Bibliotherapy for Gifted Children Grades 1-4

Bibliotherapy is an excellent tool to help young people learn more about themselves as well as to learn self-help skills. Bibliotherapy is a true asset for the gifted child. Here I have presented the background to bibliotherapy as well as why and how it is important. On the next page , Resources for Bibliotherapy, I provide a list of books that can be used for bibliotherapy with gifted children in the first through fourth grades.
Bibliotherapy is reading books with the intent of identifying with the character or storyline and then learning from the reading through discussions about the story and characters. Bibliotherapy is used in education or counseling, but is not a new concept. The use of literature in teaching and therapy is a concept that has been used since the first book was read or story was told. Folk tales were shared in order to carry on history and teach life lessons. Bibliotherapy can be used with all populations, in any setting and in every part of the world. It can be used in groups or with individuals. The strategies presented here are designed to be used with gifted children and in a gifted classroom setting, but can be adapted to be used with any class or setting. The goal is for teachers to be able to use the techniques and books with their gifted students without taking time away from curriculum and schedule demands. The strategies can be used with individuals and groups.

According to Moon (2002), “the most common counseling need of this population (gifted children) is assistance in coping with stressors related to grouping up as a gifted child in a society that does not always recognize, understand, or welcome giftedness” (p. 213). Bibliotherapy offers many good aspects to help gifted children overcome these stressors. Gifted children are known for their love of reading so bibliotherapy is a logical mode of getting information to the gifted child (Frasier & McCannon, 1981, p. 81). According to Robinson (2002), gifted children possess an early awareness of the events around them and are more attuned to their emotions compared to other children the same age. However at the same point in development, gifted children may not possess the necessary maturity, understanding, or problem-solving skill set to handle these early emotions (Robinson, 2002). Bibliotherapy can be very effective for gifted children and can be applied to many areas (Fisher, 2009; Frasier & McCannon, 1981, p. 81; Moon, 2002, p. 215) such as:
  • Preventing socio-emotional problems
  • Understanding giftedness and themself
  • Training in social skills
  • Learning problem solving skills
  • Solving personal and academic problems

“The real value of bibliotherapy is that it is a vicarious experience” (Frasier & McCannon, 1981, p. 81) where a child can learn and share in a non-threatening way. Children can read about a character that is similar to them or dealing with similar problems, and learn from the character’s actions and the story. The gifted child can read the character’s thoughts and gain insights on how others think. Gifted children often feel alone and that no one understands them. If the gifted child shares similarities with the book character then the child understands that there are others like him. Gifted children can use their imagination to explore different solutions to a problem without the fear of failure (Frasier & McCannon, 1981, p. 81). This ‘vicarious experience’ is also beneficial when discussing the story and the book characters. By focusing the conversation on the book characters instead on themselves, children feel freer to share feelings and discuss emotions (Evans, 2009).

Bibliotherapy can be customized to fit the needs of any classroom, population, curriculum area, or counseling area. The process used to select books used in bibliotherapy is important. According to Evans (2009), the book must meet the needs of the student(s), and the main character or storyline of the book must be relevant to the student(s). Bibliotherapy differs from just reading because books are selected by an adult to match areas of need in the student or class. Bibliotherapy is also coupled with a discussion during or at the end of the reading not just on the basics storyline, but on how the student relates the story or identifies with the character(s) in the book. This discussion allows the teacher to lead the student into thinking beyond the setting and storyline but into the lessons that can be gained from the story. The discussion should be peer centered rather than teacher centered if at all possible. Evans (2009) cautions that students should not enter into discussions and activities with the thought that they will be taught something but rather that they will discover things.

It is advised that after reading the books that the reader discusses the character and the story with an adult or in a group with an adult leader. The discussion can be free flowing or questions-and-answers. Basic questions that can be used to guide to discussion include:
  1. Do you think anyone in the book reminds you of anyone? Who and why?
  2. What parts of the book do you think are similar to your life or someone’s that you know? A situation, problem or event that you identify with?
  3. Would you handle the situation the same as the character in the book did?
  4. Do you think that the main character(s) in the book were gifted and talented? In what ways and how did you know?
  5. What do you think the author was trying to tell or teach the reader with this story and the character?
  6. Do you think the author succeeded and what do you think you learned?
  7. How could the information you learned help you in your life? Could what you learned help someone else in your life, too?

Bibliotherapy can use all types of fiction and nonfiction books. Short picture books are good for introducing a topic and having an immediate discussion about the book and follow-up activity. Longer or chapter books can be used overtime to explore a problem or character more in depth. It always allows more time to discuss topics, think things through and work to develop strategies along the way.

At the moment there is a lack of books available that address the specific areas of concern for gifted children with a young (aged 6-9) main character. My particular list of books is for grades 1-4. The books that I did list, that have a main character in this age range, were also written in a lower reading level. The majority of the books that I found contain main characters aged 10-12. My selection criteria for this list are based on the following attributes:
  • Reading level (including high level vocabulary and critical thinking skills)
  • Main character is gifted
  • Age of main character
  • Problems faced by the main character
To better help gifted children, more books need to be written about gifted children in younger grades that are realistic to the life of a gifted child. It is easier for a young child to relate to book characters that more similar in age.

To learn more about bibliotherapy, refer to the references and corresponding links given below.

For general guidelines for choosing books and reading books to children:

Fisher, T. (2009, March 15). Using bibliotherapy with gifted children (blog spot). Education Week Teacher. Retrieved from

Frasier, M.M. and McCannon, C. (1981). Using bibliography with gifted children. Gifted Child Quarterly, 25, 81-85. doi:10.1177/001698628102500207

Evans,K. (2009, March). Bibliotherapy: Integrating academics and social skillstraining (blog spot). Teaching WhatWorks. Retrieved from

Moon, S.M. (2002). Counseling needs and strategies. In Neihart, M., Reis, S.M., Robinson, N.M., & Moon, S.M. (Eds.), The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? (pp. 213-222). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press, Inc.

Robinson, N.M. (2002). Introduction. In Neihart, M., Reis,S.M., Robinson, N.M., & Moon, S.M. (Eds.), The social and emotional development of gifted children: What do we know? (pp. xi-xxiv). Waco, TX: Prufrock Press, Inc.

Sullivan, A.K. and Strang, H.R. (2002/2003, Winter). Bibliotherapy in the classroom. Childhood Education. Retrieved from

To learn more about Lexile Levels, go to the Lexile Level for Reading website: