ERIC Identifier: ED436008
Publication Date: 1999-12-00
Author: Tu, Wei
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading
English and Communication Bloomington IN.
Using Literature To Help Children Cope with Problems. ERIC
"Am I? Am I going to catch AIDS from Uncle Tim?" Dad shook his head... "I go
to Uncle Tim's a lot... I hug him. Sometimes we have dinner together"... "It's
safe for you to be with Tim," he said. "...Mom and I asked Tim's doctor how safe
it is for us to be close to him. The doctor said you can't catch AIDS just by
taking care of someone"... My Uncle Tim died the next day... "I wish dying was
like sunset"... "I wish Uncle Tim would come back again in the morning."
The paragraph above, from "Losing Uncle Tim" (Jordan, 1989), reflects a young
boy's confusion and sadness on learning that his favorite relative is dying from
a disease called AIDS. People in all times and places need to cope with problems
about birth, separation, illness, and death. Children cannot escape from these
problems. Through literature, children can perceive how others have encountered
and resolved problems that cause sadness, stress, fear, and uncertainty. More
importantly, children learn how to use conflict resolution strategies to deal
with these problems.
IMPORTANCE OF USING LITERATURE TO HELP CHILDREN COPE WITH
The use of literature to help children cope with problems can be an
important part of teaching. Through literature, children can understand that
they are not alone in encountering problems. In using literature to help
children cope with problems, teachers recognize that children today encounter
many problems and they can then better understand and relate to children's
feelings about these problems. Teachers can guide children in discussing their
problems more freely. Through discussion, teachers and children can share their
feelings, which will help teachers and children relate better to one another.
From the literature, teachers and children work together to find different
solutions for problems.
SUGGESTED CRITERIA FOR SELECTING LITERATURE TO HELP CHILDREN COPE WITH PROBLEMS
Burnett (1997), Huck, Helper, & Hickman (1993),
Ouzts (1991), and Rudman (1995) recommend that literature to help children cope
with problems should have these features:
* Be well written and appropriate to the child's
Provide stories using language familiar to children that is realistic in terms
of their life experience.
Honestly portray the condition and future possibilities for the characters.
Illustrations should also portray problems in an honest and straightforward
Present multidimensional characters experiencing legitimate and relatable
Offer potential for controversy.
Explore the process of working out problems.
Demonstrate clear channels of communication and responses to children's
Offer situations which generate genuine enthusiasm in the reader.
GUIDELINES FOR USING LITERATURE TO HELP CHILDREN COPE WITH PROBLEMS
Literature can be used as an effective tool to help children
deal with emotional and social problems. Through discussion of the problematic
issues embodied in the literature, teachers can help children grapple with the
issues presented. When using literature to help children cope with problems,
educators should consider the purpose of the learning task, decide who will
participate, and plan to relate the story character's problem to children's
lived experiences (Jalongo, 1983).
Susan Miller (1997) proposes the following guidelines for teachers using
literature to help children identify problems, and develop and implement
Identify --- Determine and discuss the problem. It should be meaningful,
interesting, and appropriate for children.
Brainstorm --- Encourage children to think about possible solutions. Listen to
and respect all of their ideas. Keep a record of the solutions suggested in case
the children want to try more than one.
Select --- Help children examine the advantages and disadvantages of various
solutions and then choose one that seems workable.
Explore and implement --- Let children gather the necessary materials and
resources and then, if it is feasible, implement the solution they select.
Evaluate --- With the children, observe and discuss whether the solution to the
problem was successful. If appropriate, help the children think of changes in
the solution implemented, or encourage them to explore new solutions.
RESOURCES FOR MATERIALS SELECTION
In addition to the
criteria and guidelines for selecting and using literature to help children cope
with problems, teachers should have access to resources for selecting materials.
Specialized selection sources:
Cecil, N. L., & Robert, P. L. (1992). Developing resiliency through
children's literature: A guide for teachers and librarians, K-8. Jefferson, NC:
McFarland & Co.
Dole, P. P. (1990). Helping children through books: A selected booklist.
Portland, OR: Church and Synagogue Library Association.
Rasinski, T. V. (1992). Sensitive issues: An annotated guide to children's
literature, K-6. Phoenix: Oryx Press.
ResilienceNet Webmaster: Information for helping children and families overcome
adversities. (1999). http://resilnet.uiuc.edu/ [1999, December 12]
Rudman, M. (1995). Children's literature: An issues approach. (3rd edition).
White Plains, NY: Longman.
