Collaboration Corner: Must-Have Books for Building Language and Literacy

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I can’t believe it’s September! For those of us in public schools, that means re-organizing and replenishing our bag of tricks. Books of course, are an easy and engaging way to expand language.

If parents are looking for some ideas on stocking up their bookshelves (or yours) this list may help.

I also rely upon my librarian colleagues for other ideas. If I can find the board book version of anything, I usually opt for that version; board books are durable and allow you to do things like add pictures with a little bit of Velcro for matching, like this:

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For very young children, or children with language delays, I generally use a couple (or five) quick pointers when perusing the bookstore:

  • Engaging pictures that aren’t too visually complicated but have a clear character and setting.
    • Targets: Who, what, where, when questions, descriptive language.
  • Books with repetitive words and phrases.
    • Targets: Oral/expressive language and literacy skills through  predictable text patterns and repetitive lines.
  • Books that aren’t too long, maybe 10-12 pages.
    • Target: Maximize engagement for short attention spans.
  • Books that can allow the adult to target core language concepts, either through text or illustrations.
    • Target: Syntax, vocabulary.
  • Books that enable the adult to expand beyond the text.
    • Targets: Commenting, labeling how a character feels or what they are thinking.

There are many books from which to choose, but here are some good starters for your collection:

  • Good Night Gorilla: Peggy Rathmann
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar: Eric Carle
  • Have You Seen My Cat?:  Eric Carle
  • Good Night Moon: Margaret Wise Brown
  • Blue Hat, Green Hat: Sandra Boynton
  • Where’s Spot?: Eric Hill
  • Go Away Big Green Monster: Ed Emberley
  • Big Red Barn: Margaret Wise Brown
  • Good Dog, Carl: Alexandra Day

Not every book on this list follows every guideline perfectly,  but all allow for a positive learning experience that supports child language and preliteracy development.

Have an inspired school year colleagues!

 

Kerry Davis EdD, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist in the Boston area, working with children who have significant communication challenges. She conducts trainings and workshops, and serves as a volunteer speech-language pathologist and consultant for Step by Step Guyana, a school for children with autism in South America. The opinions expressed in this post are her own, and not those of her employer.

 

Language Time with Curious George

 

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I can’t remember a time in my life that I didn’t love the character Curious George. He is a cute, sweet and lovable character with a curiosity that most children and adults can appreciate. Curious George books were originally written by Margret Elizabeth and her husband Hans Augusto “H.A.” Rey. They were first published in 1941 by Houghton Mifflin.

Curious George books are generally predictable, which can be an advantage for those children struggling with speech and language disorders including issues with narratives and sequencing. Already knowing and understanding the characters and the mischievous ways of George can help a child engage in each individual story and increase motivation.  In the more recently published books, there also includes a carryover lesson and activity. With so many Curious George books published (hundreds but I haven’t counted), it is easy to find a book for younger and older children depending on particular interests. There also are some e-books available, as well. I recently wrote an article on comparing e-books and print books.

Growing up with such a fondness for Curious George naturally led me to reading this series of books to my own kids and clients. I wanted to share some language tips in this article to use for the Curious George series. Language tips include:

  1. Expanding vocabulary: Within each book you will find new vocabulary to work on and define. For example in “Curious George Goes to the Chocolate Factory” discuss and define vocabulary such as “chocolate”, “treat”, “sale”, “factory”, “store”, etc. Words that many children do not know may include “truffle,” “caramel,” and “tour guide”.
  2.  Sequencing: Within each story, there are basic events that occur in a specific order. For example in Curious George Makes Maple Syrup, there are clear and concrete steps to make the maple syrup.  In order to work on sequencing, take some photos and upload them to sequencing app, such as Making Sequences.  With this app, a child can put the story in order and then retell you the story in their own words. Another way I work on sequencing is to use blank comic strips.
  3. Recalling information: Throughout the story, ask simple questions and help your child recall specific information about the story. For example, during Curious George Makes Pancakes, encourage conversation about George and his involvement in making pancakes. Why does everyone love George’s pancakes? Why is he running away from the chef?
  4. Describing: Encourage your client to explain what is occurring in the story. For example, in Curious George Makes Maple Syrup, encourage your client to explain to you how the maple syrup might taste and what a maple tree looks and feels like. If possible, bring in some maple syrup and a piece of a tree bark and ask your client to describe the feel and smell of the syrup and bark.  If you don’t have the manipulatives, search for videos or pictures describing what is in the book. For example, with the book, Curious George and the Plumber, I found a photo online to show my client what an “auger” was and other equipment that the plumber used in the book. It helped connect specific ideas with the book and make it more concrete and engaging for the child.
  5. Answering “wh” questions: Throughout the book, ask “wh” questions and encourage your own client to ask specific questions about the story. Work on pragmatics by staying on topic and taking turns within a discussion.
  6. Problem solving: There are many opportunities to problem solve during any story with Curious George because he is always getting into trouble due to his curiosity. Discuss the problem and ask your client to figure out what he might have done differently to deal with a problem. For example, in Curious George and the Puppies, George decides to let all of the puppies out because he wanted to hold them. All of the puppies ran out and now George had a big problem. Before you move onto the next page, discuss what George should do, etc.
  7. Pragmatics: George and his friend, the Man with the Yellow Hat, have a wonderful relationship. Although George is always finding himself in trouble, it is obvious that both characters love and care about each other. They have a mutual respect for each other which can be a great model for children. Also, the Man with the Yellow Hat always forgives George for his mischievous ways which can be great discussion for many children.
  8. Literacy and Reading Comprehension: Work on improving your client’s ability to read the words in the story and comprehend what they are reading. Another way to work on literacy is having your client draw a scene from the story and then have them write a sentence about it.
  9. Emotions: George and the Man with the Yellow Hat have many emotions throughout each story. Both characters are often happy and then sometimes sad, scared, confused and regretful. Describe these emotions and begin a discussion about them.
  10. Narratives: use a story map such as this one with the story. This story map was created by Layers of Learning. There are many other story maps available, but I liked this one….

Rebecca Eisenberg, MS, CCC-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist, author, instructor, and parent of two young children, who began her website www.gravitybread.com to create a resource for parents to help make mealtime an enriched learning experience . She discusses the benefits of reading to young children during mealtime, shares recipes with language tips and carryover activities, reviews children’s books for typical children and those with special needs as well as educational apps. She has worked for many years with both children and adults with developmental disabilities in a variety of settings including schools, day habilitation programs, home care and clinics. She can be reached at becca@gravitybread.com, or you can follow her on Facebook; on Twitter; or on Pinterest.

Best New Games for Speech Intervention

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I’m lucky to have enjoyed the unique opportunity to attend the International Toy Fair in New York City as a member of the press, viewing the exciting new products being introduced. After seeing hundreds of new games, toys and books, I shared my first impressions of what stood out, delivering language learning potential. Now that I have had a chance to catch my breath, the boxes are arriving with Ninja Turtle games and fuzzy chick puppets to review for my PAL Award (Play Advances Language). As speech language pathologists, we are a busy crew, spinning many plates at once–serving our clients, keeping data, attending meetings, planning therapy and keeping up with what’s new. Many of you have told me how much you appreciate my selection process and the products I recommend, saving you time, so here are my newest recommendations with descriptions on how I have found them to be helpful. As always, I love your comments on how YOU use them in new and creative ways too!

Animal Soup The Mixed-Up Animal Board Game! by The Haywire Group

Just setting up this game gets lots of giggles going as kids look at the pictured math showing the sum of a tiger plus a rhinoceros equals, of course, a “tigeroceros!” Preschoolers request that I read through each zany combination of animals before starting the game. Players make their way around the forest game board, which cleverly uses the box, as they land on different animals, collecting the corresponding picture card. Kids continually check the large reference chart of combined animals to see what they need to complete their “croctopus,” “birdle” or “squale”–(crocodile+octopus, bird+turtle, or squirrel+whale). Thankfully they have a “trade” option to land on so they can negotiate with a peer for the animal to complete their creature. Flip the two matching cards over, and you are rewarded with a hilarious animal soup combination. Two completed mixed-up animals wins the game. This game, based on the best selling book by Todd S. Doodler, can be used to further speech and language skills:

  • Articulation: repeat the goofy combined animal names, which I’ve found helpful in making preschoolers aware of moving their mouths and listening to include all the sounds in a word.
  • Practice negotiating skills as they realize cards needed for a trade and anticipate where their needed card is coming up on the board.
  • Follow directions.
  • Comparisons between the game and the book it is based on.

Suggested age: 3 and up. This is so popular with my preschoolers, they consistently request to play.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Clash Alley Strategy Board Game by Wonder Forge

Start your social language lesson as kids set up the 3-D game board, stacking boxes at different levels for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to traverse through the maze-like warehouse. A collaborative effort, players help each other to customize the board. An excellent introduction to strategy games, Clash Alley has many options to enhance the turtle’s success as they run, climb and leap to race to complete their mission, uncovering the card to rescue April, retrieve the AI chip, grab the Mutagen or even pick up a pizza! Earning and playing action cards are the key to successful travel across the board as your turtle can team up to battle villains–Kraag, powerful mutants and even Shredder–to collect spy cards to peak under a mission disk, swipe card to steal from another player, or Team Up, which allows two turtles to combine attack points to overcome a villain. The directions take a little time to understand but once kids got them, they couldn’t get enough of this game. Speech and language goals to address:

  • Description: I use this multi-leveled game of strategy in my group with higher-level kids on the autism spectrum and their typical peer play partner. I have my client explain the directions (which have many options for beating the villains) which can be challenging. The visual prompts of action cards and triple option dice help.
  • Social language: Learning to take turns and a group attack option to join forces with another player.
  • Academic language: Language of math as kids help each other add up attack points and have to determine what number is greater or less than another to win the battle.
  • Pretend play: Kids surprised me as they got into the game because even though they were competing against each other, there was a feeling of camaraderie against the villains.

Suggested age: The manufacturer says 6 years and up but I found the directions are more suited to 7 or 8 and up although you certainly can adapt this game to younger kids, since Teenage Ninja Turtles are so hot right now.

On the Farm Who’s In the Barnyard by Ravensburger

This farm set with characters, vehicles and animals is a puzzle, pretend play set and first game all in one. Open the barn like a book, identifying all the animals and objects from pigs, chicks and bunnies to tools and bales of hay. Talk through the illustrations on the outside of the barn with the fruit stand, conveyor with bales of hay and parked tractor. Kids love to snap out the windows and door as a puzzle experience so they can peer inside, or even play a game of peek-a-boo. Add the base and roof and you have a perfect house for your barnyard friends to practice your animal sounds as kids match and place your cut-out figures next to corresponding pictures on the barn. Take the play up a notch with a matching game as you switch game figures and others have to guess who moved! This set is so open-ended, I used it for several activities with 2 year-olds. Here are some speech and language skills to build:

  • Teach animal sounds, as you play with the corresponding figures.
  • Articulation. I had plenty of /p/ and /h/ words to model with this set.
  • Pretend play as the barn is built and animals can move in and out of the play scheme.
  • Verbs, and prepositions can be modeled as you play with this set.

Suggested age: 2 years and up. I’d say this is best for the toddler set. Excellent educational suggestions are included in the box so this is also a good product to suggest to parents who would like some assistance in how to encourage language learning with this toy.

WordARound by Thinkfun

I never knew reading in circles could be so much fun! Each round card has blue, red and black concentric circles, with a single word written in each ring. Players race to unravel the word and shout it out to win a card. Flip the card over and you will see what color ring to examine on the next round, searching for a word. With no beginning or end to the word, players look for patterns, prefixes and suffixes like “ant,” in “hesitant” and ” er,” in “finger.” I found myself looking for consonants to start a word, until other players beat me at “uneven” and “almost,” leading me to factor in initial vowels too. Some cards flipped over to present the word so I could read it easily like “porcupine,” which made for an easy turn. Starting anywhere on the ring and sounding out the string of sounds also brought results as players recognized parts of words like “typical.” WordARound is addictive, and watch out because little clients can beat you at this! I use it for:

  • Vocabulary: Discuss meanings and practice using new words.
  • Reading: Develop strategies to find words in the circle.
  • Articulation carryover for older kids.

Suggested age: 10 years and up

What’s It? by Peaceable Kingdom

What’s It? is a cooperative game where players interpret doodle cards and score points for thinking alike. Roll the dice with category options such as you love it, use it, wear it, don’t want it, or make up your own category. Flip over a doodle card, start the 30-second timer and play begins. Players record at least three guesses based on the drawing and category but try to think like their fellow players. This is where I was at a bit of a disadvantage, playing with 8 year-olds. They saw buttons when I saw a pearl necklace and they saw shark teeth when I saw a zipper! Players earn points when their answers match. I’ve used this game with higher functioning kids on the autism spectrum, encouraging more abstract thinking.

  • Calling up words in categories
  • Word-finding
  • Description

Suggested age: 8 and up

Qualities by SimplyFun

SimplyFun’s game, Qualities, is a natural language catalyst and a creative way to get to know and be known by friends. Up to seven players take turns identifying and rating certain qualities in themselves, while game-mates offer up their own perceptions. “Qualities” runs off of a Preference Board as players accumulate points as they match their assessment of player’s personalities to their own judgement. What gives you the most energy… going to the park, going to a museum or organizing? Lots of conversation follows as players defend their answers with examples of that behavior. Players rate the extent to which a player is “tolerant,” “cautious,””empathic” or “sympathetic,” to name a few. The trait and value cards were a vocabulary lesson in themselves.

  • Vocabulary
  • Language of persuasion
  • Explanation of how traits are manifested in a person’s actions or activities
  • Abstract thinking

Suggested age: 12 years and up. This game is great with adults too.

Disclosure: The above games were provided for review by their companies.

Sherry Y. Artemenko MA, CCC-SLP, has worked with children for more than 35 years to improve their speech and language, serving as a speech language pathologist in both the public and private school systems and private practice.

On the Brink of Kindergarten: Placement of Bilingual Students

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As a preschool-based speech-language pathologist in New York City, I get a number of bilingual children on my caseload every year. Many of them are sequential bilingual learners, with English being their second language (L2). It is also not uncommon for these sequential bilinguals to first begin to acquire their L2 here at the preschool. Speech-language and overall cognitive functioning of these children varies greatly, often a function of how much exposure to English they had to prior to preschool. During the Turning Five meetings, these students’ overall speech-language progress becomes especially salient.

At these meetings, I find that for some of our bilingual students, particularly the sequential bilinguals, the kindergarten setting recommended by the evaluation team tends to be smaller (for example, a classroom size of 12). This type of educational environment is often recommended for children with severe delays and disorders such as autism spectrum disorders, learning disability and childhood apraxia of speech.

During one of these meetings, a graduating student I will call Andy was described as extremely slow to progress and retain information. All team members agreed he requires a lot of support to comprehend basic in-context commands in therapy sessions and the classroom, and presents with minimal use of words. However, we also know that he is from a home where the primary language is not English. In addition, the student only joined the program at the age of 4, not at 3, which would probably have made a big difference. The speech-language evaluation in the child’s file indicates a severe delay in English (I bet I would be severely delayed in a language to which I had minimal or no exposure) but no mention of the skills present in L1. Communication with the family has been limited due to a language barrier.

There are many bilingual children in the New York City school system that follow Andy’s path. Hence, it should always be alarming to us, the educators, when a bilingual student in whom L1 is not English but there are no known global delays transitions into a kindergarten setting of 12. Additionally, a kindergarten special education classroom includes students with a variety of diagnoses and behaviors, with the more severely impaired students not providing a model for appropriate social skills and verbal communication.

So why do these students continue to get placed into smaller, more restrictive educational settings? Most obviously because of concern that they will not be able to function in a larger setting. But what could we be doing instead? Each child’s case would need to be studied individually. Specifically, we would need to review all the relevant cultural and linguistic background information starting at birth, such as the amount of L1 and L2 exposure in and out of home, history of speech- language delays, and the level of education in the family, to name a few. Other variables to consider are: 1) the amount of time that the bilingual student has spent in an all-English formal academic setting, 2) the presence of “problem” behaviors that significantly maintain the overall delays and reduce time the student is actually learning, and 3) the lack of sufficient, if any, L1 support (Spanish/ Bengali/Arabic) received in the school setting, including from an assigned SLP.

The latter one is of particular interest to me, as I am a bilingually certified English/Russian speech-language pathologist. However, I have little practical language skill to offer to my Arabic-, Spanish-, Bengali- or Albanian-speaking students. In such cases we, for the lack of a better word, “exercise,” our nonverbal communication skills and teach English as a second language.

Sure, an ongoing collaboration and a close relationship with the child’s family can potentially shed light on the speech-language and cognitive skills of the student. However, my experience has been that, due to communication barriers, the family yields little information that can guide me. Therefore, in most cases, I cannot reliably pinpoint speech-language deficits present in languages other than English or Russian.

This is an ongoing issue of inappropriate services to and settings for our bilingual special education students. Research is full of examples of typically developing bilingual students taking longer to learn and acquire L2 skills. This is even more consequential for children with special needs, whose speech- language and/or cognition is already delayed. Subtractive bilingualism is the term Fred Genesee and colleagues use in their book “Dual Language Development and Disorders” (2004) to describe this language-learning dilemma and the danger of “switching” our culturally diverse students to English only. According to the literature, the problem with monolingual (English-only) placements is that many of our already delayed bilingual children can’t “catch up” to their monolingual peers. Therefore, the all-English classroom setting of 12 carries a rather pessimistic long-term implication for overall academic success.

But what if every bilingual child with special needs received enough L1 support? Would that change the outcome? What if we had enough bilingual certified SLPs representing a variety of cultures and languages to help our culturally diverse students? Would the bilingual children still be placed into restrictive settings with no L1 support and with communicative interactions that offer few appropriate models? I believe that if these students received speech-language services in both the L1 and L2, they would make significantly more progress and at a much higher rate.

It would certainly further expedite their progress and make the instruction more holistic and ethical. Of course, today, more than ever, we have major problems with budget cuts that affect the number and the size of special education classrooms available to us, as well as the amount and the type of services we can offer. In fact, in recent years it has become much more difficult to qualify a child for related services even in the presence of notable deficits. Greater still is the cost of not delivering appropriate and culturally/linguistically ethical services to our bilingual children. We might be in far greater need of special education services years down the line when trying to remediate difficulties that were further compromised due to lack of appropriate language support. Just something to think about!

Natalie Romanchukevich, MS, CCC-SLP, is a bilingual Russian speech-language pathologist at the Children’s Center for Early Learning in New York City. This post is adapted from a guest post Natalie Romanchukevich wrote for Tatyana Elleseff’s blog Smart Speech Therapy. Natalie can be reached at natalieslp@gmail.com.

Toddler Talking Points

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Toddlers are some of my favorite people—they explore with abandon, imitate pirates and fairies, refuse with gusto, stack, dump and search, communicate with persistence, and give enthusiastic hugs with sloppy kisses. So why would we get in their way? One of the most common mistakes I see parents make with their toddlers is to ask too many questions, which actually inhibits their language.

I arrived at a home this week, to evaluate an 18-month-old boy, whose mom was concerned he was delayed in talking. As our play session progressed, it was apparent that he wasn’t far behind, using many words meaningfully in his little world, like “milk,” “ball,” and “car.” When I watched his mother interact with him, she was questioning him with, “What’s that?” or “Can you say ‘book’?” I gently suggested that when we ask too many questions, especially for the child to perform, it is not natural and many times the child clams up. They are smarter than you think and can feel the pressure.

Rather than questioning, model a word, phrase or sentence related to what your toddler is doing at the time. When we talk about what she is focusing on, she can take in more language since it relates to her experience. When she chooses a book, simply say, “Book. Let’s read our book. This book is about the beach.”

Joining your child’s play, following their lead and talking about what they are playing with can boost their language development. Selecting appropriate toys for learning at this stage engages the child and builds cognitive and language skills. Pretend play begins to emerge at around 1 year of age and progresses as a child imitates the adults around him. At one year of age, a teddy bear, cup, spoon, and blanket can encourage a little story, while a two year-old will enjoy pushing a fire truck into the station.

Look for toys that have a few related props for open-ended play that your child can direct. Playmobil’s 1.2.3 sets are geared for toddlers, providing simpler chunky figures that only take a twist to sit them down, or ride on an animal. The Playmobil 1.2.3. Large Zoo comes with fence sections to enclose the animals, a tractor and detachable trailer to deliver the food, and plenty of people, including mom and baby to chat on a park bench.

Doll play encourages dialogue and imagination as children care for and take their friend out on activities. Corolle‘s premier dolls, geared for age appropriate play from infant and up, has just introduced a new doll that loves the water,

Bébé Bath & Accessories.” Pack up for a snorkeling adventure in the tub, complete with floaties, flippers and a snorkel mask!

Thinkfun’s “Hello Sunshine” joins their first toddler game, “Roll ‘n Play” which was popular with toddlers and their moms last year. I am more frequently asked for toy suggestions by parents of toddlers than any other age, which might explain why these simple starter games provide more structure for parents and caregivers who appreciate some guidance on where to start their play. Hide the plush Sunshine ball according to picture cards depicting positions such as in a box or on top of your head!

Flexible, multi-use toys are my favorites as HABA’s Arranging Game My Animal Friends can be a flat puzzle of 17 interlocking, brightly colored wooden pieces or a three-dimensional story making houses, bridges, or towers while stars, a fence, bridge and grass provide the backdrop for a cat, dog, mouse, frog, ladybug, and bee to carry on with the storytelling.

WOW Fire Rescue Rory is a parent’ s dream because it has only four pieces but so much potential for creative play. The helicopter is powered by kids, pulling the trigger, activating the friction motors to fly to the rescue. A casted figure slips into the stretcher to be scooped up by Rory thanks to a magnet system. Kids love to transport the injured person and release him to a doctor’s care. The story is totally up to the child as they add on doctors, hospitals and helpers.
Finally, an excellent resource for parents is “My Toddler Talks, Strategies and Activities to Promote Your Child’s Language Development” by Kimberly Scanlon, MA, CCC-SLP.

So come along side your toddlers and enter into her play, following her lead as she builds a town for her ladybug and bee, feeds the zoo animals, goes for a swim, searches for an injured friend, or delights in finding a little sunshine.
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. The above products were provided by their companies for review.

Sherry Y. Artemenko MA, CCC-SLP, has worked with children for more than 35 years to improve their speech and language, serving as a speech language pathologist in both the public and private school systems and private practice.

My Baby Can Play: How Productive Play Promotes Literacy

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My Baby Can Read…Play: How Productive Play Promotes Literacy

If you pay attention to the current toys, television shows, and materials for children like Your Baby Can Read! you should notice a cultural shift to the promotion of literacy, especially early literacy skills.  From older shows such as Sesame Street and Between the Lions to newer shows such as WordGirl, WordWorld, and Super Why! we see the push for phonological awareness skills and reading skills, which encompass rhyming, letter/sound naming and identification, sound segmenting and blending, and so on.

The available research clearly shows the importance of promoting literacy skills early, and the overall consensus is that oral language provides the building blocks for literacy.  So if oral language is the foundation, and if we achieve language through quality language input, how is that input provided for infants and toddlers?  Through play!

Besides daily care-taking routines that parents and children engage in (feeding, grooming, sleeping), the next most important activity they engage in (where crucial language input is provided) is play.

So, if appropriate play skills predict appropriate language skills, and if strong language skills predict literacy skills, then I see a clear link between play and reading.

I’m not suggesting reading to infants and toddlers is not valid and necessary; I am suggesting that perhaps there should be a greater, or at least equal, push for promoting quality play.  My meaning of play, however, is where the play partner of the child is engaging the child and providing quality language input naturally but purposefully.

In a nutshell, let’s not bypass the building block of play because we’re so concerned that children be able to read.

As a personal example, both of my toddlers love books.  From the time my four-year-old daughter was one, she would quietly sit on the floor going through baskets I had set around the house full of little books, and she would flip through the pages “reading” one book after another.  I often find my two-year-old son sitting in a rocking chair in his room surrounded by books “reading.”  He spontaneously points out characters and talks about the pictures.  His big sister also helps him out, making up stories for him based on the pictures as though she is reading…and he believes every word!

As parents, my husband and I have read to them consistently, have made sure books are readily available and accessible to them, and have encouraged them to talk about the pictures and relate what they’re seeing to experiences they’ve had, but I firmly believe their enjoyment of books would not have been fostered without purposeful play in our home.

Purposeful play is crucial in order to develop what I call the 4 C’s: Concentration (attention), Curiosity, Creativity (imagination), and family Connection (through a shared activity).  These four components are extremely important for promoting reading ability.

So as professionals, educators, and parents, let’s evaluate where we’re investing our time and resources and make sure the push for early literacy doesn’t overshadow or do away with the need for consistent and quality play, not through the latest electronics or gadgets, but using good ol’ blocks, dolls, cars, toy farms, puzzles, toy kitchens, playdough…and the list goes on and on.

For purposeful play suggestions, check out free tip sheets (known as P.O.P. sheets) entitled Purposeful Ongoing Play: Enhancing Language Skills Through Play.

(This post originally appeared on The Speech Stop)

Ana Paula G. Mumy, MS, CCC-SLP, is a multilingual speech-language pathologist and the author of various continuing education courses, leveled storybooks, and instructional therapy materials for speech/language intervention.  She has provided school-based services, home health care, and private services for more than 12 years and thoroughly enjoys providing resources for SLPs, educators, and parents on her website The Speech Stop.

Winter Literacy

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I love following bloggers and using their lesson plans that are paired with children’s books!  They have inspired me to create some of my own plans for my elementary aged clients.  Over the winter break, I pulled out some of my seasonal books and created simple, functional lessons to pair with the stories.  I also purchased and printed some great winter literacy plans from a couple other sites.

The first book, Tracks in the Snow by Wong Herbert Yee, is a nice read for my 1st and 2nd grade clients.  This year, much of my caseload is working on irregular past tense verbs, so I decided to use this short and sweet winter story to target verbs.  I decided to create a list using sentences with present tense verbs from the story.  Children will take turns changing the target verb into the past tense and earn an animal track card or tokens for correct responses.  The person with the most tracks or tokens wins! You can grab your list here for Tracks in the Snow.

My next book, The Missing Mitten Mystery by Steven Kellogg is a funny story about a little girl who retraces her steps outside in search of a missing mitten.  I found this book by Scholastic for a quarter at my local library sale!  I needed a lesson for some 3rd graders that focused on simple comprehension questions following a short reading and this book fit the bill!  If you can find this book at your local library or bookstore, then you can use these comprehension questions!

Another score at the library sale was, In the Snow: Who’s Been Here? by Lindsay Barrett George.  I highly recommend borrowing or purchasing this book because each page gives clues about a winter animal that has crossed the trail in the woods just prior to the children’s walk.  Great for vocabulary building and answering who/what questions!!

If you have not seen the FREE templates at www.makelearningfun.com that go along with the stories, The Mitten and The Hat both by Jan Brett, then you should follow this link to take a look!

Finally, I recently found some great worksheets for the award winning story,Owl Moon by Jane Yolen at this blogger’s TpT site.

I hope that you have found these resources to be helpful!  If you have, then please take a moment to follow [my] blog and/or like my Facebook page, speech2me.  I would LOVE to hear about some of your favorite winter literacy units, so feel free to comment below!  Happy New Year!!

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This post originally appeared on The Next Chapter in my Speech World.

Nanette Cote, MA, CCC-SLP works contractually for Staffing Options and Solutions and has her own practice, Naperville Therapediatrics.  She is a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist in Naperville, Illinois who was recently certified in Interactive Metronome Therapy.   Her blog, speech2me, was named one of the top Speech-Language blogs for 2012.  For more information about this practitioner, please visit the blog at www.speech2me.blogspot.com or the Facebook page.

Types of Picture Books to Improve Your Toddler’s Language

Scratch and Sniff Book from Gran


Photo by bryan anthony

You’re at the book store wondering what books to buy your darling two year-old. You think to yourself:

“Well, last time Hannah really liked the Dr. Seuss book, but she tore the pages within seconds.”

“As a child, I really liked Mr. Pine’s Purple House, but when I read it to little Danny he kept moving about and wouldn’t stay still.”

“All Suzy wants me to read is that predictable and redundant Eric Carle book, there’s gotta be other books out there!”

“Oh, I’ll just buy some books on sale. What does it really matter anyway?”

“Hmmm…Jake doesn’t seem to like books at all. Maybe he’s just too young?”

As we all know, sometimes toddlers can be unpredictable and somewhat perplexing (“Why does he do that?”). If you’re unsure about the type of book to buy or how to read to your toddler, allow me to help.

First off, you must know what types of books are age-appropriate. Simply stated:

Anything they can touch or pull!

Technically, such books are called moveable books and tactile books. Moveable books consist of lift the flap, pop up, and pull the tab books. Tactile books, also known as touch and feel books, are books that engage the tactile senses by allowing children to touch various types of textures (e.g. soft, bumpy, rough).

If you’re interested in getting a book that tells a short story or explains a concept like potty training or manners make sure it’s a board book.  As an experienced speech and language pathologist, I’ve met very few toddlers who can read paper picture books without tearing pages.  For this reason, I highly recommend board books, whose pages are thick paperboards as opposed to paper sheets.

Now let’s move onto the content. Toddlers aren’t known for having amazing attention spans (nor are they expected to!). For this reason, stay away from books that have multiple sentences on each page. Or, if they do, don’t read EVERY word on the page. Doing so, can be BORING and they can become easily distracted. You can tell your child’s losing interest if he or she keeps trying to turn the page (They’re hoping that the book gets more interesting!). Choose a book that has about one sentence or less on each page. One word per page is even sufficient depending on the book. The writing should be simple, straightforward, and easy to understand. The words should also describe and complement the pictures. If the story talks about a happy cat, then there should be a picture of a happy cat. Avoid complicated, superfluous language and abstract concepts. Toddlers like to read about what they know (animals, toys, cars, babies, trucks, feelings, mommy and daddy) or something that is part of their routine (driving in the car, saying hi and bye, eating a meal, going potty!). They get very excited when they can relate to content and make connections between their lives and the book.

In my opinion, colorful, clean and somewhat basic illustrations are usually best received by toddlers. Identifying the part from the whole is sometimes challenging for this age group. Therefore, really complex illustrations may be overlooked or even confusing to some. Also, there are some books out there that make sounds and light up. I haven’t had too much luck with these books. Many times “the bells and the whistles” can be distracting to toddlers. They may become more interested in watching something light up or make a sound that they no longer pay attention to the content or follow along with the story. Of course, this defeats the whole purpose.

Lastly, Eric Carle is a bestselling author for many reasons. Most children I know LOVE his books! His books are delightful and smart, yet simple, repetitive and predictable.  His book Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See  repeats the same phrase throughout the book. Toddlers particularly love redundancy demonstrated in a fun and rhythmic manner because it gives them a chance to anticipate what comes next. And, when they know what comes next, they’re more likely to participate !

Summary of Tips:

  • Moveable books – lift the flap or pop-up books
  • Tactile books  – touch and feel books
  • Board books – thick pages
  • Text should be limited to a few words for each page
  • Language should be simple and easy to understand
  • Simple and straightforward illustrations
  • Not too overwhelming or over stimulating
  • Words, phrases, or sentences that repeat throughout the book

Kimberly Scanlon, M.A. CCC-SLP, is a speech language pathologist practicing in Bergen County, NJ. She provides home based speech therapy for children and adults through her private practice Scanlon Speech Therapy, LLC.  To learn more about Kimberly visit www.scanlonspeech.com

A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words: Using Photo Books to Increase Vocabulary, Grammar, and Narrative Skills

Photo Gear


Photo by DeusXFlorida

(This post originally appeared on Child Talk)

Making photo books with your kids is a fabulous way to help increase their language skills. It matters not if you are a mom simply looking for  creative ways to provide your toddler with a language-rich environment or a dad looking for ways to help your kindergartener learn to tell stories– photo books are a flexible tool than can be used in a huge variety of ways.
How to use picture books? The general idea goes a little something like this:

  • Take pictures during a fun event such as a trip to the zoo or the beach,
  • Capture key moments in the pictures,
  • Print the pictures that highlight the key moments from the event,
  • Spend a few afternoons gluing the pictures onto construction paper, letting your children help cut, glue and color around the pictures; if your child is old enough, help him to write captions for the pictures, and
  • Laminate the pages and have them bound into a book that can be read over and over.

One you’ve done this, you’re all set up to use the books to help increase language.  Kids love these books because they are based in experiences that they had; this makes the books both meaningful and fun. And children usually want to read the books over and over again– as annoying as this can be, it makes picture books the perfect vehicle for developing language.

With toddlers, you can use the pictures to build on language.  Most toddlers love to start looking at pictures of themselves around 12-24 months, right when they are starting to rapidly increase their vocabulary and move from one-word phrases to two-word phrases. Photo books create excellent opportunities for using parallel talk, description, and expansion to help children develop new vocabulary and help them make the jump from one to two words.

Check out the video below.  I use expansion with my daughter, who is looking at a picture of herself riding a toy motorcycle with her brother, James.  First, I wait for her to say something (“ride!”). Then I build on her words by putting them into short phrases, two different times. As a result, she comes back with a two-word phrase of her own (“James riding”)! No, it doesn’t always work this quickly….I’ve been using parallel talk, description and expansion with her for the past year and it’s only really starting to pay off now.

Toddlers aren’t the only ones who benefit from photo books, though. Using these books with preschoolers and early elementary age children can be great way to work on a whole variety of language-related skills. You can:

  • Work on sequencing by having your child lay out the pictures in the right order as you make the book,
  • Work on pre-writing and writing skills by having your child trace words you write or write his own words and sentences as you make the book,
  • Work on vocabulary by defining new words and integrating those words into the story and by using time words such as first, next, then and finally,
  • Work on language by using indirect correction, in which you correct errors in your child’s grammar by restating what he said, correctly and conversationally (e.g. Your child: “I runned really fast!” You: “You did. You ran so fast!”), and
  • Work on memory by having your child practice telling the story with and without the picture book in front of him.
Finally, photo books are a fantastic way to work on narrative (story) development. Developing an understanding of narrative structure (the typical flow of stories) is essential to being able to engage in conversations, tell others about things that have happened, and understand academic texts later in the elementary years. Enhancing narrative development is an asset for any child; I work on it with my son, often. It’s also a skill that can be very hard for children with language delays and specific diagnoses such as autism, so working on it with these children is essential. Using photo books to visually show stories in which children actually participated helps make narrative structure more concrete and easier to understand.   At first, you can use photo books to help your child understand that the story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Later, during the early elementary age years, you can help your child form a story that has the following elements:
  • Setting (“We were at the zoo”)
  • Goal (“We wanted to see the animals,”)
  • Problem (“But Sally was scared of the lion.”)
  • Feelings (“I was so mad, because I wanted to see the lion.”)
  • Attempt to solve the problem (“So we went to see the owls instead. Then Sally was ready to see the lion. Mom just covered her eyes.”)
  • Conclusion (“After that, we had a really fun day.”)

It doesn’t have to be perfect, of course. Stories are messy, just like life. They won’t fit perfectly into those elements, nor should they. But telling stories in a way that wraps loosely around those story elements, over and over and over again, will help your child begin to internalize the flow of stories.
There is so much to do with picture books that the possibilities seem endless.  What’s more, at the end of the day, you also have a book full of memories that your children will cherish for years to come.  And that’s just priceless.

Becca Jarzynski, M.S., CCC-SLP is a pediatric speech-language pathologist in Wisconsin. Her blog, Child Talk, can be found at www.talkingkids.org and on facebook at facebook.com/ChildTalk.

Encouraging Speech and Language Skills while Sharing Books with a Group of Children

Sailor reads to Filipino children

Photo by Official U.S. Navy Imagery

(This post is part two of last week’s post by Stephanie Sigal, How to Read Books with Children with Language Delay)

Parents often read to their two year old and four year old simultaneously.  Early childhood teachers read to their students every school day.  When reading to a group of children, it is vital that you are familiar with the text.  You may wish to take a moment to think about open-ended questions you can ask children before you begin a story.  For example, if you were to be reading Bear Snores On by Karma Wilson, you could ask “Does anyone know what bears do all winter long?”  If you get a response such as “sleep” or “hibernate,” great!  If you do not get a response, inform the children.  Giving them a glimpse into the story will enhance their understanding and appreciation.

Ask questions during the story.  Perhaps there is a vocabulary word the children might not be familiar with.  In the book Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay up Late by Mo Willems, the pigeon insists the children listening to the book let him stay up so he can watch an educational program on television.  You can ask, “What does educational mean?”  You can also explain to the children how the pigeon is trying to “trick” (manipulate) them into letting him stay up late.  Then, ask the children “How have you tried to trick your parents?”

At the conclusion of a story, ask children to carry over a main theme from a book into their daily lives.  For example, after reading My Friend Rabbit by Eric Rohmann, ask the children “What does it mean to be a good friend?”

Adding props and puppets to group story time can engage kids with various levels of attention.  In Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, the peddler walks around carrying many caps on his head.  The children can do the same with caps that you have previously collected for story time, or they can use their winter hats, or caps that they make as an art project to accompany the theme of the book.

Using different voices and revealing the characters’ emotions while acting out the story can also help children attend and relate more effectively.  The mother dog in Bark, George by Jules Feiffer gets frustrated with her son, while he makes great animal sounds.  The children will laugh when you over-act the role of George, his mother and especially the veterinarian reaching deep down into George’s mouth to pull out all the animals he has consumed.

Children are inspired to verbally participate when their peers say the repetitive line in a story together.  In Tikki Tikki Tembo retold by Arlene Mosel, the older brother’s name is Tikki tikki tembo-no sa rembo-chari bari ruchi-pip peri pembo.  Opportunities to say this long name come up numerous times, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, and children listening will want to try to say the name along with you.

Always read the title, author and illustrator’s names.  Ask the children “What is an author?” “What is an illustrator?”  Provide the information accordingly.  If the author has written other books the children may be familiar with, ask them “What other books has this author written?”  If necessary, name one or two of the books and you may notice how excited the children become when they realize they have shared a previous experience with you.

If you need help choosing the right books based on your child’s needs, you can ask your speech therapist, child’s teacher or librarian.

 

Stephanie Sigal, M.A. CCC-SLP, is a speech language therapist practicing on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, NYC. She works with babies, toddlers and school age children with expressive language delay and articulation disorders. Stephanie provides home based speech therapy and encourages parents to facilitate their children’s speech and language skills. To learn more about Stephanie, please visit www.sayandplayfamily.com