Words Heal Individuals and Potentially our World

Words Heal Individuals and Potentially our World

Part of any efforts related to strengthening family ties is about making good use of existing resources and also learning about new ones. I recently sat down with Faiza Coleman-Salako, Founder and Executive Officer of Words Heal, Inc., to learn more about the organization and how their work can support sharing lived experiences and facilitating change when it is needed. 

Words Heal was founded in 2015. Coleman-Salako has a number of credentials under her belt that are perfectly synergized in this venture. She is a behavioral and social services librarian, with over 18 years of experience as an independent information professional and consultant. She is a trained journalist and educator who has a love for literature and the use of it to broaden perspectives and expand knowledge. She is also an African American woman and resident of the Chicago Metro area who has seen the personal and community chaos resulting from racism in all aspects of society, particularly in health care disparities. As a trained mediator, she was also fascinated and empowered by the field of bibliotherapy.

Aligning with Pioneers 

Words Heal is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to “bridge knowledge gaps in cultures that prevent access to needed social, medical and mental health assistance for people of color, people of faith, the elderly and individuals with disabilities.” They are proud to have recently reached a milestone, with 1,000 clients served. The organization honors the work of Dr. Sadie Peterson Delaney, an African American pioneer in the use of reading materials for therapy. Delaney worked in the New York Public Library, focusing her efforts on immigrants and “troubled” children. She received international acclaim using “every available means” to assist the mentally ill and disabled people at the Veterans Hospital Library in Tuskegee, Alabama. Her work was pivotal in demonstrating that reading relevant literature could improve or reverse the effects of illness on patients in the hospital libraries that she built.  To explain the improvements that doctors noted in a patient that she served, she once said: “Here minds long imprisoned by lethargy are awakened . . . And once again he is alive with enthusiasm and joy derived from the activity.” For her more than 30 years of service, Delaney received an honorary degree from Atlanta University and was named one of the 100 most important leaders of the 20th century by American Libraries. 

According to Coleman-Salako, bibliotherapy as a field is “as old as books” and has seen waves of popularity here in the U.S. and abroad. In the U.S., it is still widely used by school counselors but broader use is mired by confusion over whether it should be a field managed by librarians or mental health professionals. In the United Kingdom and Australia, there has been a tremendous rebirth with the use of bibliotherapy at a clinical level. There is no coincidence that in these nations, access to universal health coverage is a right.

Words Heal uses developmental bibliotherapy to address the issue of diversity and inclusion for the elderly, faith community, and persons with “invisible” disabilities (such as autistic adults) and as an effective tool for people in crisis. People of color who have a lack of information to make informed decisions about their physical and mental health can also benefit greatly from this tool. The organization believes that part of the effectiveness of bibliotherapy lies in the fact that not everyone is willing to seek professional help, but most everyone enjoys a discussion about a good book or media production. 

Programs that Support Specific Needs 

While it is easy to identify problems in the health and mental health care delivery systems, it is more challenging to develop solutions that are both comprehensive and cost-effective. Words Heal has struggled to keep up with the demand and recruit and train volunteers. Despite the challenges, they are providing a diverse array of effective tools for individuals and practitioners such as a Personal Librarian ServiceTM, recorded diaries, book recommendations, group discussions and readings, a private Facebook group for adults with special needs, and a Good News Recording Line to combat isolation and loneliness. In each instance, the goal is to help individuals and families utilize available resources to live productive and fulfilled lives.

Here are more details on the services that Words Heal provides:


The latest service through which the organization provides bibliotherapy is in the area of conflict resolution. Trained mediators assist people to amicably resolve disputes around issues such as caregiving for an elderly or disabled loved one, child support, long-standing marital disputes, and general family issues. This is called bibliomediationTM.

Personal Librarian ServiceTM 

Words Heal provides individuals and families with personalized recommendations for books or creative works that relate to their specific problems. Reading about the experiences of someone battling similar life challenges such as divorce, learning about a chronic illness or preparing oneself for marriage, can be empowering. Identifying with the struggles and seeing how other people’s choices worked out, can make decision-making around serious issues less daunting. Having a trained librarian working on your behalf helps sift through the ocean of literature and information to identify the best possible offerings.

