Bibliotherapy is a form of therapy that incorporates books, poems, or other literature. If you've ever been in therapy and a therapist suggested a certain book or poem, this might be why!
This week is the beginning of a series called "Picture Book Therapy Thursday" on picture books that can be used for discussing tough topics with children.
Books are a great way to help children understand their feelings, learn about differences, and begin to understand the world around them. This can start as early as toddlerhood with picture books! An extra bonus to picture books is the visual representation of emotions, interactions, and experiences. These can be jumping off points for all kinds of conversations with your little ones. Not only that, but it removes your little one from having to be the one with the heavy feelings or thoughts. Instead, by focusing on the stories of the character, you can discuss these feelings and thoughts without your child feeling put on the spot.
With that in mind, here are five suggestions from your friendly neighborhood author/therapist for picture books that can help engage your little one in some of life's biggest questions:
(Beaming Books, 2021)
Joanna Rowland is a fantastic author whose books tackle real-life issues. Big Bear was Not the Same discusses posttraumatic stress disorder and the effects that trauma can have on individuals who experience it and those close to them. In addition to Big Bear was Not the Same, her other books focus on tough topics such as grief, friendship when times are tough, and hope.
Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival
Tom Percival is another picture book author that takes big feelings and makes them relatable to children. In Ruby Finds a Worry, Ruby experiences anxiety and thinks she is the only child with this issue. Eventually she realizes everyone gets Worries and the best way to deal with them is not to ignore them, but talk about them. Not only will the story interest your little readers, but the art depictions of the Worry are fun and engaging. Tom has many other books focusing on social emotional learning in his Big Bright Feelings series, including Perfectly Norman, Ravi's Roar, and Meesha Makes Friends.
My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart
(Larrikin House, 2021)
This was one of my favorite picture books of 2021 (and apparently one of my daughter's also, since she made it read it 3 times on the drive home from the bookstore alone)! A young boy who loves pink and dresses and "things that aren't for boys" struggles to be himself when he doesn't fit in with his family and friends. Stuart's beautiful illustrations and lyrical prose open the door for inclusivity, diversity, self love, and acceptance. This book gives children the permission to "be themselves, even when it's uncomfortable."
The princess has everything she ever needs to make her happy until one day a fog settles over her and she can't seem to be happy anymore. The Princess and the Fog provides a fun, relatable look at childhood depression. An included guide in the back matter helps parents dig deeper on the topic. With realistic explanations of depression symptoms, Jones does a beautiful job of helping open up a conversation and foster understanding.
(Penguin Random House, 2021)
Bodily autonomy and consent are tricky topics to discuss with kids, but important none the less. Don't Hug Doug approaches bodily autonomy in a way kids can relate to-- with the concept of hugs. Doug doesn't like hugs, but his friends and family often insist on hugging him! This book encourages children to ask before touching someone and to voice their own desires about how they are touched. Instead of a hug, why not a high five?
There are so many other books that can be great therapy resources for discussing tough topics with your children or students. You can always visit your local library, email me for suggestions, or check out Clear Lake Children's Center's list for more ideas!
Check out my Twitter @bookshelfofbeth for a chance to win two books from this blog post!