Chatbots to Support Bibliotherapy in Promoting Resilience & Wellbeing in Children

Joseph Morning, Patrick McAllister, James Kerr, Mike McTear, Maurice Mulvenna, Karen Kirby, RR Bond

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Background The impact of COVID-19 and the ensuing lockdown highlights the need for mental health and wellbeing resources that can be accessed remotely. Storyteller is a parent-led digital bibliotherapy platform that contains a chatbot which guides the parent through the programme delivery. Storyteller is designed to improve emotional wellbeing in children aged 8-12. Storyteller contains issue-focused short stories for the parent to read to their child, with each story accompanied by a series of targeted questions to help initiate purposeful discussions about mental health and wellbeing. The current pilot study aimed to investigate the psychological impact on children and their parents of participating in a 9 session Storyteller programme. Methods Storyteller was developed on a React web framework using Google Dialogflow to develop the chatbot component. To assess the efficacy of Storyteller, a study was designed with a before-and-after stage. Parent-child dyads (n=77) were recruited across 5 schools. Participants completed 9 Storyteller sessions over a 3 week period. Each parent and child completed pre and post-intervention questionnaires to assess the psychological impact of the programme. The parent measure assessed parent-child closeness and the child measure assessed psychological wellbeing, emotional awareness, and resilience. The parent post-questionnaire was also asked survey questions relating to Storyteller system usability. Results In week 1 of the intervention, COVID-19 lockdown came into effect in NI. This had a significant impact on study completion rates, with 14 parent-child dyads completing the post-questionnaires. No statistically significant changes in parent or child scores were found, however this could in part be due to the small sample size and short timeframe. Despite not achieving statistical significance, a pattern was observed when comparing scores of children who completed <6 sessions and children who completed >6 sessions. Compared to the <6 group, the >6 group displayed greater mean-score increases in wellbeing, self-esteem, sharing of emotions, and analysis of emotions. Discussion Storyteller is an innovative and accessible programme designed to help parents support their children’s emotional wellbeing at home. Due to the impact lockdown had on completion rates, the psychological effects of the intervention could not be adequately assessed in the current pilot research. Despite this, comparing the mean scores pre and post-intervention indicates that more positive outcomes are associated with higher levels of programme engagement. Moreover, while lockdown hindered the evaluation itself, participants were still able to engage with the programme which highlights its value. Implications for future research While the COVID-19 lockdown had a negative impact on the current research, the flexible digital format of Storyteller meant that participants could still engage with the programme from home. Moreover, higher levels of engagement led to greater psychological benefits. Future work will include a larger study with parents and their children to further assess the efficacy of Storyteller.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 17 Nov 2020
EventPublic Health Agency: Annual Scientific Conference -
Duration: 1 Jun 2013 → …


ConferencePublic Health Agency: Annual Scientific Conference
Period1/06/13 → …


  • Bibliotherapy
  • chatbot
  • wellbeing
  • resilience
  • emotional awareness


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