What makes a great book? There are many reasons to like books. For a speech pathologist, a good book is one that gets the conversation going.
Books with vivid pictures and very few or no words will elicit comments from children. Adults can respond to the children’s comments and follow their lead rather than the other way around. I like books by Sarah Garland. As the situations depicted in the books are familiar to the children, they are more likely to comment and start a conversation. Use the books as a starting point for language sessions involving role-play, vocabulary building, comprehension activities and a variety of creative activities.
Similarly, books with busy pictures are excellent. There’s always plenty happening and one discovers something new every time. Having no words in them, they work in any language, a plus for a bilingual clinic!
Books with a clear narrative structure: Narrative skills are an essential stepping stone from oral language to written language. By retelling stories kids learn to organise their ideas sequentially and logically. Exposing children to books with a classic narrative structure allows them to become familiar with elements such as setting, characters, conflict, resolution and conclusion. Fairy tales are excellent examples, as are many modern books. One of my favourites is “Our Daft Dog Danny” by Pamela Allen. Not only is it a great story to teach narrative structure but also, it is impossible not to be touched by the clever and compassionate way in which the characters resolve their problem. I’ll say no more, get the book! Or check this YouTube video to have the story read to you!
Books with play on words, sounds, rhymes and alliterations: kids need to learn that words are made of sounds and that these sounds are represented by letters. This forms the basis of phonological awareness, a skill necessary for reading and spelling success. Think books like Dr Seuss’, Linley Dodd’s Hairy Mac Lairy series or Andy Griffith's "The Big Fat Cow that Goes Kapow".
Books with repetitive parts allow kids to join in and fill in the gaps: “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll________!” Again, fairy tales are great as are classics like: “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see?” by Eric Carle, “We’re going on a bear hunt” by Michael Rosen and one that is great for narrative structure as well as having recurring sentences: "Boy" by James Mayhew.
Non-fiction books allow children to learn new information and broaden their general knowledge. I often see children with language delays who happen to be experts on particular subjects and for whom language difficulties are no obstacle to building their general knowledge. They often learn to master sophisticated vocabulary specific to their topic and this is an excellent opportunity to get the conversation going.
And with this, I realise that I haven’t mentioned lift-the-flap books, poetry, pop-up books, chapter books, decodable books and many other great books! I guess, you can't really go wrong with books. "It's called reading. It's how people install new software into their brain!"
Looking for language tips, activities and ideas? This blog is for parents, speech pathologists, teachers, educators and anyone with an interest in speech and language.