Trauma-informed book choices and testimony and witness practices, when balanced with attention to healthy boundaries, can support the academic success of trauma-affected youth.
Stories that students can relate to open the classroom up as a safe place where trauma is destigmatized. Below, I provide several book lists and recommendations for how to confidently and effectively incorporate trauma-informed literature and share stories of adversity in your classroom.
Teachers have been using bibliotherapy for decades now to support the SEL of students. Recently, they've been finding bibliotherapy to fall short.
Now, educators are recognizing the power of trauma stories to destigmatize trauma, connect students to powerful themes of the human experience, and help empower students in their own recovery from trauma. These include stories shared by both teachers and students in a reciprocal process of testimony and witness, which goes beyond bibliotherapy to develop deep humanizing connection.
Keep reading to learn how to incorporate trauma-informed literature and testimony and witness along with some great book lists! Plus, stay tuned for more posts about what’s happening in classrooms connecting trauma-informed practices and literacy instruction.
Trauma-Informed Book Choices
Whether read aloud, read in book clubs, read as a class, or independently, books that deal with difficult subjects like incarceration, immigration, abuse, neglect, divorce, and the like, can be powerful tools in the trauma-informed network.
Trauma-informed books, or those that treat traumatizing experiences in age-appropriate ways and make them accessible to students, can destigmatize trauma, open up conversations about how to cope, give students the chance to discuss powerful themes of human existence, and may act as testimony in response to which students can bear critical witness (Dutro, 2019).
In my experience, a part of the trauma-informed approach is to destigmatize trauma, recognizing that adversity is far more prevalent than once thought and that humans who have experienced adversity are not damaged goods, but rather they are individuals with deep life experiences (Dutro, 2019).
What’s more, the traumas that some children face are more pathologized (treated as a disease in need of healing) than that of others, typically due to factors related to poverty and race. When teachers share both their own stories of adversity and literature dealing with life’s most challenging experiences, they can take the stigma and pathologized nature out of trauma and, instead, can imbue trauma survivors with agency.
Putting Language to Tough Feelings
Another aim of working with difficult subjects in the classroom is to give students language to conceptualize what they are thinking and a recognition that these themes of challenge are nearly universal, albeit uniquely individual. Teachers can use these powerful themes of adversity to develop a strong classroom community.
Where to Find TI Books
Trauma-informed book lists are all over the place right now. Below, find a list of resources I've checked out, including a huge list of diverse trauma-informed books from Latoya Nelso (@raising_resilience) to improve inclusivity in your classroom:
Trauma-informed books can act as testimony for students to normalize trauma. Also, when teachers reciprocate the vulnerability of trauma stories by sharing their own adversities, in ways they are comfortable with, they can destigmatize trauma and help students see adversity as universal, rather than damaging.
Trauma-stories and the processes of testimony and witness also help students put language to tough feelings and learn ways to cope with adversity. Take a look at the lists I've recommended and be sure that if you purchase any books, you do so from black owned bookstores (Latoya provides a great list in your padlet)!
My name is Erin E. Silcox. I'm working on my Ph.D. in Literacy Education, focusing on the intersection of trauma and literacy. I want to deepen our base of knowledge about trauma-informed practices in schools and help teachers apply findings right now.