Literature to Promote Socioemotional Growth



Jalongo, M.R. (1983). Literature to promote socioemotional growth. The Reading Teacher, 36(8), 796-803.

Through bibliotherapy, children can learn to listen and then listen to learn. They can develop reading comprehension skill and later use this skill to understand their own personal and social development in a better way.

Mary Renck Jalongo uses her article to explain how reading teachers can take the usual book discussion a bit further to assist with students’ socioemotional growth. She lists  themes within the literature to help deal with their personal hardships:

  1. Peer acceptance
  2. Family relationships
  3. Failures and disappointments
  4. Physical limitations
  5. Economic crises
  6. Growing up
  7. Handicaps
  8. Counteracting stereotypes
  9. Abuse
  10. Attitudes toward minories

She mentions an important point, that I never thought of – evidently adults choose heavier themes for bibliotherapy than the children seem concerned with – while we decide to do abuse, divorce, death, the students tend to want to talk about sibling rivalry, fears, or friendship.

Jalongo describes the identification, and catharsis, and insight process that we have covered many times, and she urges teachers to get involved with children to help with their troubles using literature framed in this structure. To implement bibliotherapy, she says to

  • effectively plan and prepare materials
  • apply appropriate selection criteria
  • consider the manner of presentation and assessment of performance for her specific students

Planning and preparation – The material must be a good match for the student. They should be able to identify with the character.

  1. Setting should be considered. Make sure the it is appropriate for the age/community.
  2. Decide which participants will be involved. Is this a group or an individual presentation? Is the material appropriate for all involved?
  3. Make sure everything is timed correctly. Check the material vs. age of the participants, and make use of current trends/hardships happening around you.

Applying selection process – Choose the material with care.

  1. Is this material controversial? Try to take the community into consideration, the age of the child, and whether or not the material would embarrass any individuals involved.
  2. Is the material credible or accurate? Can this accuracy help with insight?
  3. Does the book have literary value? There should be developed characters, interesting plot lines, and a style.

Presentation – The teacher should set expectations, guide the discussion, and help the children relate the  material to their own experience.

Jalongo encourages the teachers to keep a list of books that they work with, and at the end of the year, ask the students to discuss and share what resonated most with them. She urges this use of bibliotherapy to prevent the loneliness that comes from dealing with hardships.



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