Education Opinion

Bibliotherapy Revisited

By Tamara Fisher — May 27, 2009 5 min read
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A few weeks ago I talked about the use of bibliotherapy with gifted students and how I was implementing the strategy with my 5th and 6th graders. Not long after that post, the kids finished reading their selected books and we had discussions on them. The 6th graders also each did a project to answer their questions. (I have less time with my 5th graders, so we only held discussions.) Just for a little quick review, these were the questions I posed to the kids:

* Who in the book do you identify with and why?
* What situations/events/problems do you identify with and why?
* Do you agree or disagree with the significant decisions the main character(s) made? Why?
* How did being gifted impact the character’s life? (in positive and/or negative ways)
* In what ways was the character gifted? How did you know he or she was gifted? (i.e. What, to you, were the identifiable characteristics?)
* What do you think are the messages the author is trying to send with this book? (Or: What do you think was the author’s purpose for writing this book?)
* Do you agree or disagree with the author’s message? Why?

(I made each of them a bookmark that had the above questions printed on it.)

They suggested that I add this question for next year’s kids: “What was the problem or challenge in the book and how was it solved or overcome?”

So now that the process is concluded, I thought y’all might be interested in a few reflections from myself and from the kids. One of the first things I noticed was how much most of the students loved the idea of reading a book with a gifted main character. I was actually a little uncertain about putting that prospect before them at first (maybe because this was a new process for me to undergo with my students, maybe because I’m always seeking a balance between helping them examine their giftedness but not overdoing it in the process), but I found them to be eager and curious to delve into the books, the questions, the projects, and the discussions. As a matter of fact, about half of the students even opted to read additional books from the list - not for extra credit, not for more work to do, but just because they loved the books so much and found the process of examining the gifted characters to be so interesting.

The students brought up some intriguing points during our discussions. Some of them felt that the book they read had only come from the angle that gifted kids had problems and struggles, that their challenges were over-emphasized in the book and that the great things about being gifted were barely illustrated. Others, however, felt that their books had done a great job of showing the myriad aspects of being a gifted kid - yes, the challenges, but also the triumphs and benefits. Some specific insights that the kids said they gained from the process were the following:

“I realized that someone can be gifted even when they’re really little.”
“I learned that it’s possible for a person to be gifted without knowing it.”
“I hadn’t thought before about it, but my book made me think about how people can be gifted in different ways.”
“My book’s message was that you shouldn’t take being gifted as something wrong or torture or a problem - you should take it as something that can help.”
“Being gifted has been good for me, but I learned that some gifted people can have challenges - it’s not always easy.”
“I realized that being gifted isn’t everything. Friends and the people around you are important, too, not just yourself.”
“Even though you’re different doesn’t mean you can’t follow your dreams. Just because others don’t understand your dreams doesn’t mean they aren’t worth pursuing.”
“Nothing is impossible if you keep working at it. Be persistent.”
“Don’t think people are crazy just because they’re different. They have a lot to offer the world.”
“Being smart doesn’t mean it’s okay to use your brains for evil.”
“When times get tough, try to get through them as best you can and not try to change the past.”
“I learned that even when you’re smart (or challenged) people should still just accept you for who you are - not for what you can or can’t do.”
“I realized you should stop hoping for things to happen and instead not give up on making them happen.”
“You should ask for help if you need it.” (a great realization to hear coming from a kid who has typically been afraid to let others know when she needs help!)
“Even though some people are different doesn’t mean they’re crazy or wrong.”
“I learned that being gifted and being who I am is an okay way to be!”
“I realized that the smart people who actually make a big positive difference in the world are the ones who pursue their talents a lot and also become really good people.”
“It helped to learn that I’m not so alone in being like I am.”

Intriguing to me was how, when it came time to have our class discussions on the books and the bookmark questions, it didn’t matter that every kid had read a different book. It was similar to when we have discussions on other topics where each student comes at the topic from their own perspective and life experience and has something to offer based on that. I found our book discussions to function the same way. Each student was discussing the questions from the perspective of the unique book he or she had read, yet no one seemed to have any trouble understanding what everyone else was talking about despite not having read the other books themselves. Of course, we were discussing the issues and the big ideas of the books (which were similar in most cases), not the details or the plots (which would be different in most cases). And discussing these big ideas from the books led us to discussion of the same big ideas in their own lives. It’s so fun to see kids being reflective! They are deeper than most people realize.

I also asked the kids to give me recommendations of books to add to or delete from the suggestions list. The most common request for addition was Artemis Fowl, so I have checked it our from our library to preview over the summer and possibly add to the list for next year. Thanks to everyone here who also added to (and in a couple cases deleted from) the list as well!

Happy reading :o)

The opinions expressed in Unwrapping the Gifted are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.