Vanderbilt's selected list of bibliographies on sensitive issues. (1999).
http://www.scils.rutgers.edu/special/kay/bookssen.html [1999, December 12]
SELECTED ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHIES:
Children's books on death and dying. (1997).
http://www.penpages.psu.edu/penpages_reference/28507/285072304.htm l [1999,
Sullivan, A. (1993). Death in literature for children and young adults. Focused
access to selected topics (Fast) Bib No. 62. Bloomington, IN: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Reading and Communication Skills. [ED 356 485]
Smith, A. G. (1989). Reading guidance: Death and grief. Journal of Poetry
Therapy, 3 (1), 23-28
DISABILITIES AND ILLNESS
* Cothern, N. B. (1993). A
bibliography of children's and young adult's books about illness issues. [ED 355
Cothern, N. B. (1994). Healing with books: Literature for children dealing with
health issues. Ohio Reading Teacher, 28 (2), 8-15. [EJ 504 787]
English, J., Pyles, A. A., & Wicker, A. (1991). Drug education through
Literature: An annotated bibliography for grades K-6. Portland, OR: Western
Regional Center for Drug-Free Schools and Communities. [ED 338 937]
Kupper, L. (1994). A guide to children's literature and disability: 1989-1994.
Washington, D.C.: National Information Center for Children and Youth with
Orr, L. E. (1997). Exploring developmental disabilities through literature: An
annotated bibliography. Teaching Exceptional Children, 29 (6), 14-15. [EJ 549
Teasley, A. B. (1993). YA literature about AIDS: Encountering the unimaginable.
Alan Review, 20 (3), 18-23.
* McMath, J. S. (1997). Young children, national
tragedy, and picture books. Young Children, 52 (3), 82-84. [EJ 544 876]
SEPARATION AND DIVORCE OF PARENTS
* Rudman, M. (1993).
Books to help children cope with separation and loss: An annotated bibliography
(4th edition). New Providence, N.J.: R.R. Bowker.
Woodman, L. (1993). Annotated bibliography for preadolescents from divorced
families and their parents and teachers. Plymouth State College. [ED 360 621]
Books for children about divorce. (1999).
[1999, December 12]
Seattle Public Library: Children's books about divorce. (1998).
http://www.spl.lib.wa.us/children/divorcebks.html [1999, December 12]
Divorce books for children. (No date).
http://www.hooked.net/~franalan/Divorce_Assistance/books.html [1999, December
* Rudin, C. (1998). Children's books about the
holocaust. A selective annotated bibliography. Bayside, N.Y.: Holocaust Resource
Center & Archives.
Letvin, A. Z. (1996). Literature for children and young adults: Examining Issues
of violence and conflict resolution.
http://www.civiced.org/bibliography_violence.html [1999, December 12]
Banaszak, R. A., & Banaszak, M. K. (1997). Trade books for reducing
violence. Social Education, 61 (5), 270-71.
Using children's literature as a tool for problem solving is a meaningful way
for teachers to understand and help children with problems. Through the
exploration of stories, discussion, and reflections on their own experiences,
children can begin to perceive the complexities of the world in which they live.
Burnett, J. (1997). Opening the world to
children: Using books to develop problem-solving strategies. Portland, OR:
Annual International Conference of the Association for Childhood Education. [ED
Huck, C. S., Hepler, S., & Hickman, J. (1993). Children's literature in
the elementary school. Forth Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace.
Jalongo, M. (1983). Bibliotherapy: Literature to promote socioemotional
growth. The Reading Teacher, 36, 796-802. [EJ 276 258]
Jordan, M. (1989). Losing Uncle Tim. Morton Grove, IL: Albert Whitman Miller,
S. (1997). Problem solving safari - blocks. Everett, WA: Totline.
Mohr, K. A. (1993). Metamessages and problem-solving perspectives in
children's literature. Reading Horizons, 33 (4), 341-346. [EJ 462 347]
Ouzts, D. T. (1991). The emergence of bibliotherapy as a discipline. Reading
Horizons, 31 (3), 199-206. [EJ 421 420]
Riecken, T. J., & Miller, M. R. (1990). Introducing children to problem
solving and decision making by using children's literature. Social Studies, 81
(2), 59-64. [EJ 413 991]
Rudman, M. (1995). Children's literature: An issues approach (3rd edition).
White Plains, NY: Longman. [ED 379 684]
Digest #148 is EDO-CS-99-09 and was published in December 1999 by the ERIC
Clearinghouse on Reading, English and Communication, 2805 E 10th Street,
Bloomington, IN 47408-2698, Telephone (812) 855-5847 or (800) 759-4723.