« Back to blog posts

Bibliotherapy as Self Care

Category: Way of Living – Literacy

Date: April 27, 2021

Stephanie Affinito, a literacy teacher educator, joined us for a Wellness conversation about reading as a method of self care. She defined bibliotherapy, illuminated self care, outlined the benefits of reading, provided tips on how to start over our reading life, and gifted us many nourishing book recommendations.

What is Bibliotherapy?

From Merriam Webster, the formal definition of bibliotherapy is: the use of reading materials to help in solving personal problems. While this sounds like it refers exclusively to self-help books, bibliotherapy is more about intentionally cultivating a rich reading life, filled with any genre or topic that is pleasurable to read, because it improves your overall quality of life.  

Stephanie defined bibliotherapy as taking care of yourself through reading; selecting books that help you grow through whatever you’re going through. Curate your reading life by purposely selecting books that address your interests and needs, mindfully choosing books that are good for you.

Select books that can help you lead a better life even after you close them.

What is Self Care?

A way of understanding self care is by contrasting it to something we often associate it with, but is wholly different: self indulgence. Indulgence often follows periods of self-deprivation or restraint – after you follow an eating plan, you have a decadent dinner. Another example would be sticking to a budget, and then making an expensive purchase. These indulgences feel great in the moment, but they are not beneficial long-term choices. They do not bring you closer to the person you want to be.

Instead, self care nourishes you. It fuels you, positively affecting your social-emotional well-being, helping you to realize the best version of yourself. Prioritizing sleep, getting sufficient sunlight, exercising regularly, engaging in a creative hobby are all important forms of self care.

Reading is an effective, efficient, and gratifying form of self care.

Benefits of Reading

Research has shown that reading has myriad physical and cognitive benefits. Reading slows down our heartbeat, relaxes our muscles, and slows our breathing. We experience a sense of calm while reading. Self-reported stress sharply decreases. Because of these positive effects on our bodies, reading can lengthen life span up to two years.

Cognitively, reading enables us to obtain greater knowledge. It expands our vocabulary and sharpens our memory, helping to prevent the cognitive decline that can accompany age.

How to Start Over with Books

In order to start over with books, you need to change your habits. If you’re not reading as much as you would like, start to view reading as a priority. Find or make time to read books that truly matter to you – as little as ten minutes a day will do the trick. Also, always have a book visible because if you can see it, you have a tangible reminder to read it.  Be aware of how you use your space and where you spend your time, and place it somewhere you will see it: the sink, dishwasher, dresser, etc. If you read on your phone, move your kindle or library app to the homescreen, so that each time you unlock your phone, you’ll receive the implicit reminder that reading is something you want to prioritize.

Next, pay attention to your reading heart. Notice which books you are drawn to, the ones that call to you. Consider which books make you feel good. Be mindful of how your reading choices impact your emotional well-being and how you want to develop as a person.

Finally, community is instrumental to our well-being. Cultivate a reading community by sharing what you have read with others. When you share your reading life, you build connection and community, which we are all especially hungry for now, particularly after the past year. Start a reading notebook where you log the books you have read and record your thinking about certain passages, so you will be able to share with friends, family, or colleagues. Share through a medium that feels right to you; you can pick up the phone and call a friend or create a social media post and tag others. By becoming a part of a community in which you regularly talk about books, you have a built-in impetus to read, because the social aspect provides connection, accountability, and fuel to sustain your reading lifestyle.

How to Find Books That Interest You

To find books of interest, you can search for particular topics or genres on Google, reference sites with curated book lists (e.g. library lists), reference sites dedicated to readers (e.g. Goodreads), and use social media. Social media can point you in the direction of some great books, suited to your particular taste. #IMWAYR (It’s Monday What Are You Reading?) on Twitter is a friendly resource for finding books.

Stephanie’s Recommendations!

Antidotes to Anxiety:

  • Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel by Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul
  • Guts by Raina Telgemeier
  • The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben
  • Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
  • Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman
  • Sidetracked by Diana Harmon Asher
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  • You Go First by Erin Entrada Kelly

Fuel for Anti-Racism Work:

  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
  • The Black Friend by Frederick Joseph
  • Blended by Sharon M. Draper
  • My Name Is Not Refugee by Kate Milner
  • My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero
  • Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
  • Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Invitations to Escape:

  • A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage
  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
  • The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan
  • The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
  • Pilgrim At Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
  • The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

Sustenance for Creativity:

  • Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Craft a Life You Love by Amy Tangerine
  • Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis 
  • Little Brown by Marla Frazee
  • Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved by Jenny Han
  • What Do You Do With an Idea? By Kobi Yamada
  • What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer

4 Reading Insights to Remember 

  1. Books are patient. 

Whether you are a lifelong reader or a newly-voracious reader, books will wait, without judgment or shame. Whenever you appear, they are ready for you.

