Biblio-Therapeutic Book Creations by Pre-Service Student Teachers: Helping Elementary School Children Cope

Article excerpt

Many elementary school children may cope with difficult life struggles such as disabilities, abuse, loss, and identity issues. This article details original, student generated, biblio-therapeutic book creations and how this genre teaches positive ways for children at-risk to cope with tough life circumstances. Pre-service, elementary college graduate students created their own biblio-therapeutic books in this author's literacy course in order to demonstrate the home to school connection by heightening empathy skills. This author and professor, had students create coping themes they felt most compelled them in their own childhoods and/or were issues they felt needed to be explored in children's literature. Four, biblio-therapy, coping themes are discussed as well as students' originally created, corresponding lesson activities. Student reflections of this emotionally charged project report highly favorable results and are also reviewed.

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Elementary school children cope with many profound ecological or life space issues on a daily basis. Literature specifically designed to help children positively cope may be potentially very helpful as they struggle with their ecological challenges. Through biblio-therapy, children are afforded opportunities to learn appropriate ways of coping with their daily life situations as well as to recognize they are not alone in their struggles. Children learn positive coping behaviors to apply in their daily lives. This literary genre helps elementary school teachers in their classrooms to scaffold children's empathy skills and serves to bridge together the home to school connection.

This article details the kinds of biblio-therapeutic books created by pre-service, elementary college graduate student teachers in the greater western New York region. This author of this article is also the literacy professor for these college graduate students. In addition, college graduate students created corresponding lesson activities to facilitate content comprehension as well as social-emotional understanding for children to be non-judgmental of others. The students' reflections of this project were highly favorable.

This article will discuss four coping themes of biblio-therapeutic books created by college graduate literacy students as well as some of their corresponding lesson ideas. The information discussed will be supported by current and relevant research. As children need to learn how to more properly cope with daily life issues, providing these children with knowledge, skills, and appropriate coping behaviors may improve the social and emotional aspects both in and out of the elementary classroom environment.

Review of the Literature

Biblio-therapy provides positive ways to help children cope with potential stressful issues in their lives (Rubin, 2007) as the literature content information gives comfort and insight to aide children that may be experiencing similar issues (Cornett, 2007). Biblio-therapy is as a proactive intervention tool for at-risk youth. These kinds of books are wide-ranging and reach a broad audience of children having numerous, diverse needs with which to cope. Biblio-therapy involves using children's literature "to explore children's feelings about self-esteem, the experiences of living with a chronic condition, and the ability to relate to a main character with a similar condition" (Iaquinta & Hipsky, 2006, p. 209). Problematic home dilemmas or out of school issues may negatively affect academic and behavioral progress in the elementary school classroom. "Although much attention has been given to teachers' awareness of externalizing behavior problems, research on teacher awareness of internalizing problems such as anxiety is very limited" (Layne, Bernstein, & March, 2006, pp. 383-384).

Furthermore, these books may also shed insight into better understanding others that vary in culture, religion, race, heritage, etc. …