Healing Stories 

Stories designed to provide insight and increase understanding can also be therapeutic. They continually recruit narrators and professionals to share experiences that relate to the communities they serve, and make them freely available on their website. Two examples are available currently on their website – Black Hair Health featuring Cozbi Cabera and Dr. Crystal Porter , and Racial Healing Bibliotherapy Session with Charlene Phipps 

Elder Diaries – Healing Stories and Helpful Tips

Words Heal produces works with seniors in mind in their podcasts called Elder Diaries: Healing Stories and Helpful Tips. Six episodes are currently online. These audio recordings are designed to provide bridges to overcome barriers such as cultural misinformation and crises that come with aging. The stories are touching and a window into the raw human experiences of elderly Americans, stories that can give inspiration and insights that can be useful to others. 

The organization interviews narrators – individuals and professionals that can speak to best practices – for these podcasts and for use with their Personal Librarian ServiceTM clients. Staff is constantly searching for stories of challenge and resilience. If you are age 50+ and have a personal or family story that fits this bill, contact the organization to find out how you can share it here. Contact information can be found at the end of the article.

Healing Books Blog 

They are working to expand their database that provides suggested readings for a wide variety of challenges that includes struggles with illness, loneliness, mental health crisis, racism, and crises of faith. They are currently recruiting volunteers to assist with book reviews and data entry to update the database with their list of over 500 books that have been recommended by professionals and the general public for use with an array of issues. 

Black Autists and Spouse Support Group 

Words Heal established a private Facebook group for adults of African descent who are or suspect they may be on the Autism Spectrum and their spouses. The Black Autist and Spouse SupportTM group is a safe, online space where information is shared about the latest research and participants can get emotional support and collect ideas for coping with stresses of everyday living with a disability.

Good News Recording Line 

Issues of loneliness are common for many people now, particularly those who do not have family members to assist and support them. Words Heal provides support in this area with a Good News Recording LineTM. Sharing healing words and words of hope can uplift a person’s day and literally change a person’s look at life. For this service, short recordings are made by strangers to give encouragement. It is a wonderful way to build community, mashaAllah, when assistance and support are needed.

Recording lines are established for 90 days for each individual and the organization has recently dedicated lines for a mother of two who was suffering from terminal cancer and an elderly Muslim woman with Parkinson’s who is challenged by the impact of the disease on her mobility and independence. Callers can phone the Good News line to leave an anonymous message - prayers, poetry, songs, words of hope - which can be listened to at the beneficiary’s convenience.

Sustaining the Effort to Meet Needs

The need for the support that Words Heal offers continues to grow. According to  Coleman-Salako, “the COVID pandemic has seriously damaged already fragile networks of support for many.” She is filled with ideas to improve existing offerings, develop new initiatives, and raise awareness about the power of a good story to heal. To prevent access issues for already vulnerable populations, the organization offers all of its services at no cost (using donation-subsidies) or on a sliding-fee scale. This is why she was quick to note that “big ideas require big money.” They are making the best use of the assistance from their dedicated board members, volunteers and donors, as they seek to hire more staff. Finding dedicated and passionate people is a continuing challenge.

Words Heal makes its way by sharing and caring about others. Their passion is to use books and media to decrease social isolation and loneliness. As we progress through our pandemic-era challenges, our families, communities, and world surely need more of the same.

For more information and to support these efforts, contact:

Website: https://wordshealinc.weebly.com/

Email: ​​admin@wordshealinc.org 

Phone: 630-923-5417 

To contribute to the Good News Recorded LineTM  dial: 309-328-4624


The subject matters are from within & are usually magnified by the degree of our relationship with our  Creator & Maker, from whom all things come. Your works of words are indeed commendable. How could I subscribe in Words & by Deeds?



As salaamu alaiykum Mr. Sabur, 

Thank you for your encouragement and inquiry. We would love to speak with you regarding ways that you can assist with our mission at WHI. Kindly email us at admin@wordshealinc.org or call 630-923-5417, we would love to discuss ways to get involved. 

BarakAllahu feekum!

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