|The author, an experienced public speaker, offers workshops and presentations throughout the Northwest on using children's literature as a resource to help children with issues and challenges facing them today.|
Why do you focus on publishing guides to the best children's fiction
for helping kids with issues and challenges?
We believe that good children's fiction is a valuable resource for parents, teachers, librarians and counselors. It is not a substitute for a caring adult or for traditional therapy where that is indicated. But for many children, fiction can make a difference in their ability to grow through facing challenges.
How can reading books help children cope?
If you can find a book dealing with a fictional situation similar to your child's issue, you can offer your child the reassurance that he isn't alone, that other children have faced the same problem and found ways to deal with it. Moreover, with books you can reach your child without preaching or lecturing.
Is this bibliotherapy?
Bibliotherapy is the use of literature to help children cope with changes in their lives. Some experts view bibliotherapy as the exclusive province of psychologists and psychiatrists. Others distinguish between developmental bibliotherapy (for normal life transitions) and clinical bibliotherapy (for especially difficult emotional issues).
Although traditional bibliotherapy may be carried out by a therapist, using fiction to help children isn't limited to that setting. It's simple common sense. As children read fiction and observe the behavior of the characters, they learn how to solve problems or at least that problems can be solved. A parent, a teacher, a librarian or a counselor who knows a particular child need not shy away from finding an appropriate fiction book for that child. Reserving bibliotherapy to specialists means foregoing a valuable tool to help kids with resources available to all of us.
How did you choose the topics?
I began with the issues that most children face. Then, I decided to include more difficult and unusual issues, ones that perhaps fewer children were coping with personally but which some children will deal with in their lives. Later, I became aware of the paucity of book choices featuring characters living with disabilities and chronic illness and included books on these topics as well.
As it turned out, not all of the topics I originally intended to include made it to the final version of Books to Grow With. The reason was simple. For some topics there weren't any books I could recommend.
How did you arrive at your book recommendations?
It's not easy to pick great books. We all know what leaves us cold and what makes us catch our breath with wonder, but in between there are lots and lots of books. There are explicit problem-solving books that are too direct for most children to swallow. There are books that are earnestly well-intended but will not captivate an audience of children. These books could not be recommended.
Certain elements, taken together, may make a book both enjoyable and enlightening. Some of the qualities that make a fiction book especially useful for helping a child include:
Why don't you include non-fiction?
The critical element in children's fiction is a child's ability to identify with a fictional protagonist. This is what subtly reassures him that he is not alone and presents constructive options in a way less likely to encounter resistance to direct, didactic instruction. Nonfiction can rarely do this.
Why do you specifically highlight multicultural books? Spanish language
We live in a rapidly changing world, in which the majority of children in a classroom in the United States may not be Caucasian or speak English as their first language. Yet all children need fiction to which they can relate. Many books, especially those published in prior decades, featured only children of a particular background. So it's helpful for adults to know this information about a particular book. For a child for whom English is a second language, the availability of a good book in his first language can be a great asset. It may mean that his family will be able to share the book with him as well.