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Using Culturally Affirming, Thematically Appropriate Bibliotherapy to Cope with Trauma


Hurricane Katrina created a variety of issues that tested the resilience of families and children who were forced to relocate. This article describes the use of culturally affirming, thematically appropriate bibliotherapy as part of a long-term program to assist a group of elementary school aged African-American children cope with feelings of anxiety, displacement, and loss. This intervention provided a medium through which the participants could explore issues of isolation and the loss of their homes, family structures and a sense of security, while also providing academic and social supports.

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Correspondence to Pearl E. Stewart.

Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Reading Circles Book List

Carwashing Street, Denise Patrick, 1993, Grade Level K-3

Every Saturday morning, something special happens on Matthew’s block. When neighbors, cars, and buckets of water all come together on the hottest day of the year, a city street is a very special place to be.

Chicken Sunday, Patricia Palacco, 1996, Grade Level K-3

A family story of trust, love, and acceptance. After her own grandmother dies, a young Russian-American girl is initiated into her neighbor’s family. She and her “brothers” devise a plan to buy “grandmother” an Easter bonnet. They learn a lesson of respect and tolerance along the way.

Drita, My Home Girl, Jenny Lombard, 2008, Grade Level 46

Drita, a fourth grader who has just arrived in New York, is eager to make friends at her new school, but soon learns she is not welcomed by everyone. Maxie, who has a knack for stirring up trouble, is in Drita’s class and has a lot of friends.

Gloria’s Way, Ann Cameron, 2000, Grade Level 46

Gloria is best friends with Julian and his little brother Huey, and she has as much to say as they do. There’s the parrot that ruins the Valentine for her mother; Huey’s dog, who needs to be cured of his squirrel obsession; and what happens when classmate Latisha tricks Gloria, Julian, and Huey—but they don’t know until it’s too late.

Looking Like Me, Walter Dean, 2009, Grade Level K-3

When you look in a mirror, who do you see? Whoever and whatever you see– just put out your fist and give yourself an “I am” BAM! A jumping, jazzy, joyful picture book that celebrates every child and every thing that child can be.

MaDear Old Green House, Denise Patrick 2004, Grade Level K-3

An African-American child reminisces about happy, fun-filled summers at her grandmother’s house. She describes special times spent on MaDear’s porch, playing hide-and-seek, watching cars go by, and eating “messy watermelons/with lots of salt/seeing who could spit seeds/the farthest.” She also recalls learning to ride a bicycle and snuggling up in bed with cousins and whispering all night long.

Red Dancing Shoes, Denise Patrick, 1998, Grade Level K-3

A little African-American girl loves her new shoes so much that she is compelled to dance through her neighborhood, showing them off to her friends and family. When she gets the shoes dirty, she thinks they are ruined, but her favorite aunt restores their ‘magic.’

Shop Talk, Juwanda Ford, 2004, Grade Level K-3

It’s time to go to Solomon’s favorite place in the neighborhood—the barbershop. Join him as he guides you through the ins and outs of his local barbershop, and shows you that it’s more than just a place to get a great haircut. It’s a social club where friends meet.

Sunday’s Best, Juwanda Ford, 2004, Grade Level K-3

A boy tells about his daily activities and explains why he thinks Sunday is the best day of the week.

Thank you, Mr. Falker, Patricia Palacco, 1998, Grade Level 4–6

Trisha could paint and draw beautifully, but when she looked at words on a page, all she could see was a jumble. It took a very special teacher like Mr. Falker to find the key to little Trisha’s trouble with reading.

The Low Down Bag Day Blues, Derrick Barnes, 2004, Grade Level K-3

On a day when everything seems to be going wrong, from cloudy skies to the cancellation of a favorite cartoon, a boy discovers what a difference his attitude can make.

The Secret Olivia Told Me, N. Joy, 2007, Grade Level K-3

Can you keep a secret? Olivia has a big secret. It’s a secret that she tells only to her very best friend. And her friend promises she won’t say a word. But the secret is really big and juicy. What happens when a trusted friend slips and the secret gets out?

Three’s A Crowd, Gwendolyn Hooks, 2004, Grade Level K-3

Every Saturday Keisha and Val meet in the park. Then one Saturday, Val brings Mya along. Keisha is not happy! What will it take to convince Keisha that three friends can have even more fun than two.

Two Tyrones, Wade Hudson, 2004, Grade Level K-3

There’s a new boy in class, and he has the same name as Tyrone! The old Tyrone can’t stand it! What will he do?

Wings, Christopher Meyers 2000, Grade Level 4–6

Ikarus Jackson, the new boy in school, is an outcast because he has wings, but his resilient spirit inspires one girl to speak up for him.

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Stewart, P.E., Ames, G.P. Using Culturally Affirming, Thematically Appropriate Bibliotherapy to Cope with Trauma. Journ Child Adol Trauma 7, 227–236 (2014).

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  • Children
  • Natural disaster
  • African American/Black
  • Intervention
  • Trauma