Starting a Bibliotherapy Group

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Reading Some of My Best Friends Are Books, I came across a few guidelines for setting up your own bibliotherapy discussion group. Halsted gives these “rules” as suggestions only, and I will do the same here, as I am not a certified bibliotherapist. Still, these ideas are the basic tenants to structuring a discussion group for gifted readers, and are worth noting.

The Kids

  • Make sure the kids match the books. The appropriate kids should be together with the appropriate books.
  • The participants should be close in age, so the material and the thoughts discussed are appropriate as well.
  • The individuals should also be on the same ability level.
  • When selecting books for the group, the facilitator should chose according to the participants in the class.
  • If this a group which will meet in school, the participants should decide what to call it when referencing it to other students. They don’t want to ostracize themselves or the ones who were not chosen for the discussion.
  • Limit the group number to 6-8.

The Books

  • The books chosen have to be good-quality literature. It must present a challenge to bright kids.
  • The material must have the ability to move them, emotionally.
  • Read reviews from Booklist, or School Library Journal or the like to find good literature.
  • Buy enough copies for the group or allow them to purchase or borrow their own. Sometimes they like to have their own copy.

Place & Time

  • Privacy is important because of the discussion that will take place. It needs to be removed from other classmates/patrons
  • Try to not schedule it during a lunchtime or recess unless necessary.
  • Give the participants plenty of time to read. i.e. a week for elementary children, two weeks for middle schoolers, a month for high school students.

Discussion Questions

  • Give a book talk in the beginning to outline the material.
  • Discuss general crux of story – what is the basic problem, what would you have done, what effect do people have on each other in the book?
  • Base deeper “bibliotherapeutic” questions on these ideals: Identification (recognizing), Catharsis (feeling), and Insight (thinking).
  • Make a list of about 20 questions.

During Discussion

  • Make it understood that what is said there is confidential.
  • Encourage kids to share ways they have found helpful for coping with problems.
  • Allow the discussion to flow fairly unstructured.
  • Go over good discussion techniques.
  • Facilitator should not be too intrusive.
  • Help them focus on the motivations of characters, the book’s problem, and the solution offered.
  • Do a follow up activity, it helps them process. Journaling, art, role-playing, etc.

*All information pulled from Some of My Best Friends Are Books: Guiding Gifted Readers by Judith Wynn Halsted, 2009.

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