By Christianna Mullins, M.A. CCC-SLP
Books. When I think of them, I feel cozy. I recall sitting with teachers, parents, siblings and friends, and as of recently a warm cup of coffee. Books have been my lifelong companion, sparking my imagination throughout the years. What if books were inaccessible? If literacy was not a tool in my belt and I could not understand what I read or what I hear?
Reading with and to children in my opinion is vital to their personal, academic, and occupational success. I read many books with my speech therapy students. Books are an excellent medium to target a variety of goals.
Take the Cat in the Hat, for example. Recently I have read this book with numerous students. As we read, we take turns. Turn-taking is a vital social skill. We listen quietly to each other and ask for help with words if need be. Stories can be very calming and engrossing, so for kids who have difficulty concentrating on other therapy tasks, reading can be highly motivating for them and relieving for me!
As we read the story, there are multiple sentences that require inferences to unlock meaning. As we go along, I ask children to explain why characters said or did certain things.
Books have pictures. Pictures say a thousand words, and they allow for a wide variety of descriptions in which students can be creative in their language use.
In books one can find “he” “she” and “they,” along with “his,” “hers,” and “theirs.” We work on personal and subjective pronouns.
When things happen in the present, I ask children to look back and tell me what happened previously. This stimulates past tense formulation. We make predictions about what will happen, allowing us to formulate the future tense, and use contextual clues to explain why we think certain things will happen.
In books, there is a beginning, middle and end. When we read, I ask students to describe the book’s events. This helps them to practice sequencing and recalling events.
Objects, people, and events that occur in books provide a rich context for description. I ask kids questions about these topics and allow them to answer using their own ideas. As they describe, I can help them formulate sentences when they are struggling for words.
On top of developing language skills, reading books helps develop literacy skills, which are vital to a child’s success in school, higher education, future occupation, and personal life. In my opinion, reading enriches life, and literacy is a unique key that can unlock certain doors for children.
Finally, what is my favorite thing about using books in therapy? They feel natural. The are contextually based. I can target most of the language goals that I want to, if I have the right book, and kids do not usually feel like I am making them do monotonous work. I enjoy books more than rote drills as well. It feels more authentic to me and I believe to the students as well.
In conclusion, using books as a therapy tool can target multiple goal areas along with developing positive clinician-student interactions, and preparing students for a bright future.