Entering my office in the Fall, I felt the urge to clean, organize and rediscover tools that had been forgotten in the chaos of the previous school year. That’s when I re-discovered some of the therapeutic books I inherited when I joined the school, and those that have been donated by generous families. The difference it made moving the stacks of colorful, whimsical titles out of a classic bookshelf and into a more prominent location with categorized labels was dramatic. Suddenly, students were shuffling through the books, reading titles unprompted, and exploring the contents openly with me in-session, or as a break.
I was thrilled to see these books shaking off some dust and re-entering the hands of students.
This led me to consider, Are some of these books outdated? It depends. Some students don’t seem to mind the more antiquated references or themes, while others see all of the books as childish. Sometimes no matter how old a book is it becomes something of a classic, immortalized by ubiquitous relevance. What I realized is more important than my initial question, Are these books outdated? was What am I doing to continue to build out the school’s collection of therapeutic literature?
Now that I’ve had time to consider how this somewhat small reorganization prompted a shift in the resources students use and how I integrate bibliotherapy techniques into my therapeutic work with students, I want to share the rediscovered favorites, along with a few of my recent additions.
My Mouth is a Volcano By: Julia Cook, Illustrated by: Carrie Hartman
Julia Cook does artfully removes stigma and blame from topics that otherwise may feel accusatory for a child. A child with impulsivity who interrupts, distracts, and otherwise has trouble attending to one topic without experiencing ping ponging thoughts is presented by personifying the disruptive behavior as a volcano, instead of the child alone. Then, the book gives the child social awareness by others interrupting him, which is followed by processing with his mother that leads to understanding and skill acquisition.
Grumpy Monkey By: Suzanne Lang, Illustrated by: Max Lang
This book illustrates being stuck in a funk and not understanding why. There seems to be no antecedent to this grumpy state, but nonetheless nothing is enjoyable and those around you notice. The main character, Jim, finally forces an appearance that suggests happiness, but on the inside he does not feel happy. This is a digestible manifestation of faking it, or appearing the way that is easiest for everyone else, because Jim’s grumpy demeanor made his friends uncomfortable. This book teaches about social expectations and the challenge we all have when someone is not acting as they should. As social creatures, it’s a developmentally and socially positive response to wonder about others and try to help. Add the layer that gifted children often have heightened senses, or sensory experiences, it’s a relatable example of how one person can alter the energy of a group. Then, when that individual having an off day is unable to act as others desire, they become overwhelmed and may even get angry at their friends resulting in social isolation. The book ends with one of Jim’s friends sharing in the grumpy mood, and validating Jim’s feelings. The message is that it’s okay to have off days and bad days, but it’s important to let people have those days and hold in mind that it will pass.