (2009). Treating child and adolescent aggression through bibliotherapy. New York: Springer.
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The author writes her book for caregivers and therapists of aggressive children and youth, offering bibliotherapy “as an adjunct to a therapeutic process based on an integrative theory of treatment” (viii). Shechtman posits that through identification with the characters in stories and poems children can learn to recognize and analyze their own behaviors with less pressure, thus creating less resistance to change. This comprehensive book gives a broad overview of causes and symptoms of aggression in children, as well as information about bibliotherapy as a method of treatment in general and as a method of treating aggression in particular. The author discusses various treatment groupings, and includes a chapter on bibliotherapy by and for caregivers of aggressive children. The final chapter provides examples of preventive use of bibliotherapy in the classroom. The book includes literature and films that can be used for bibliotherapeutic purposes. Librarians who encounter aggressive children or youth and their families would be interested in Schechter’s work, but it is important to remember that the author does not endorse bibliotherapy as a stand-alone treatment of aggression and emphasizes the need for a therapist.

Walker, Jaclyn T. (2014). The integration of children’s literature, into the Tri-Fold Curriculum: An action research study. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. (3635717).

In her Doctor of Education dissertation, Walker studies the implementation of a professional development program called “Lit It.” The goal of the program is to positively impact the attitudes and perceptions of educators who work with students affected by reading disabilities, and to instruct them on integrating children’s literature into their curricula. The “Lit It” instructional manual is included as an appendix, and the third section, “Integrating Children’s Literature at the Therapy Session,” includes four educational activities, each centered around a different children’s book. Each book zeroes in on a specific issue. While the main impetus for this project is to positively influence the attitudes of educators in question, the project also situates bibliotherapy alongside other educational goals and gives concrete examples of how this intervention can be used with children who have reading disabilities. However, the setting itself is educational rather than therapeutic. Also, given that many of the sample topics are relatively innocuous (e.g. hearing the word “no” from parents, first day of school jitters) and used with children whose only common characteristic is a reading disability, this type of activity would be closer to what we call developmental bibliotherapy rather than clinical bibliotherapy. As a result, it can be of interest and use to librarians engaged in bibliotherapy in non-clinical settings.


Allen, J.R., Allen, S.F., Latrobe, K.H., Brand, M., Pfefferbaum, B., Elledge, B., Burton, T., & Guffey, M. The power of story: The role of bibliotherapy for the library. Children and Libraries, 10(1), 44-49.

Written by individuals with extensive training in psychiatry, public health, and library science, this article examines how librarians can use story to offer support and care for the children that they serve. They differentiate between crisis bibliotherapy and traditional bibliotherapy, and articulate the power of the story to help children make and remake self-perceptions and self-images. The authors call for future research regarding “the use of specific stories for children at specific developmental levels” (47), and remind librarians that not all children will react in the same way to the same story. They conclude with suggestions for the librarian contemplating bibliotherapy after a disaster, and with a reminder to the librarian that “stories help create and bind a community. Without them, we know neither who we are nor what we should do” (48). This article is extremely valuable for children’s librarians today because it emphasizes narrative over therapy.

Baruchson-Arbib, S. (2000). Bibliotherapy in school libraries: An Israeli experiment. School Libraries Worldwide, 6(2), 102-110.

Acknowledging the tension that is often felt by school librarians regarding bibliotherapy, Baruchson-Arbib proposes another approach to supporting students – that of “supportive knowledge” (104). This new approach emphasizes the support rather than the therapy given, and is practically implemented in the school library through the provision of a self-help section. To test the validity of this approach, Baruchson-Arbib performed two experiments in two Israeli schools. These experiments found that the implementation of “supportive knowledge” self-help sections in school libraries did the following:
• “Increased reading, especially among the boys” (108) and
• Fostered “good and creative” relationships between
teachers and school-librarians (108)
School librarians, however, should take caution when Baruchson-Arbib advises to turn the school library into a center for social information where “the librarian’s main task would be to create and manage self-help sections…according to social needs…” (105). Any implementation of a supportive knowledge approach must fall within the mission and vision of the school and its library.

Bohning, G. (1981). Bibliotherapy: Fitting the resources together. The Elementary School Journal, 82(2), 116-170.

Focusing on developmental bibliotherapy and cognizant that most teachers lack therapeutic training, Bohning presents a “Seven-step guide for using bibliotherapy” (167). The seven steps are: 1. Challenge; 2. Background; 3. Children’s booklists; 4. Methods; 5. Interpretive discussion; 6. Implementation; and 7. Continuation. For each step, Bohning recommends instrumental books and articles to increase the teachers’ knowledge. This article is valuable because, through the “Seven-step guide,” it guides teachers and children’s librarians towards books to read and activities to undertake in order to expand their understanding of bibliotherapy and to deliver the best education and service.

