The Quarantine Guide to Bibliotherapy

You could probably guess, but there aren’t really children’s books about months-long quarantines or worldwide pandemics—not yet, anyway. Still, there are plenty of other books that can help your little ones cope during this new normal. We spoke to some of the McKay School’s bibliotherapy experts to give you some tips on your quarantine storytime strategy. 

Little girl reading a book on the couch.


Pick a Favorite 

Don’t overthink it: now might be the best time to pull out a family favorite, said Rachel Wadham, the senior librarian over the Education and Juvenile Collections in the BYU Harold B. Lee Library. “Part of what we need in this particular time is just that comfort. You know, the familiar, the comforting, something that takes us back to a simpler time.”

For Wadham, some of those comfort reads are Harriet the Spy, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, and Madeleine L’Engles And Both Were Young. “Just find a book that you love. Return to a classic favorite that you know you and your family love.”

If you don’t have some of those family favorites at home, your local library may allow you to check out e-books. Apps like OverDrive and Libby also help you check out e-books. And many authors are also doing virtual readings, a fun way to shake up storytime. 

Add Some Optimism 

Counseling Psychology and Special Education (CPSE) professor and resident bibliotherapy expert Melissa Heath pointed us toward two McKay School web pages about using books to build social skills. The first web page features a list of books, along with lesson plans and activities, about being optimistic.

One of the highlighted books was Gandhi: A March to the Sea. The book follows Mohandas Gandhi’s peaceful protest near his hometown in India. Though kids likely won’t be marching in large groups for a while, this book can teach kids about being an influence for good and a source of hope in their families and communities.
Little girl reading a book with a flashlight under the covers.
Another was Beautiful Hands, a book that reminds children that they have the power to do good and encourages them to remain hopeful. And for children with developmental disabilities, Communication Disorders (ComD) professors Bonnie Brinton and Martin Fujiki (now retired) recommended The Dog House and Knuffle Bunny Too, handpicked for their “well-defined story structure, clear language, rich emotion content, and engaging illustrations.”   

Reach for Resilience  

The second online collection focuses on books that help children build resilience. Kids can build resilience by seeking creative solutions to their problems. That’s one of the major themes of Harold and the Purple Crayon, in which Harold uses his purple crayon and his imagination to draw fantastic adventures until he finally draws his way back to the safety of his bed.

Is your little one struggling from limited social contact, lack of structure, or any number of quarantine side effects? Something Beautiful might be a good fit, as it follows a girl who is inspired by her teacher to see the beauty around her despite her rough circumstances. The accompanying lesson plan helps kids look for the “something beautiful” in their lives, either by spending some time outside (yes, the great outdoors!) or creating something on their own—purple crayon, anyone?

Although many of us are confined to our homes, books allow our minds to travel to new countries or even new worlds. So pick out a book with your child, build a pillow fort, and let the magic of reading transport you to a much better place than Earth circa 2020 AD.  

Writer: Anessa Pennington
Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922