  1. Select books that will help you grow through what you go through.
  1. Remain an open reader. Lessons may come from books that you don’t expect.
  1. All reading is good reading, as long as you enjoy it.

Stephanie is the author of two education books titled Literacy Coaching: Teaching and Learning with Digital Tools and Technology and Leading Literate Lives: Habits and Mindsets for Reimagining Classroom Practice. You can find her online at stephanieaffinito.com and on Twitter at @AffinitoLit.

Other articles:

Parenting with Sanity and Joy

Way of Living – Parenting June 8, 2021 Sue Groner joined us for a Way of Living conversation about the joys and challenges of parenting. She shared her CLEARR method, emphasizing how respectful communication with your child can alter the dynamic in your home, making your child more responsible while you experience less stress. She…

Keep reading »

The Power of Notebooking and Journaling

Way of Living – Literacy June 1, 2021 Stephanie Affinito, a literacy teacher educator, joined us for a Way of Living conversation about the types, benefits, and joys of notebooking. She illuminated how notebooking is an activity that can be tailored to our interests, needs, and hopes, ultimately supporting us to grow closer to the…

Keep reading »

Entrepreneurship in the Fintech World

Work – Fintech May 25, 2021 Luvleen Sidhu, the Chair, CEO and Founder of BM Technologies, Inc., joined us for a fascinating conversation about digital banking, taking her company public, and the practices that keep her grounded. She inspired us to start over with both our understanding of banking itself and how to reframe daily…

Keep reading »

Dementia with Dignity

Wellness – Awareness May 18, 2021 Patti Wick joined us for a powerful yet sensitive conversation about managing the effects of dementia, after a loved one is diagnosed. Patti shared data as well as lived wisdom that can help us to start over our thinking about dementia itself and start over our approach with loved…

Keep reading »

Timely Tech Tips

Way of Living – Tech Date: May 4, 2021 Christopher Hobbick, an IT expert, joined us for an important conversation about how to successfully, safely, and easily start over our digital lives. He shared the details of his upcoming application for estate planning and then provided quick tips for how we can use our devices…

Keep reading »

Bibliotherapy as Self Care

Category: Way of Living – Literacy Date: April 27, 2021 Stephanie Affinito, a literacy teacher educator, joined us for a Wellness conversation about reading as a method of self care. She defined bibliotherapy, illuminated self care, outlined the benefits of reading, provided tips on how to start over our reading life, and gifted us many…

Keep reading »

Finding Hope After COVID

Category: Wellness – Care Date: April 20, 2021 Mark Shapiro, MD, joined us for a Wellness conversation about his experience with COVID as a hospitalist in Santa Rosa, California. He vulnerably shared the personal and professional impact of COVID, his own takeaways and broader advice we can all use to emotionally start over, cultivating preparedness…

Keep reading »

Divided No More

Category: Work – Integrated Self Date: April 13, 2021 Atif Iqbal, a certified leadership and personal transformation coach, joined us for an indelible conversation about bringing your whole self to work; starting over by integrating the personal identity into the professional self.  The Challenges Behind Working with Integrity  Many of us have a professional self…

Keep reading »

Picture Books Are for You, Too!

Category: Way of Living – Literacy Date: April 6, 2021 Pernille Ripp, a teacher, author and educational advocate,  joined us for a conversation about the robust merits of picture books for readers of every age. She invited us to start over our reading lives by seeking the books that satisfy our interests and curiosities –…

Keep reading »

Fifteen with Gene

Category: Wellness – Fitness Date: March 30, 2021 Gene Schafer, an athletic trainer, personal trainer, and founder of ARC Athletics, joined us for a Wellness discussion centered around simple, yet effective exercises we can do in a short amount of time. Our talk felt particularly relevant after the pandemic, which has disrupted so many of…

Keep reading »

