Celebrating Black History Month - Remembering Pioneering Bibliotherapist Sadie Peterson Delaney

Posted by Bijal Shah on

This Black History Month (US), we celebrate the work of 20th century pioneering bibliotherapist, Sadie Peterson Delaney. Her work and dedication to bibliotherapy remain an invaluable contribution in this space. Here are some historical facts about her❤

Delaney started her library career at the New York Public Library in the 1920s. Delaney's extensive use of bibliotherapy in her work involved selecting reading material to treat patients and readers. She believed in giving readers individual attention, understanding their interests, pairing them with books that would engage them.
To choose appropriate books, she consulted with doctors and medical staff.

In addition to her work with books and bibliotherapy, Delaney developed many special programs for readers. She instituted book talks, monthly program meetings, story hours, and a variety of other clubs. She involved veterans in clubs and library activities, including those who were confined to their beds or unable to hold a book. Delaney also started the Disabled Veterans' Literary Society, which received acclaim from the Veterans Administration. In addition, she sang familiar songs and read poetry to help them feel more relaxed.

In the February 1938 issue of Opportunity magazine, Delaney explained her work with veteran readers at hospitals, saying, "Here minds long imprisoned by lethargy are awakened...And once again, they are alive with enthusiasm and joy derived from activity."

For blind readers, Delaney taught Braille, acquired talking books, and encouraged them to join her clubs and programs.

She was also integral in the development of an African American collection, routinely meeting with African American authors, helping them connect with other authors and publishers; and arranged artistic programs that included talks by scholars and community leaders such as W.E.B Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, William H. Ferris, George Edmund Haynes, Hubert Harrison, and Fred Moore. She also established the first African American exhibit of art held in the New York Public Library.

You might also enjoy the following articles:

Bibliotherapy: The Magical Healing Quality of Literature

How Can Re-writing Your Narrative Help You Gain Closure


And also our online course:

Bibliotherapy, Literature & Mental Health


A big hello and thank you for reading! Passionate about literature, psychology, and life I launched Book Therapy as an alternative form of therapy using the power of literature. I train mental health professionals, librarians, teachers as well as readers on using bibliotherapy in their own work through our online Bibliotherapy, Literature and Mental Health course. We also curate reading lists/personalised book prescriptions for clients based on their individual needs. This is our signature personalised reading service.

You can also check out Book Therapy’s other free reading lists and A- Z of book prescriptions (covering both fiction and non-fiction). These suggest books based on your existing life situation (e.g. anxiety, job change, relationship heartache) as well as interests (e.g memoir, historical fiction, non-fiction, crime etc). There’s also a Children’s A — Z of Book Prescriptions. Feel free to check out the blog for more literary gems. There’s also a post on my personal story of how I entered the world of bibliotherapy and book curation.

In this role, I have had the opportunity to publish a book called The Happiness Mindset, and write various literary essays and pieces for newspapers and magazines. I have undertaken bibliotherapy workshops for The United Nations, various libraries in New York and corporate organisations in the UK and US. My book recommendations have featured in the Guardian, Marie Claire, NBC News, Asian Voice, New York Observer, Sydney Telegraph and various other publications. If you are a parent you might enjoy a podcast I’ve recorded with speech and language therapist Sunita Shah on Raising A Reader & Storyteller. And if you’d like to connect, email me at bijal@booktherapy.io or www.booktherapy.io.

Book Therapy is a participant in the Amazon EU, US and Canada Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon.ca


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