Therapy on a Page: Bibliotherapy Resources for School Librarians


My mother always tells me that I should write a book about my life. Why? Because I have experienced a great deal in a very brief amount of time. In this post, I share one of my experiences with you. It is not a pity-party share, either. As you read on, please know that I am well over the incident.

When I was about 8 years old, a man tried to abduct me while I was walking home from the bus stop after school. The police came to my house to interview me and to draw a profile of the man to broadcast on the news. However, the experience had traumatized me to the point that I was suffering from some sort of shock, and I was so scared that I could not even describe my assailant’s features. Because I knew he was still out there somewhere, for months I refused to go outside or to play with my friends. I transformed from a rather outgoing child who enjoyed singing and acting into a withdrawn, sullen version of my former self. Although I did not appreciate their insistence at the time, my parents eventually forced me to go outside again. When I did venture out, however, I stayed near the front door for a long time. They also had me see a counselor.

It took me years to feel comfortable in public and to walk down the street without fearing that someone was going to attack me. Today, I can identify the emotions that I felt. I was depressed, and I felt ashamed for being different from other children. My 8-year-old mind told me that counseling was for freaks and that a man had tried to kidnap me because I was strange.

Although I knew that the people around me loved me, I felt entirely alone even when they surrounded me. I thought that no one could relate to my experience. Quite frankly, I have never met anyone who was almost abducted. Think about it. How many people in the world endeavor to steal children?

So, what does this experience have to do with school libraries? This week, as I was watching the news, the reports made me think about my childhood. Research indicates that children can be too desensitized to violence to be aware of the impact of current events (Mrug, Madan, & Windle, 2016). At the same time, some experiences leave us without anyone in our immediate vicinity who has a shared perspective. In those cases, a good book can be therapeutic.

I have no idea whether a book could have taken my mind off of my predicament after my near abduction. I do know, however, that hours of sitting and contemplating a traumatic event can be highly unproductive. It might have helped me to know that other kids had had similar experiences or to have a book about a child in a situation like my own. After all, I have always liked to read.

In November, I wrote about a session that I attended during the AASL Conference called, “Unpacking Mental Health Issues in Middle Grade and Young Adult Literature.” (I encourage you to look at the list of books by topic that the presenters shared.) During the session, a presenter said something that really stood out to me: that when educators recommend books to students for therapeutic reasons—that is, when we introduce a student to a book with a certain character in order to facilitate the healing process—we have to consider their current state of mind. Is the student ready to read about someone in a similar situation? Or does the student need to read a book about a character who overcomes adverse circumstances? Such questions are important, because introducing the wrong book can be too much for a student who wants to simply forget his or her problems.

Personally, I have used the Bluford Series for therapeutic reasons. A few years ago, when I worked in what could be characterized as a tough neighborhood, I started a book club with my students to encourage them to read and to connect with them. I never could have imagined some of the things that my students told me about their lives during club meetings. I had students who were teen parents, in gangs, bullied, living in shelters, and subjected to domestic violence. Yet, reading about the characters in the books was cathartic for them. Along with teaching them traditional skills that they needed, the least that I felt I could do was provide them with books and resources that could help them to consider life’s possibilities and ways in which they could improve their lives.

I am sharing resources about bibliotherapy just in case you need them. There is a bibliotherapy handout embedded below. The professional development for August 2017 is listed as well. My favorite opportunity is the SLJTeenLive Virtual Conference. I am looking forward to the presentations.


Mrug, S., Madan, A., & Windle, M. (2016). Emotional desensitization to violence contributes to adolescents’ violent behavior. Journal of abnormal child psychology44(1), 75-86.

August 2016 Professional Development

Title: Edmodocon

Title: Google: “No Fail” Google Quizzes

Title: Cool Tools: Tools for Organization

Title: Classroom Management Tips for Kids and Adolescents

  • Organization: SimpleK12
  • Date: Tuesday, August 2, 2016 @ 10:00 am – 10:30 am EDT
  • Description: Teaching children and adolescents is incredibly rewarding when you can manage the classroom. A well-managed classroom not only leads to better student and teacher relationships, but also enhances the learning by reducing distractions and allowing more time for instruction and quality exploration. In this webinar, join Shelly Sanchez Terrell as she provides tips and strategies for managing a room full of young learners so that teachers can keep their sanity and meaningful learning can take place.
  • Link:

