Top 5 Children's Books for Bibliotherapy
In my work with children and families, I frequently use children’s books in session as a therapeutic tool. The technical term for this practice is "bibliotherapy."
Books can provide validation and normalize a child’s experience in a way that parents’ assurances sometimes just can’t. To a child’s mind, if something is written in a book, it must be true. Or at the very least, the topic must be important if it’s worth writing down.
Over the course of my career thus far, I have amassed my own small library of children’s books that speak to different childhood issues and concerns. Here are a few of my favorite books with topics and themes that apply to all of us, along with some reasons why you might choose to read each one to your child.
1. The Family Book, by Todd Parr
This book identifies and normalizes all sorts of families, including families with same sex parents, single parents, step-families, multiracial families, and more. Great for teaching kids that there is no “normal” and that all families are valid and important just as they are. Especially helpful for children who have expressed any kind of shame or distress about their family situation being different from or perceived as inferior to those of their peers.
2. The Way I Feel, by Janan Cain
I can’t say enough about how crucial a role emotional literacy plays in our ability to build relationships and express ourselves, both as adults and as children. This book is great for teaching kids it is OKAY to feel and express our feelings (even the uncomfortable ones!). Since this is a concept that many adults also struggle with putting into practice, the book can serve as a jumping off point for initiating important conversations between kids and parents about difficult feelings.
3. A Boy and a Bear, by Lori Lite
Teaching and normalizing self-regulation skills such as deep breathing can help to build a strong foundation of self-care, reflection, and insight that kids can build upon as they get older. Especially helpful for anxious kids and those that have a history of exposure to trauma, this book is a great introduction to relaxation skills for young children.
4. Llama Llama and the Bully Goat, by Anna Dewdney
The sad truth is that bullying can start as early as preschool, so it’s important for kids to understand what behavior is and isn't acceptable as they build their first friendships and relationships outside their own family system. This book is clear about what bullying looks like, while at the same time allowing space for forgiveness and reconciliation by the end of the story.
5. The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst
This book is all about secure attachment. Great for all children, but especially poignant when shared with kids who are experiencing separation anxiety, who are grieving the loss of a loved one, or who are in the midst of any type of life change that has them feeling disconnected from the important people in their lives. The central message of this book is that no matter what, no matter where, we are always connected to each other by an invisible, unbreakable string of love.
These are just five of my favorites, but there are many more therapeutic children’s books in my bookshelf that speak to a wide variety of issues and topics. May you (and your children) learn, grow, and enjoy each other’s company through the sharing of books such as these. Happy reading!