We can all recall those long mornings, filling out paper work at the doctor’s office while stashing a tissue box under your elbow, looking up between the clock and the door to the examination rooms. Calculating it’s not worth staring at those two items, you might glance over to the magazine rack and pick up something to browse through. Now, what if, as your name was called, you brought the magazine in with you and could discuss what you read with your doctor?
What if all you needed was to get some rest and a cuddle session with a good book? Dr. Adiaha Spinks-Franklin, a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician from Texas, takes a bibliotherapeutic approach with her young patients when it comes to behavioral development. Dr. Franklin takes care of children with developmental disabilities, including learning and speech language disorders. In an interview with Dr. Franklin, she shares her own passion for reading and the importance of reading with children at home. But, not only is she focused on passing out popular children’s literature, she is careful to include a multitude of diversity in her collection. From her own experience, she shares “a lot of parents aren’t aware of the diversity in literature there is. It’s hard for parents of color to find literature that reflects their own culture, and diversity in genre from prose versus a graphic novel.”
A typical session for Dr. Franklin can mean showing parents how to use a book with children through modeling in the corner of the room. She shares, “discussing pictures and relating to prior experiences, making predictions, why is the cover the color, the name of the author and illustrator. You use the entire books as learning experience. That it’s more than reading the words on the page,” helps parents understand just how valuable literature can be for children’s developmental well-being. Dr. Franklin does not let the magic stop there. She has created a lending library where children can check out books from her office. When asked about her process for lending books out, Dr. Franklin said, “kids I see every three months for medication checks; [children with] ADHD, depression, anxiety, come and see me every three months. We talk about the book at the next visit. They also take home activity sheets. Many books have downloadable and printable activity sheets (word searches, mazes, build your own comics, etc.). They take those with them. They check out the book and its worksheet. Some parents join the discussion with us. It’s also a model for the residents at the medical center I work with to incorporate literature into medical visits.” Dr. Franklin opens the door for children to discuss literature, and she makes it a family matter.
Dr. Franklin also highlights the use of graphic novels in her work, sharing how graphic novels often have the same diversity in genre as traditional prose, but have higher levels of vocabulary because there are fewer words to get the point across. She also remarks on how the pictures help kids with their reading comprehension. Furthermore, graphic novels have been a great way to keep children interested and motivated to continue reading. Dr. Franklin thanks ALSC for putting out reading lists about peace, justice, and difficult topics, sharing they have been loved by parents. She notes that the Mismatched Pairs and Día lists have also been very popular.
Dr. Franklin is actively working to bridge the worlds of literature and medicine, while connecting with parents. She continues to urge pediatricians to encourage parents to read with their children and suggests that they have a variety of children’s books in the exam room, display several types of booklists from various organizations, and be willing to engage with parents about reading and the importance of it. A few of Dr. Franklin’s go-to lists are from American Library Association (ALA), Lee and Low Books, and Cinco Punto for their commitment to feature diverse literature, not only by culture, but also by genre. So perhaps next time you feel the sniffles coming along, grab a good book and let bibliotherapy be the prescription.
To print copies of the book lists created by Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), visit: http://www.ala.org/alsc/publications-resources/book-lists/
Today’s guest blogger is Sania Zaffar. Sania interned at ALSC and is currently a student at Loyola University Chicago finishing a degree in Special Education. She can’t wait to see how her future students will respond to literature that resembles their own lived experiences, something she did not have growing up.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.
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