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The healing power of books and poems

The healing power of books and poems



by Luisa D’Amato

There’s something very powerful about the written word.

You’re struggling with something in your own life, and then you read a poem that was created centuries ago, or a few words of dialogue in a novel by someone on the other side of the world.

And despite the barriers of time, culture and space, they’re describing exactly what you’re feeling. Someone understands. You’re not alone.

Here’s a verse from the defiant, inspirational poem “Still I Rise,” by the African-American author Maya Angelou:


I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.


These redemptive words, from one of Angelou’s best-known poems, will be part of an innovative kind of therapy coming to Waterloo Region: Bibliotherapy, otherwise known as healing through reading.

Mandy Brouse, who is co-owner of Words Worth Books in Waterloo, is planning to start with sessions called “Shelf Life: Creative Bibliotherapy Workshops.”

The two-hour sessions will be intimate, with about eight people in each, and the topic for the first group is: “From Fear to Joy: Cultivating Resilience in the Face of Fear.”

As a bookseller, she has run book clubs for years, but this is different. Book clubs focus on the books themselves. In these sessions, the readings will be a jumping-off point for personal discovery.

People have been doing this informally for years, of course. Literary fiction is already known to foster empathy, and bookworms are proven to live nearly two years longer than people who don’t read.

Even six minutes a day of reading an engrossing book can significantly reduce stress levels, according to a study from Sussex University in England.

People know this instinctively, and turn to books for healing. Brouse has often been asked by customers for books on certain topics in the human experience.

“I know what people struggle with,” she said.








courtesy of the record

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