Catalano, A. (2008) Making a place for bibliotherapy on the shelves of a curriculum materials centre: The case for helping pre-service teachers use developmental bibliotherapy in the classroom. Education Libraries: Children’s Resources, 31(3), 17-22.

Catalano, director of the Curriculum Materials Center at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY, argues for the need for proper teacher training before the implementation of bibliotherapy in a classroom setting. In her overview, she:
• articulates the history of developmental bibliotherapy; and
• emphasizes the benefits and limits of bibliotherapy.
Catalano provides a well-rounded overview for teachers and librarians alike and very useful concluding sections regarding the role of teachers and librarians. In discussing this role, she wisely asks a question that gets to the heart of the practice of bibliotherapy in schools:
“Who is the therapist: the book or the person directing the reading?”
This question illustrates the issue at hand; that bibliotherapy,
whether clinical or developmental, is not about doing a subject
search in a library database, compiling a bibliography on a
therapy issue, and then handing over a book. [Developmental
bibliotherapy] involves education of the issues, age appropriate
titles and the proper methods for engaging students in a
discussion conducive to facilitating problem solving and coping
skills. It also calls for the sensitivity to recognize when or
whether or not an issue should be discussed at all. (p. 21).
Finally, Catalano’s emphasis on collaboration and partnerships throughout the article reminds the reader that the implementation and evaluation of bibliotherapy is often the best when it is an interdisciplinary, collaborative effort.

Chatton, B. (1988). Apply with caution: Bibliotherapy in the library. Journal of Youth Services in Libraries, 1(2), 334-337.

Chatton takes the discussion of bibliotherapy in children’s libraries to a new level with this outstanding article. She articulates the problem of teachers and librarians giving children “problem novels” on topics like “divorce, death, alcoholism, racism, psychological problems,” etc. (334), stating that these teachers and librarians are inadvertently doing “more harm than good” (335). This “harm” is caused because the “reading experience can differ so significantly from child to child” (335), and because there is no one book that is a cure-all. Instead, Chatton calls on librarians “to think of bibliotherapy in terms of its three broad general purposes” (335), which are: bringing children and books together;  helping children share their reading experience with others; and locating books that can be used by therapists working with children. Chatton concludes by stating that librarians shouldn’t think about bibliotherapy as “putting topical novels in the hands of troubled children,” but should instead view bibliotherapy “in its broadest sense to help children to discover the richness and growth that are possible through literature” (337). She then finishes her article by providing eight guidelines for libraries and media centers in the application of bibliotherapy (all of which deserve to be listed here): 1. helping children realize “that a book, while not a wizard, can provide part of an answer or moments of comfort”; 2. reading widely to be able to address not only a variety of topics but a variety of experiences; 3. trusting “children to select stories appropriate for their own healing”; 4. ensuring a wide selection of titles; 5. being available to children for advice; 6. talking “freely with children about books they read” and fostering an appropriate atmosphere; 7.never suggesting “books that we have not read ourselves, especially not ‘problem novels’;” 8. recognizing “the symptoms of stress in children” and getting them “professional help … rather than attempting to rescue them with a book.” Chatton’s approach to bibliotherapy puts the child (not librarians’ projects, goals, or activities) at the center of a much-debated topic, and is a “must-read” for all children’s librarians.

Clark, R. (2005). Fiction or nonfiction? Bibliotherapy examined. Library Media Connection, 24(1), 36-37.

In this article, Clark writes about the ethics of bibliotherapy and concludes that librarians have a duty to compile lists and guides of reliable resources but that it is outside librarians’ professional boundaries to be a therapist and to prescribe reading. Quoting Shirley Lukenbill, Clark writes: “you do NOT have to be a therapist to help children. You just cannot prescribe reading unless you are a trained therapist.” (37). This article is valuable to practicing librarians because it is a reminder of one’s limits and of the value of referral.

Cook, K.E., et al. (2006). Bibliotherapy. Intervention in School and Clinic, 42(2), 91-100.

Addressing schoolteachers specifically, Cook et al. outline the need for bibliotherapy, the benefits of bibliotherapy, and guidelines for the implementation of bibliotherapy. This article is helpful to librarians because it provides straightforward steps that one would take while doing bibliotherapy and supplies a helpful appendix of “disability-related literature.” While Cook et al. do state that bibliotherapy requires “careful advanced planning and preparation” (95), they don’t seem to see the need for either formalized bibliotherapy training or collaborative relationships with other mental health professionals; thus, while their article may be helpful in terms of presenting bibliotherapy steps, it lacks an interdisciplinary, collaborative emphasis. Conducting bibliotherapy without across-the-field cooperation could place undue weight upon the sole individual delivering bibliotherapy.

