Friday, October 21, 2011

Bibliotheraphy: An Introduction

Knowing Latin and Greek roots helps not only those planning to study medicine, but also people like me who like to create new words. While I did not coin the term bibliotherapy, I am a big fan of the term and the practice. For those out of the loop, "biblio" means book and in this self-help crazed society everyone should all know what therapy means.
In all seriousness, bibliotherapy can be beneficial to many groups of people. This article will explore how bibliotherapy can be implemented among three different age groups.

Most school districts devote a large part of their budget toward reaching at-risk students. This is done through prevention, but most of the attention is reactionary with reform and punishment. While bibliotherapy should not be the sole prevention method, some simple steps can be taken to implement a bibliotherapeutic environment (how's that for word creation?). The first simple step is the creation of a bibliography of books. Self-help books are not often found in junior high and high school libraries; however, there is not a shortage of fiction related to the issues that teens face: drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, parental problems, death, healthy eating, abuse, etc. The library media specialist can be in charge of creating this document or a group of avid student readers can take on the task for extra credit or community service hours. The bibliography should be easily accessible and visible to those students who visit the library.
Another simple step would be to start a book club. Students can read, study and discuss books from the bibliography in small groups, complete independent activities and use the books to discuss issues with their school counselor or outside counselor. This is a great option for schools that have after-school programs. It is also practical not only for junior high and high schools, but also elementary schools where small group interaction is more feasible.

In the Workplace
With all the disgruntled workers out there, bibliotherapy may be beneficial for employers wanting to create a more inviting, therapeutic work environment. Happy workers are more productive workers and most employers will see a direct increase in productivity because of this.
Bibliotherapy can be used when employees are facing difficult challenges at work, preparing for a presentation, dealing with coworker issues, and struggling to balance their personal and professional lives. Just as the bibliography in K-12 schools is visible and easily accessible, a work place bibliography needs to be the same.

The Elderly
I struggled to find an appropriate label for this section. I wanted something that would encompass all those undergoing drastic life changes due to age. As the elderly exit the workplace, reduce their responsibilities and adjust to this new stage in their lives, bibliotherapy provides a nonintrusive form of therapy for this population. In senior centers and nursing homes, more structured activities such as small group discussions will help the elderly make connections to the literature.

The Future of Bibliotherapy

What benefits beside psychological are realized with bibliotherapy? Tons, but one major benefit is a more literate society. While reading continues to be an area of weakness for students and adults alike, allowing people to read books that resonated with the issues in their lives will nurture a love of reading in most individuals. In the world of Reality Television, books have taken a backseat. Bibliotherapy could bring the world of literature to the driver's seat, or at least the front passenger seat!
As our society becomes more technologically savvy, bibliotherapy may evolve into mediatherapy. Those who utilize this type of therapy may not only read and discuss which is somewhat passive, but they may begin to express and create. This takes therapy to another level and allows for new ways of learning to take place. PowerPoint, MovieMaker, Glogster and other media-creation software and sites will be the tools of this form of therapy.

The world of therapy is expanding and growing. It is now possible to provide small-scale therapy in environments of convenience for the consumer. In addition, consumers may be able to express and create within their own environments.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My first post

As written in my profile information, I am beginning my freelance writing career. While I love teaching writing at the junior high and college level, I miss doing the act of writing. I like writing about anything: short stories, poetry, essays, news articles, etc. I'm a character writer when it comes to fiction, so I have a hard time telling the story; I just like inventing very complex characters. You won't see any novels from me anytime soon.
In addition to working as a junior high teacher, adjunct college professor, and mommy (hardly feels like work), I freelance as a writer for a business that does leadership training for women. I am excited about where my new career will take me.
Below is a piece I worked on for schools considering Student Assistance Team programs:
The Need for Student Assistance Teams Programs
At the end of each summer students and teachers anticipate the beginning of a new school year with a mixture of excitement and dread. The latter feeling due to the inevitable good-bye to lazy, hot days and extended time spent with family and friends. The excitement begins to build at the possibility of new friends, experiences and challenges. This feeling can be marred as quickly as excitement builds. Parental problems, poverty, eating disorders, substance abuse and other societal ills can wreak havoc on a young person’s academic success. While a student may have previously been an A plus student, the stress of these types of problems can affect this student’s ability to focus. While teachers may notice a student, he or she may not have the time or resources to intervene properly on a student’s behalf. In fact, it may take a team of faculty members to truly shine a light on the student’s problems.
Schools that have a Student Assistance Team (SAT), have faculty members who are dedicated to helping students. The SAT is usually made up of teachers, counselors, administrators, and other staff members. The team is usually small, three to four members, but includes many secondary members who are also dedicated to student success. This team relies on referrals made by staff members, usually teachers who have observed concerning behaviors in class, as well as, students concerned about themselves or friends. Once a referral is made, the team starts by identifying the presenting problems. Rather than diagnose or treat the student, they hope to help the student and intervene if necessary. One of the biggest successes of the Student Assistance Team is that students realize there are people who care greatly about them and their success.
While placing a Student Assistance Team in a school may seem expensive, the cost is minimal. On some campuses, members are compensated with a stipend; however, on other campuses the positions are completely voluntary. Members are encouraged to talk and connect with students, which costs nothing to the district. Since the cost is minimal one would assume that the reward would be minimal, but this could not be further from the truth. Some of the benefits include increased attendance, academic success and self-worth in students. In addition, decreased drop-out rates and substance abuse are also some of the benefits.
Despite the benefits, many school districts are reluctant to implement student assistance programs. This is true especially among rural school districts. Administrators in those school districts may feel that they do not face the same challenges as urban communities, but the Suicide Prevention Resource Center notes that suicide in rural communities remains higher than suburban and urban communities. Suicide continues to be the third leading cause of death in teenagers.
While the Student Assistance Team cannot prevent all suicides among teens, it can help to diminish the number by providing ongoing support and early intervention among at-risk students. In addition, if a suicide takes place on campus, the SAT is there to provide extra support to a crisis team and possibly prevent copycat suicides from occurring.
The Student Assistance Team does not require a large amount of money to start and maintain. Whatever costs are incurred by the school district are minor compared to the positive impact the program could have on campuses. While the focus of the SAT is prevention of many social problems including substance abuse and suicide, it also helps students achieve academic success and develop lifelong learning skills as students’ self-worth increases and they take responsibility for their learning. All of this is possible with a group of caring school staff members dedicated to helping students.