Title: Using Technology to Teach Pre-Reading Skills to Pre-K-2 Children

  • Organization:
  • Date: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 @ 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm EDT
  • Description: Join this webinar to learn how to use technology to engage young students as they learn the skills required to be successful readers. During this live, interactive event, Sarah Rich will show you how to help your students master the foundational skills needed to prepare them for reading. The session will feature many examples and valuable resources you can use no matter what technology constraints exist in your classroom.  This webinar will benefit PreK-2 teachers, librarians and administrators as well as reading coaches, literacy specialists, curriculum directors, and technology directors.  Sarah, a teacher and a trained blended learning expert, will share:
    • What blended learning is and how it is transforming the elementary classroom – specifically for students learning how to read
    • What the SAMR model for technology integration is
    • Five activities you can try in your classroom this fall to improve reading engagement and results
    • A walkthrough of the free Eyeread app for teaching students the skills required for reading (Attendees will be provided with a link to EyeRead!)
  • Link:

Title: Cultural Literacy Programs in Your Library: Connecting with Diverse Children & Families

  • Organization:
  • Date: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EDT
  • Description: Do you promote cultural literacy in your library? Would you like to learn more about planning programs and outreach services for diverse groups of children and their families? This webinar will help libraries establish a foundation for understanding how cultural bias influences services to diverse patrons. We will also explore strategies and resources for program planning and outreach. Presenter Jamie Naidoo will discuss how libraries can promote services and get community buy-in from specific cultural groups. Additionally, he will cover where to find resources for planning the best programs that celebrate cultural diversity and connect children and families from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Title: Online Conference- Become a Tech Ninja in 1 Day

  • Organization: SimpleK12
  • Date: Tuesday, August 9, 2016 all day
  • Description: The expert SimpleK12 “Tech-Ninja” trainers will walk you through, step-by-step, the best ideas, tips, and activities for your class. Sessions include:
    • Survival Tips and Project Ideas for Teaching with Technology
    • Copyright-Friendly Tips and Tech Tools
    • Igniting Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving Through Tinkering Labs and Mobile Technologies
    • Tech Tools for Sharing Student Projects
    • Tech Tools for Communicating with Parents
    • Create Engaging, Technology Rich Lesson Plans with an Amazing Free Site
  • Link:

Title: SLJTeenLive Virtual Conference

  • Organization: School Library Journal
  • Date: Wednesday, August 10, 2016 @ 10:00 am – 5:00 pm EDT
  • Description: Join this conference from the comforts of anywhere and get up close with the biggest YA authors talking about their upcoming books and hear from innovative librarians doing exciting work. With just a click of a button you can watch informative panels, explore a virtual exhibit hall, and download materials to help you update your teen collection. You’ll end the day inspired with actionable ideas to emulate and be ready to share new books with your teens.
  • Link:

Title: So Simple. So Slick. So Sway!

  • Organization: OK2Ask
  • Date: Tuesday, August 16, 2016 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm CDT
  • Description: You and your students can create and share engaging interactive reports, presentations, assignments, projects and more with Sway, a free app from Microsoft Office. This session will introduce Sway as attendees transform an outline to an engaging, modern presentation using Sway, Microsoft’s new digital storytelling and presentation app. Create presentations that focus on content rather than bells and whistles. Get up and running within a class period. Sway is accessible on any device, making it a perfect addition to your 1:1 initiative toolbox.  As a result of this session and through individual follow-up, teachers will:
    • Learn basic use of the Microsoft Sway tool.
    • Explore three different ways to use Microsoft Sway in the classroom.
    • Plan for the use of Microsoft Sway in the classroom. 
  • Link:

Title: ESSA: Meeting Students’ Needs Under Title IV

  • Organization: ASCD
  • Date: Thursday, August 25, 2016 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm EDT
  • Description: Join ASCD’s Government Relations team in an engaging webinar around meeting students’ well-rounded needs under ESSA. This discussion will provide information on how states are required to show how they are improving conditions for learning, including reducing bullying and harassment and addressing behavioral interventions that compromise student health and safety. You will also learn about
    • The programs that were consolidated and how their activities will still be supported;
    • The needs assessment districts must make to determine spending priorities; and
    • The percentages of funds districts must use on specific program areas like counseling and technology.
  • Link:

Author: Daniella Smith

Daniella Smith, PhD. is a former school and public librarian. She is currently the Hazel Harvey Peace Professor in Children’s Library Services at the University of North Texas.

Categories: Blog Topics, Professional Development, Student Engagement/ Teaching Models

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