Evaluation of the Gwent Child and Family Bibliotherapy scheme
18 months after the launch of the scheme, funding was secured by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) to evaluate the impact of the scheme upon professionals working practice in Gwent and the extent of utility by public and professionals. Book issue data from libraries indicated that the public were accessing the scheme surprisingly frequently. For example, over a period of 18 months, 1 in 38 of the population of Torfaen accessed a recommended book from a local library. This data does not include those individuals who bought a book from other sources as was highlighted in a professional focus group. The extensive use of the scheme suggests that bibliotherapy is a cost effective method for reaching the wider population who would otherwise not gain access to a professional standard of psychological intervention.
Professional opinion of the scheme was collated using questionnaires, interviews and focus groups. All Gwent professionals that were aware of the bibliotherapy scheme valued it as a helpful resource that improved their working practice with children and families. From their own observations and from the feedback they had received from families, Gwent professionals indicated that use of bibliotherapy by families had led to increased understanding of the child’s emotional and behavioural difficulties as well as improving communication for many of the families. This assertion is further supported by the feedback received from families in response to the evaluation methods. Families also commented that they found the scheme accessible and appreciated the style and humour of the books. Overall, the scheme is a valued resource by professionals and families and all indicated that they would recommend the scheme to other professionals or families. However, the evaluation highlighted the need for ongoing promotion as it seems that the main factor restricting the utility of bibliotherapy is poor knowledge about, and lack of awareness of the scheme. A quarter of professionals contacted in the evaluation were not aware of the existence of such a scheme. Several who were aware of the scheme had not used due to uncertainty of how to use it. High turnover of staff and non maintenance of promotion seems to have restricted the potential use of the bibliotherapy scheme.
The areas for development identified in the evaluation included regular revision of the booklist, expanding resources to include other media, development of a child booklist and wider dissemination of packs and books across boroughs. These recommendations will be considered in the further development of the scheme.