A new study looks at parents using books as interventions for children who experience social struggles, which may arise from disabilities like autism or Down Syndrome.
The new research explores the positive effects of reading as part of a parental intervention strategy for children struggling with social issues.
Jennifer Davis Bowman's study examined parents' use of what's called bibliotherapy, which involves books with characters facing challenges similar to their reading audience, or books that have stories that can generate ideas for problem-solving activities and discussions.
According to Bowman, previous research found that bibliotherapy can improve communication, attitude and reduce aggression for children with social disabilities.
The adult participants in the study were four caregivers who had concerns about their child's social behavior. One of the participants was raising a grandchild. The other three were biological parents.
The children involved in the study were three boys and one girl, ranging in age from 4 to 12.The majority of them had behavioral challenges associated with a diagnosed disability or disorder, including Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit
Disorder, speech impairment or developmental issues.
The adults received training on using bibliotherapy to offset negative social behaviors in children. Each adult also participated in three structured interviews to explore their experience with social interventions, as well as their own early childhood experiences with friends, family and reading.
They also were asked about their experiences in using stories as an intervention to negative behavior. The final interview examined parental views on social intervention and using bibliotheraphy as a successful social intervention.
Bowman said that the parents found that the same supports that were useful for leisure or academic reading were beneficial for bibliotherapy.
She asserted that the parents felt that the strategies that improved reading comprehension, vocabulary and higher-order thinking skills would also strengthen their child's response to the intervention.
Bowman explained that the parents also reported that their own feelings about reading literature were established when they were children, and continued into adulthood.
Parents reported occasions in which the children disagreed with the book selection, yet the parent was selecting the book as an intervention to address a particular behavior.
Other challenges involved the child's attention span during the book reading. Yet, despite previous research that parents were reluctant in getting involved in social interventions, Bowman says her research revealed that perceived challenges around bibliotherapy (such as modifying the intervention) actually strengthened the parents' dedication and persistence.
The interviews also found that parents could still vividly remember their own childhood struggles socially, and that these memories influenced their views on intervention strategies.