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Category: Work Date: March 23, 2021 Sarah Stamboulie, an executive, transition and leadership coach, joined us for a Work conversation about how to professionally start over while remaining in your current occupation or place of employment. She offered advice about how to navigate career development and proactively create opportunities within your organization, while being aware…

Keep reading »

Standing Up to Anti-Asian Hate

Category: Way of Living – Pop-Up Event Date: March 25, 2021 Soyoung Park joined us for an impassioned, vulnerable, and urgent conversation about her experience with anti-Asian hate in this country. Soyoung is a Korean-American teacher educator and a scholar of early childhood. Her presentation was extraordinarily moving, enlightening and informative. It invited us all…

Keep reading »

Humor, Seriously

Category: Work Date: March 16, 2021 We continued our Work series with an informative, hilarious conversation with Jennifer Aaker, a behavioral scientist whose research focuses on cultivating a meaningful life. She shared with us how humor is endemic to professional success, social connection, and personal well-being, and how we can foster more of it throughout…

Keep reading »

Chocolate — Sweet Indulgence

Category: Way of LivingDate: March 9, 2021 Peter Moustakerski, an absolute chocolate guru, joined us for a wide-ranging discussion about chocolate, including its long history, production details, health benefits, ethical considerations, as well as where to find high-quality chocolate on our own. He also led us through a delicious chocolate tasting, offering best practices for…

Keep reading »

Executive Search in Turbulent Times

Category: WorkDate: March 2, 2021 Gustavo Alba, an expert in recruiting and executive placement, joined us for a conversation about positioning yourself in the current job market, partnering with recruiters, and the effects of the pandemic on hiring practices. He offered insider advice and context to anyone looking for employment –   Reflect on Your Strengths…

Keep reading »

Staying Pain-Free While Working From Home

Category: Wellness Date: February 23, 2021 We continued our Wellness conversations with Dylann Craig, whose clinical area of expertise includes orthopedic and sports rehabilitation, physical therapy with manual techniques, functional and corrective exercises, and neuromuscular re-education. With the drastic changes to people’s work setup over this past year, 50% of Dylann’s caseload are problems with…

Keep reading »

Nutrition Myths

Category: Wellness Date: February 16, 2021 Next in the Startover series, we spoke with Sydney Greene, a registered dietitian who specializes in nutrition for recovery from addiction, disordered eating, negative body image, and chronic digestive issues. Throughout our conversation, Sydney stressed that ultimately, food choices are individual and personal. Your eating habits can be customized…

Keep reading »

Breaking Through Financial Boundaries

Category: Wealth Date: February 9, 2021 Our first Wealth event featured the expert Justin Charise, a financial advisor who leads a comprehensive financial planning practice. He explained the benefits of working with a financial advisor, addressed our questions regarding the new tax plan, and shared tips for making sound financial decisions that are responsive to…

Keep reading »

Breathing With Bryan

Category: Wellness Date: February 2, 2021 We launched our Startover series with a conversation with Bryan Mirabella, a certified instructor in Restorative Breathing, Oxygen Advantage, and the Institute of Motion.  He offered simple ways in which we can change our breathing and shared how it can transform our sense of well-being. How to Breathe Breathe…

Keep reading »

Upcoming events:

  • Breaking Bad Pandemic Eating Habits

    Wellness - Eating Habits

    • What prompted Jiying to startover? How does one make a dramatic career change?
    • How can I break bad pandemic eating habits and get back on track?
    • What should I do when I’m tired of cooking and out of fresh ideas?
    22 JUN
    8:00 PM ET
    45 minutes
    With: Jiying Zhang
  • How Indigenous Worldview Can Change Our Future

    Way of Living - Culture & Values

    • Why is worldview reflection important?
    • How is our original Indigenous worldview different than what guides most cultures today?
    • Is comparing worldviews a dangerous binary?
    6 JUL
    8:00 PM ET
    45 minutes
    With: Four Arrows
  • Neighborhood News in New York

    Way of Living - News

    • What is your personal story leading up to when you took over Tribeca Citizen, a neighborhood e-newspaper?
    • How has it been to report during the past year, and what are some headline observations on people and businesses during the pandemic?
    • Looking back at your career, including at Tribeca Citizen, could you highlight a couple of interesting stories that you enjoyed covering?
    13 JUL
    8:00 PM ET
    45 minutes
    With: Pam Frederick

Stay Up-to-Date on Startover

Sign up to be stay informed about what is going on in the Startover community—new events, features and personal stories.