Duncan, M.K.W. (2010). Creating bibliotherapeutic libraries for pediatric patients and their families: Potential contributions of a cognitive theory of traumatic stress. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 25, 25-27.

This short article describes the creation of two separate children’s libraries at non-profit agencies serving families with kids. The libraries are designed to provide spaces and resources for children and family members when pediatric illness or domestic violence is involved. The author presents a rationale for some of the library content, which was curated using Janoff-Bulman and Frieze’s contemporary cognitive theory of traumatic stress. Parental stress is identified as a potential inhibitor or proper support that a child could receive, and one common success of bibliotherapy is its ability to shift the patient’s focus from the problem onto something more positive. The goal of these libraries is to provide a “comforting ritual” and healthy new focal points for families in order to reduce stress and improve the family dynamic. In this case, a troubled family is the context for group bibliotherapy, and benefits can be found both in ritual and in stimulated conversation.

Gavigan, K. (2012). Caring through comics – Graphic novels and bibliotherapy for grades 6-12. Knowledge Quest, 40(5), 78-80.

Gavigan advocates for the use of graphic novels in bibliotherapeutic practices by school librarians; specifically, practices that are performed “in partnership with guidance counselors and teachers”[78]). She states that “in doing so, school librarians will address [several] of the AASL Standards for the 21st-Century Learner” (78). She helpfully reminds the school librarian that graphic novels “are not a panacea for solving the challenging issues that teens face, [but that] reading about comparable experiences through the lives of fictional contemporaries can help to alleviate teenagers’ angst and let them know that they are not alone” (80). This article is also helpful for school and public librarians as it gives a topical list of suggested graphic novels for middle school and high school students.

Heath, M.A.; Sheen, D.; Leavy, D.; Young, E.; Money, K. (2005). Bibliotherapy: A resource to facilitate emotional healing and growth. School Psychology International, 26(5), 563-580.

The article presents a general overview of bibliotherapy and goes on to focus on its use and effectiveness with children. After defining the term and reviewing the history of bibliotherapy, the authors outline the stages of the bibliotherapeutic process. Taking a broad view of the bibliotherapy, the authors consider various professionals as qualified to practice it, depending on the severity of the issue that the child is experiencing. The article concludes with two sections that provide practical advice on selecting and presenting bibliotherapeutic stories to children. Also included is an appendix with a list of stories that could be shared with children experiencing various issues or difficulties in their lives. It is important to note that the authors have a school psychologist in mind as the practitioner, and librarians should be mindful when adapting this advice for their own purposes.

Iaquinta, A., & Hipsky, S. (2006). Bibliotherapy for the inclusive classroom. Johns Hopkins University School of Education.

This article discusses how bibliotherapy can be incorporated into classrooms that integrate students with disabilities. Bibliotherapy can either help students relate to characters with disabilities or help teachers find characters with disabilities to whom students can relate. It lists selection standards, including appropriateness, believability, inclusiveness, the demonstration of a character’s coping ability, and a satisfactory resolution; it also provides examples of texts that meet these criteria. Recommended for librarians who work with children in public libraries or school settings.

Jones, J.L. (2006). A closer look at bibliotherapy. Young Adult Library Services, 5(1), 24-27.
Jones traces the history of bibliotherapy, and delineates the differing approaches that mental health specialists and librarians take to bibliotherapy. She insists that both professional approaches have something valuable to contribute to the practice of bibliotherapy, and concludes with a call for librarians to partner with mental health specialists in the implementation and practice of bibliotherapy.
Kurtts, S.A., & Gavigan, K.W. (2008). Understanding (dis)abilities through children’s literature. Education Libraries, 31(1), 23-31.

The article discusses the importance of incorporating literature about children with disabilities into educational settings. Specifically, the authors’ aim is to help students and education professionals “develop empathy and understanding of diversity” (23) through developmental bibliotherapy. Kurtts and Gavigan list a number of studies that explore the application of bibliotherapy with students with disabilities, and share an example of a pre-service teacher’s use of a novel with a mentally disabled character to promote discussion and create cohesion in her high-school classroom. The article includes an annotated bibliography of literature containing characters with special needs (sorted by the name of the disability), as well as relevant websites. The authors make a helpful distinction between clinical and developmental bibliotherapy, and provide practical strategies that can be used by any librarians who work with children and youth. ▲ 

Knoth, M.V. (2006). What ails bibliotherapy? Horn Book Magazine, 82(3), 273-276.

