Better Hearing and Speech Month -BHSM- How I use library books as a speech language pathologist in public elementary schools

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month! Better known as BHSM.

Since we are in the month of May, that means I get to talk a little bit about how I use children’s picture books that I find at the library, as part of my work as a speech language pathologist (SLP) — and how you can use them too, in helping create opportunities for communication with a child!

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To learn more about speech language pathology visit the site of the American Speech Language and Hearing Association, ASHA.

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I know this blog is usually about visiting public libraries with my daughter Riley. . . but I do end up using many of the books we check out to take home, at work too; once Riley is finished with them (or is at her dad’s house for a few days and won’t miss them)!

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Since I work in public elementary schools, and all of the public schools in California I have ever worked in have  only ever had a part time school library that is open to students, usually every other week (if at all), due to the lack of funding for education. (Even the recent teacher strike in L.A. did not win any more funding for elementary school libraries). So, I bring my own books from home to use them in the therapy room and classrooms, hence exposing students on my caseload to children’s literature during speech therapy.  A double whammy kind of therapy! And quite practical.

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First of all, just seeing a book, sitting up on the whiteboard, out on display in the room (or in your house!), sparks all kinds of language for kids. Ooh, a new book! What is it? I see a dinosaur on the front of that one. I don’t know that book. Can we read it? Blue! Book! Want! Pretty! Scary! What’s that?

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Library books, especially, teach us about taking care of things that we borrow and have to return – an example being a good citizen and being part of your community! Teaching a child that anyone can check this particular book out, not just me, Ms. Megan, is important. When I return it, it will be available for someone else (one of my students possibly) to discover.

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Library loan periods teach kids about time as well. After three weeks, I have to return a borrowed book, meaning we won’t be reading it together anymore (executive function skills!). Some students want the same books over and over, but if it’s a library book those kids know that there is a limit to how many times we are going to use it in our therapy sessions. (Unless I check it out again, or actually break down and buy the ones that students really respond to – but you get the idea). We talk about returning the borrowed book to the public library and how that gives us the opportunity to find a new book to explore (even though we might be sad to say goodbye — a good time to talk about emotions as well.) and gives a different person a chance to find and read that book.

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Books are things that we use our entire lives. We use library books, cook books, note books, text books, phone books (er, kind of?), we read menu ‘books’ at restaurants, magazine ‘books’ in waiting rooms, and book book catalogues from Ikea (ahahaha). Kids always talk about movies. . . and movies are based on, wait for it. . . . . books! Using actual books (and e-books work too!) brings normalcy around literacy and having books around for pleasure.

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Public school based speech services, are services based on helping a child access academic curriculum – focusing on listening and speaking skills that adversely affect communication. These skills are mainly in four areas: language (receptive, expressive, pragmatic/social skills), articulation (production of sounds, phonology), voice (tone, pitch, volume), and fluency (stuttering).

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So let me give you a few, basic examples of how I have used library books to address each of these four categories while tackling literacy as well:

Language – You can use a lot of wordless books, such as: Chalk, A Girl and A Bicycle, Flora and the Flamingo, or ANY BOOK you check out from the library! Describe what you see, talk about what is happening to the characters, use sticky note bubbles to make up your own dialogue for expressive skills. Retell the story in your own words after hearing it told, for receptive language skills.

The social use of language (pragmatic language skills) of say, taking a different perspective: you could use Shrinking Mouse, There Was A Cat, Maddie’s Fridge, Last Stop on Market Street, There Was A Tribe of Kids, or ANY BOOK you check out from the library!  Take turns in conversation about what you liked or didn’t like about the books – or how the book helped you empathize with someone else different than you.

Voice – (understanding punctuation and fonts in print!) – Use: A Book With No Pictures, Little Blue Truck, Rain Talk, or ANY BOOK from the library! Change your pitch, up your volume, lower your volume, get sad when reading a sad part. Make the sounds of the rain and animals.

Fluency – Use: wordless books, rhyming books like Ada Twist Scientist, Zin Zin Zin A Violin, or ANY BOOK you get from the library! Sing parts of rhymes, act out a story as if you’re putting on a play as the different characters.

Articulation –  Use books such as: Those Shoes, To Market To Market, Raindrop Plop or ANY BOOK you get from the library! Sounding out words and letters and exploring how we create sounds is possible with any book you pick up. Some have more target sounds than others, so find the ones that target goals for your kid! There are hundreds. . . .

 

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Sometimes students request certain books. They love graphic novels, especially the older kids. I tell parents to let their kids read anything they want, if they enjoy it then they should read it. It does not matter if it’s a ‘baby’ book, picture book, comic book – it’s just important that they enjoy them. There is no age range or grade range, no matter what anyone says otherwise. Give them a successful opportunity for joy.

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I am not the first SLP to talk about using children’s literature in therapy. There ARE TONS OF BLOG POSTS ON THIS.  Those posts are much more informative than mine.  I am just sharing some of my personal experience in hopes it may inspire you to go to your local public library more often (or for the first time!). . .  I cannot highlight enough just how many people have inspired me in my SLP profession – especially in the area of using books. These amazing people include: Shari Robertson, Jennifer Taps Richard and Judy Montgomery.

I love how my hobby of visiting libraries with my daughter and checking out picture books, collides on a daily basis with my professional work and positively impacts other children. It is a glorious win, win all around.

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So, I hope that this post inspires some of you to get a library card and visit your local library. Whether you are a SLP, a parent, a student or a kid. There are tons of YA novels and other chapter books waiting for you too. . .

 

BUT WAIT. . . .!!

Libraries are great not just for checking out books, but students and kids (and adults) can access the Summer Reading Challenge and Summer Author Series at the library! Not to mention all the other resources, events and programs. . .

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School is about to be closed for two months for summer break, so librarians really take over during these times to keep books available for students. (Alas, they do this all year anyway, since so many school libraries are shuttered at least half the year). I mean, look at the Student Success Card available at LAPL libraries! Libraries are the best places in the city, hands down.

So, go visit your local public library. They are the best. I get ideas for some books from lists on sites like A Mighty Girl, and We Need Diverse Books. Librarians can also give you ideas for different kinds of books to check out too. But mostly, I randomly pick books off the shelf and let the magic of children’s literature take me (and my daughter and my students) on an adventure.

Happy Better Hearing and Speech Month! #BHSM

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Here are some good links (among MANY other great sources you can find online):

There’s a Book for That!  Here are five reasons to use books to work on practically any speech or language skill  Shari Robertson  PhD, CCC-SLP

What Makes Great Books For Speech Therapy?  by: Scott Prath

Children’s Book Recommendations from Jennifer Taps Richard, MA, CCC-SLP

Literature Speech Therapy by Superpowerspeech

Interview with Professor Judy Montgomery, PhD, CCC-SLP, Professor, Chapman University

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