Books can help with a child’s social struggles

A new study out of the University of Cincinnati not only finds that parents feel responsible about taking action when their children struggle with social issues, but also that parents are influenced by their own childhood memories.

Jennifer Davis Bowman’s study examined parents’ use of what’s called bibliotherapy – using books as interventions for children who experience social struggles that may arise from disabilities such as autism or Down Syndrome.

Bibliotherapy involves books with characters that are facing challenges similar to their reading audience, or books that have stories that can generate ideas for problem-solving activities and discussions. Bowman says previous research found that bibliotherapy can improve communication, attitude and reduce aggression for children with social disabilities.

“The parents found that the same supports that were useful for leisure or academic reading were beneficial for bibliotherapy,” Bowman writes. “The parents felt that the strategies that improved reading comprehension, vocabulary and higher-order thinking skills would also strengthen their child’s response to the intervention.

“The parents also reported that their own feelings about reading literature were established when they were children, and continued into adulthood,” says Bowman. “Parents who loved reading when they were children worked on incorporating reading into their children’s daily routine. On the other hand, parents who were nonchalant about reading as a child were concerned that their own child would feel the same, and those parents reported that they went to great lengths to prevent that from happening.”

Parents reported occasions in which the children disagreed with the book selection, yet the parent was selecting the book as an intervention to address a particular behavior. Other challenges involved the child’s attention span during the book reading. Yet, despite previous research that parents were reluctant in getting involved in social interventions, Bowman says her research revealed that perceived challenges around bibliotherapy (such as modifying the intervention) actually strengthened the parents’ dedication and persistence.

Bowman says her research ultimately revealed that parents felt it was their responsibility to intervene when their child had social issues. “In order to maintain a healthy sense of responsibility, it is essential that parents access the social supports available for their children” Bowman states in the study. “Pursuing an open dialog with professionals such as school counselors, school social workers and representatives from parenting organizations would be beneficial in facilitating parent use of support services.”

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