Blogger Liza Purdy

Trauma and Resilience in the Library

The last time I blogged here at ALSC, I started what I hope will become a series on Childhood Trauma, abuse, neglect, ACES. It is hard stuff to hear. Since writing that first blog post, I’ve taken part in training for mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect in the state of California, which further deepened my commitment to doing whatever I can to raise awareness in libraries of this painful and pervasive issue.

I have read two good articles in the past month on Childhood Trauma: A Child Trends article on implementing trauma-informed care to  build resilience, and a Harvard University Center on the Developing Child article also on resilience. The Child Trends article defines resilience as “positive child outcomes despite exposure to trauma, prevention of trauma recurrence despite high risk for further exposure, or avoidance of traumatic experiences altogether in the face of significant risk.” (Bartlett, 2019). In other words, resilience is the factor that keeps kids thriving even if they have exposure or the potential exposure to childhood trauma. Thriving children and families are the ultimate outcome of all of our work as children’s librarians! We want to do all we can to build up the factors that lead to resilience!

I believe that we are uniquely situated, especially in our early childhood programming, to help families build resilience to trauma. Our youngest patrons are our most at risk.  Bartlett states “Trauma exposure often begins early in life. Young children are at the highest risk for exposure to trauma and are most vulnerable to its adverse effects. An estimated half of all children in the United States—approximately 35 million—are exposed to at least one type of trauma prior to their eighth birthday. For example, child abuse and neglect are most common among children younger than age 3. Children under age 5 are most likely to incur injuries from falls, choking, and poisoning, and represent the majority of children who witness domestic violence.” (Bartlett, 2019).

Both articles affirm that one element is by far the most important in developing resilience to childhood trauma: the presence of “at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive parent, caregiver, or other adult” (Center on the Developing Child, n.d.). The Child Trends article identifies additional factors that we who work with children and families can provide to help support resilience (Bartlett, 2019):

  1. facilitating supportive adult-child relationships;
  2. building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control;
  3. providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities; and
  4. mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions.

In my mind, storytime and other library programming is a perfect venue strengthen those resilience building factors for our patrons. When I think about storytime, I think of a time when caregivers are physically and emotionally close to their children, where children are listening and responding and being listened and responded to, where they practice self-control and where caregivers and children alike are strengthened by social interactions. Additionally, what is more a source of hope than a good book?

Knowing the enormous prevalence of childhood abuse, neglect, and trauma, how better could we tailor our programs to address the needs of those impacted? How can we use our unique positions in the community to intentionally strengthen resilience?

Share your thoughts in the comments!


Bartlett, Jessica Dym and Kate Steber. How to Implement Trauma-Informed Care to Build Resilience to Childhood Trauma. (2019, May 9.) Child Trends.

Center on the Developing Child. (n.d.) Resilience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *