There’s a Book for That

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How to use picture books with pre-school aged children to support their speech and language learning.

As a mobile speech pathologist, I didn’t leave home without a handful of story books in my kit. A carefully chosen story book can be useful to:

  • Understand the overall speech and language skills of a group or individual
  • Expose children to a concept that you want to teach. For example, introducing the time concept of first, next, last followed up with a sequencing activity.
  • Expose children to a recently learned concept in a different context to widen their understanding, e.g. “here is a book with lots of doing words”.
  • Bombard a child with a particular sound or with sentences that contain lots of rhyme and or repetition to raise awareness of sounds within words, an important concept when using the Sounds good to me program.

Some examples:

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Perfect for illustrating the time concept of before and after and for encouraging children to predict what might happen next. Read through the story and then reinforce the concept with questions like, ‘What happened after a day in the sun?’ ‘How did he feel before the ride on the roller coaster?’

Who doesn’t love this book? It is packed with speech and language concepts. It is a great book for “where “questions, and teaching children that where refers to place. Concepts like up/ down, thin/wide, near/far are represented visually, not to mention all of those doing words; flyingridingswimmingplaying.

ttings.

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This repetitive tale contains lots of descriptive words and also lots of plurals. If focusing on plurals, emphasise your plural sounds as you read aloud.

This is a book about a cheeky dinosaur and is great if you want to work on grammar, particularly the personal pronoun “I”. This book is great for a child who uses the word “me” incorrectly, i.e. “me went to the beach” instead of “I went to the beach”.

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This is a book about a cheeky dinosaur and is great if you want to work on grammar, particularly the personal pronoun “I”. This book is great for a child who uses the word “me” incorrectly, i.e. “me went to the beach” instead of “I went to the beach”.

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“What the Ladybird Heard” by Julia Donaldson is a story rich with phonological patterns, alliteration (e.g. “lanky Len and Hefty Hugh”) and rhyme. If you are highlighting rhyme, this story is a great choice. Use it to prompt children to generate rhyming words by saying the last word in a sentence only after a tantalizing pause to elicit rhyming words filling in the predictable missing words, e.g. “But the ladybird said never a …. (word)! Likewise “the Highway Rat” also by Julia Donaldson is jam packed with rhyming sentences and lustrous melodic verse.

Yes, it is great for rhyming but also for repeated, predictable “f’ and “sh” sounds. If you are working with a child who is having trouble with either or both of these sounds you can ‘bombard them’ with it by reading this story. Delays in acquisition of these sounds, and other high frequency sounds is common with children who have experienced conductive hearing loss (often associated with recurrent or prolonged middle ear infections).

Just listening to the sounds over and over again can help a child to eventually make this sound. Emphasise your ‘f’ sounds and even use your finger to indicate your mouth position, front teeth biting down on bottom lip. Likewise, if you are targeting “sh”, you can emphasise it/ bring a finger to your lips as if to “shush” someone. Keep in mind that exposing children to repeated sounds is advantageous for their development of this sound but asking them to make the sound could be difficult if they have a speech sound disorder, so avoid that unless your Speech Pathologist has advised that this is the appropriate level for a particular child.

Higher level vocabulary can be demonstrated beautifully in this book. Reading it together with children allows you to introduce a new word like stupendous while pairing it with a known word like great. This book is a good choice for children who are building their vocabulary of descriptive words, and/or learning that words can have a similar meaning, i.e. synonyms, touching on the metalinguistic concepts of talking about words (language about language).

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The Gruffalo is suited to so many purposes, and it was my go-to for working on auditory memory. Auditory memory refers to recalling a spoken sentence(s). For example, you read “…his eyes are orange, his tongue is black and he has purple prickles all over his back”, pause, and place the book face down as you ask “what did he look like?” You are aiming to prompt an immediate recall of the sentence but if this is too hard, use scaffolding by asking “what colour were his eyes?”, “what colour was his tongue?”. For those children who are really struggling use the illustrations in the book to prompt recall. As children’s auditory memory develops you can gradual reduce the scaffolding cues.

This simply illustrated book is useful to target listening and responding to verbal instructions that are fun and amusing. There aren’t many contextual clues/ pictures, so the child does need to hear and understand the verbal instruction to respond correctly.

Learning during story time will suit many children better than didactic or rote learning of speech and language concepts and whilst you might choose a goal to suit an individual, all children in the group can benefit from the specific prompting suggested.

Happy reading.

Sally Urquhart

BAppSci (Speech Pathology)

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