In this article, Knoth states that what “ails bibliotherapy” is the assumption that a child can be given a topical book to match a difficult situation, and then have that situation made better through the reading of that book. Instead, Knoth urges adults and librarians to read widely with children so that when children are faced with difficult situations, they already have “well[s] of emotional knowledge to draw on” (275). She helpfully encourages children’s librarians to read “a variety of books aloud to children in the library and to incorporate some of those tough or sad books in story hours even when…[you] know that the funnier, less emotionally charged stories are the crowd-pleasers, the easy sell” (276). Knoth encourages children’s librarians not to “isolate the death books off in a ghetto with other issue books where they will only be found when a parent or teacher asks specifically for one” (276). Moreover, she asks children’s librarians to continue recommending “books to parents telling them why…they need to read all kinds of emotionally complex books to their children” (276).

Larsen, E.B. (2015). Stronger mental health for children and adolescents in the library. Paper presented at the 2015 IFLA conference. 

Larsen’s conference presentation at the 2015 IFLA World Library and Information Conference addresses a Norwegian project called “Stronger mental health for children and adolescents.” Sponsored by the National Library of Norway, the project goals are to collect books, graphic novels, and movies that concern mental health topics and are appropriate for young people, and to disseminate this information via a project website created through user consultation. The website itself is in Norwegian, but Larsen’s address would still be useful to non-Norwegian speakers because she describes how libraries can make bibliotherapy information more visible. The project might also inspire similar initiatives in other parts of the world.

Lu, Y. (2008). Coping assistance vs. readers’ advisory: Are they the same animal? Children & Libraries, 6(1), 15-22.

Lu’s study aims to document the “existence of the coping aspect of service in the public library and to explore what librarians have done to help children cope” (15). By examining data gathered from three southern California libraries, Lu discusses the importance of coping assistance, and its difference from traditional reader’s advisory services. The author lists typical questions asked of librarians by patrons looking for coping assistance, and provides practical suggestions for the establishment of coping assistance services for children. Children and Youth librarians would be particularly interested in this article.

Lu, Y. (2008). Helping children cope: What is bibliotherapy? Children and Libraries, 6(1), 47-49.

Acknowledging the lack of consensus on the definition of the term “bibliotherapy,” Lu proposes that librarians use the term “coping assistance” in order to “help patrons…cope with a multitude of special needs, feelings, and difficulties” (48). She calls for increased research on “coping services for children in public libraries” (48), and advises libraries to create policies that tell “librarians what they can and cannot do in various circumstances” (48). She also calls on the ALA to “consider guidelines and standards that distinguish clinical bibliotherapy from librarian-led coping assistance” (48). Although some may see Lu’s proposal of the term “coping assistance” as a failure to clearly define “bibliotherapy,” it is the use of this term that allows Lu to acknowledge the help currently delivered in libraries on a variety of levels. Additionally, it gives Lu an opportunity to chart a path forward for future librarians.

Matthews, D. A., Lonsdale, R. (1991). Children in hospital: I. Survey of library and book provision. Health Libraries Review, 8(4), 210-219.
Matthews, D. A., Lonsdale, R. (1991). Children in hospital: II. Reading therapy and children in hospital. Health Libraries Review, 9(1), 14-26.

In these articles Matthews and Lonsdale describe two projects that aimed to explore the nature of library services provided to children in hospitals across the United Kingdom. The survey shows that children in hospitals had access to a lot of reading material (as well as games and toys), but that the provision and acquisition of materials was often somewhat disorganized. The authors conclude that hospitals would benefit from the skills of library and information professionals. The second article looks specifically at the “reading therapy” for children in hospitals. Through interviews with medical staff, the authors describe various practices of reading therapy and the role of the hospital librarian. They argue that “librarians could make their largest impact on the development of reading therapy in the hospital setting by making potential therapists aware of its possibilities” (24). This article is aimed at hospital librarians but would be equally beneficial to all librarians who are interested in outreach to medical centers and who would like to promote bibliotherapeutic practices.

Myracle, L. (1995). Molding the minds of the young: The history of bibliotherapy as applied to children and adolescents. The ALAN Review, 22(2), 36-40.

