Bibliocounseling is a delightful and super-effective way to use books in your school counseling program! It is an optimal way to support all students, lessen their struggles, and help them achieve their goals.
Bibliocounseling: Definition & Resources
Bibliocounseling is the practice of using of books, or other media, to teach social-emotional skills, such as conflict resolution (ASCA, 2019). This is descended from the 1978 definition of developmental bibliotherapy which was “employed by educators, librarians and healthcare workers [to] facilitate [life] transitions with basically healthy individuals” (Pehrsson & McMillen, 2017, para. 3).
Bibliocounseling is an effective intervention to use with all ages of students, from the little-littles all the way up to the ones that tower over you! From time to time, I meet skeptical high school counselors who don’t believe this practice will work with the older kids who are transitioning into adulthood…to which I always reply that the billion dollar audio book industry proves otherwise! And, what’s more, our brains are hardwired for storytelling! Humans have evolved over millions of years of storytelling, so the sound of the human voice telling (or reading) a story is a naturally soothing and instinctual way for a person of any age to learn.
On that note, here is a link to a social emotional learning presentation that I did for school counselors in Texas- it has a full resource list of bibliocounseling books that you can use in your guidance lessons, groups, and individual sessions! (Once you click the above link, just scroll down until you see the red bit.ly URL). Now, let’s look at some fun and helpful ways to use bibliocounseling in your program!
Bibliocounseling in Guidance Lessons
Honestly, if you all you ever did in guidance lessons was read and discuss a different book related to the school counseling standards you were teaching, your students would be set!! Yes, bibliocounseling is THAT powerful! In the spirit of the multi-tiered system of supports (MTSS) or response to intervention (RTI) models, guidance lessons are a tier 1 school counseling support. This means that all children in the school should be receiving these lessons. In this way, books are the perfect medium to communicate about sensitive mental health topics since they are familiar, reassuring and comfortable for students. The best way to do this is by following the steps below.
- Introduce the book in the opening of your lesson and ask the class what they know about this topic.
- Discuss the purpose for using the book with them in their lesson.
- Read the book aloud to the class. Some tips:
- If the book or selection is short, you can read it in its entirety.
- Don’t read aloud for more than 30 minutes (less for younger students). It is also fine to divide the book over 2 guidance lessons or just read a select passage or chapter that highlights your lesson standard.
- If there’s interest, let other fluent readers take turns reading aloud.
- You can even play a recording of the book to mix things up a bit more.
- After reading, help students process the book themes and relate them to the lesson standard/s by asking discussion questions.
Here is a resource that optimally uses bibliocounseling in a guidance lesson about stress management and another bibliocounseling lesson resource about hope & friendship.
Bibliocounseling in Student Support Groups
In keeping with the MTSS or RTI tiered models of interventions, counseling groups are a fantastic tier 2 opportunity to impact students through bibliocounseling! Much of the bibliocounseling work you do in the group setting is similar to the guidance lesson setting. The reason for this is that tier 2 just means increased frequency and intensity. So for your bibliocounseling intervention, you would increase frequency to 1-2 group sessions per week and increase intensity by having small groups of just 4-6 students.
So you’ve got some books and your group of kiddos, now what do you do? Follow these steps.
- Select a book whose topic matches the group topic.
- Read a few pages of it aloud in every session for just 5-10 minutes. Plan to finish the book or a chapter/section of it by the final session.
- Help students process the book themes and relate them to the group topic by asking discussion questions (examples in link above).
In addition, you can follow up the discussion with some pair work to apply the book themes. You can find this type of application work as well as many other group bibliocounseling ideas in my group counseling books, Get Your Group On.
Bibliocounseling in Individual Sessions
Finally, bibliocounseling is a wonderful technique to use in individual sessions with students. Help students process life lessons or difficult experiences by exploring similar themes in the the book and then relating them to the student’s situation/s. Like the group or guidance lesson bibliocounseling, you can do this through discussion of key points, or more tangible activities such as:
- Illustrating the book event that most reminds them of their own life event.
- Writing a letter to the main character with a solution to the problem in the story.
- Writing a note to a book character describing a similar problem that the student has in their own life.
- Role-playing (with you) a solution to a story conflict that relates to a similar conflict in the student’s own life.
Newsy & Noteworthy
- Super excited to announce that I will be presenting on Trauma-Informed Practices in School Counseling at the American School Counselor Association conference on June 28! Seattle, here I come!!
- Have you gotten your favorite teacher or school counselor their holdiay prezzie yet? If they are into working the side hustle, I’ve got a gift recommendation for you! School Counselor Side Hustle has everything your work bestie ever wanted to know about making extra money on the side, using their counselor or educator skills. We all know that the holidays are expensive, so if you know someone who needs a little extra 💰 and wants ideas on taking their side job to the next level (or inspiration to start a new one), this book is right up their alley!
- Look for an entire set of college and career readiness resources coming at you in 2020. That is one of my next big projects to start on as soon as I finish the crisis prevention guidance lesson curriculum that I’m finishing up any day now. More details to come!!
Wrapping it Up
That brings me to the end of my December post. Please leave a comment because I’d love to hear how you use bibliocounseling in your school counseling program! You can catch up with me again in January for my monthly counseling post that I share during the first weekend of every month! In the meantime, you can find out about my latest promotions, free stuff, or counseling adventures by following me on my School Counselor Stephanie Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest pages!
American School Counselor Association [Mumbauer, J.] (2019). Bibliocounseling: Mental Health Literacy One Story at a Time. Retrieved from https://www.schoolcounselor.org/newsletters/september-2019/bibliocounseling-mental-health-literacy-one-story?st=NJ
American School Counselor Association. (2019.) The ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs, Fourth Edition. Alexandria, VA: Author.
Lerner, S. (2018). Get Your Group On Volumes 1 & 2: Multi-topic Small Group Counseling Guides. South Carolina: Youthlight, Inc.
Pehrsson, D. E., & McMillen, P. (2007). Bibliotherapy: Overview and implications for counselors (ACAPCD-02). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.