In this article, Myracle places the history of bibliotherapy, as applied to children and adolescents, in the context of discussion about the history of children’s literature as a whole. Although her presentation of the history of children’s literature is limited in nature due to her citation of Cline and McBride alone, it adds a unique perspective that showcases the complexity and inter-relatedness of bibliotherapy and is useful for children’s and young adult librarians who seek a more well-rounded, child- and adolescent-specific perspective on bibliotherapy.

Prater, M.A., Johnstun, M.L., Dyches, T.L., Johnstun, M.R. (2006). Using children’s books as bibliotherapy for at-risk students: A guide for teachers. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 50(4), 5-13.

Basing their discussion of bibliotherapy in an American climate of social change and unrest, Prater et al. advocate for a use of one-on-one bibliotherapy in the classroom and cite the benefits and drawbacks of such work. They call for additional research to evaluate the effectiveness of bibliotherapy and for teachers’ collaboration in the implementing and practice of bibliotherapy. The following ten-step-process is outlined:
1/ develop rapport, trust, and confidence with the student;
2/ identify other school personnel who may assist;
3/ solicit support from the student’s parents or guardians;
4/ define a specific problem the student is experiencing;
5/ create goals and activities to address the problem;
6/ research and select books appropriate for the situation;
7/ introduce the book to the student;
8/ incorporate reading activities;
9/ implement postreading activities;
10/ evaluate the effects of bibliotherapy on the student. (7).
These ten steps are illustrated further with a case study. While the case study provides a helpful example of how to implement one-on-one bibliotherapy, several of the mentioned practices may be outside the legal or ethical bounds of the librarian. Thus, before implementing a bibliotherapy effort described in this article, the librarian would be wise to contact his or her supervisor or a respective library association.


Stressed out. (2007). School Librarian’s Workshop, 28(2), 14-16.
Darst, B. (2005). Literature as consolation: Books about loss, Part I. School Librarian’s Workshop, 26(1), 11-12.
“Stressed Out” recommends books for children and young adults that may help them alleviate their anxiety when difficult situations arise, stating that “bibliotherapy is one way to help everyone cope” (14). Darst reflects on the meaning and importance of books in children’s lives, and follows with an annotated bibliography of children’s fiction on a number of topics, including death, moving, and adoption. Both articles suggest recommending books to children for coping purposes, which can be beyond the professional purview of librarians who are seldom trained for this task. Read and implement with caution.
Ball, F. (1995). Special needs: meeting the demands for information and imagination. School Librarian, 43(2), 54-55.
Oliver, M. (2013). Storytime engagement for focus-challenged children. School Library Monthly, 30(1), 34-35.
Ball notes the increasing number of information and fiction books about children with special needs, and lists a number of examples of such publications. She briefly considers “books as therapy,” but emphasizes the need for the careful consideration of the reader’s needs before making a recommendation. Oliver shares practical advice on how to engage children with various focus problems during storytime. She maintains that listening to stories and songs is of utmost importance to children with these problems, and that some minor changes in the read-aloud set up can help the children to participate better in the experience. Both authors acknowledge the beneficial effect of literature on children with special needs, and suggest ways to help them enjoy it.
Caywood, C. (1995). Risky business. School Library Journal, 41(5), 44.
Morrison, J. (1996). Building self-esteem, coping with stress. Unabashed Librarian, 101, 32.
Darst, B. (2005). Literature as consolation: Books about loss, Part II. School Librarian’s Workshop, 26(2), 22-23.Caywood states that through book talks, discussion groups, and individual recommendations, young adults can be exposed to characters that demonstrate self-sufficiency and resistance to peer pressure. This may help them make better choices when faced with a difficult social situation. Morrison provides a brief list of books that aim to “offer positive support” to teenagers. Darst’s annotated bibliography includes books that deal with various forms of loss, such as divorce, illness, foster homes, and death. It should be noted, however, that while the books suggested in the articles may provide support, inspiration, and comfort to the teenaged reader, they should not be used therapeutically without appropriate training or collaboration with a qualified professional.


Jensen, K. (2014). TLT: Teen librarian toolbox [Web log].

This blog, created by Jensen and regularly updated by a number of teen librarians, is a “professional development website for teen librarians.” In addition to book reviews and programming ideas, the blog includes detailed descriptions of group readers’ advisory sessions and book club meetings conducted by the librarians in their branches. The librarians do not refer to their activities as “bibliotherapy,” but their discussions actively explore various issues of teen development through novels. The topics are often sensitive (sexual violence, body image, gender, etc.), but the authors keep from veering into the realm of therapy by focusing on the characters in the novels and allowing the participating teens to bring up specific details that speak to them. The website would be beneficial to librarians who are interested in ways of using literature to help with teen development without branding their groups as “therapeutic.”