There’s a Book for That! Here are five reasons to use books to work on practically any speech or language skill. School Matters
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School Matters  |   December 01, 2017
There’s a Book for That!
Author Notes
  • Shari Robertson, PhD, CCC-SLP, 2018 ASHA president-elect, is a professor in the Department of Communication Disorders, Special Education, and Disability Services, and provost’s associate at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 1, Language Learning and Education. srobert@iup.edu
    Shari Robertson, PhD, CCC-SLP, 2018 ASHA president-elect, is a professor in the Department of Communication Disorders, Special Education, and Disability Services, and provost’s associate at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Group 1, Language Learning and Education. srobert@iup.edu×
  • Visit on.asha.org/1217-scm for a list of Robertson’s favorite books and the goals each can address.
    Visit on.asha.org/1217-scm for a list of Robertson’s favorite books and the goals each can address.×
Article Information
Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / School Matters
School Matters   |   December 01, 2017
There’s a Book for That!
The ASHA Leader, December 2017, Vol. 22, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.22122017.34
The ASHA Leader, December 2017, Vol. 22, 34-35. doi:10.1044/leader.SCM.22122017.34
A parent asks, “What can I do to support my child’s language and literacy development?” Speech-language pathologists know the answer: “Read with them!”
This is excellent advice. A robust evidence base shows interactive reading experiences help children develop the foundation to support academic achievement, oral and written language skills, social development and, eventually, vocational success.
Sometimes, however, it can be hard to follow our own advice. Who can justify using treatment time to just read with students? Most school-based SLPs face an alphabet soup of responsibilities: Common Core State Standards (CCSS), response to intervention protocols (RTI), Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) and student study teams (SST), to name a few.
I am a confessed “book-a-holic.” I love the way books feel, how they smell and that they reside on my shelf like old friends. Children’s book author Mem Fox said, “When children hear the word ‘book,’ I want them to think ‘candy!’” I couldn’t agree more.
Fostering a love of reading is a good reason to use books in a clinical setting, but there’s more we can do with these magical tools. I hope the examples below entice you into the candy store.

Books are, indeed, a treasure trove for natural vocabulary learning and, as a bonus, they also provide exposure to more advance grammatical forms than typical spoken language.

Books provide a natural context for learning vocabulary.
Typically developing children learn about 3,000 new words each year. This number translates into eight new words every day of the week. Direct teaching of vocabulary words in school accounts for about eight to 10 words per week. So, how do students acquire the rest? Conversations with others and/or reading—aloud or independently—according to research.
A favorite research tidbit from a 1988 study by Donald Haynes and Margaret Ahrens concluded that children’s books contain approximately twice as many infrequently used or rare words than even conversations among college graduates. Books are, indeed, a treasure trove for natural vocabulary learning and, as a bonus, they also provide exposure to more advanced grammatical forms than typical spoken language.
“Monsters Can Mosey,” by Gillia Olson—chock-full of juicy CCSS Tier II verbs and adjectives—features Freddy (a female monster) and her mom exploring ways Freddy might participate in the annual holiday parade. Check out these active verbs: lurch, slither, glide, trudge, prance, prowl, clomp, lumber, ooze, tiptoe, march, strut and stomp. And these exciting adjectives: scary, unnerving, spooky, creepy, horrifying, frightening, terrifying. And that’s just a small taste.
Books are efficient.
A single book can target multiple key communication skills. So, rather than thinking “either/or” in terms of what a book targets in treatment, think about overlapping skills for students to meet IEP goals and Common Core or related standards.
For instance, “Falling for Rapunzel,” by Leah Wilcox, re-imagines the classic tale with Rapunzel, living far above the ground, not quite hearing what the prince says to her. After asking Rapunzel to let down her “curly locks,” the prince gets inundated with dirty socks. Asking for silky “tresses” yields silky dresses, and a request to send down her “hair” results in a shower of underwear in the form of flowery bloomers.
The book includes figurative language, such as “I fell for you” and “down to earth”; uses context as a clue to unknown words, like enamored, coincidence, chap and heaved; and gives examples of affixes—graceful, squarely, flattened—and rhyming, which provides clues to support prediction. These are merely a few of the many skills across IEPs and CCSS a savvy SLP can target using this story.
Books are convenient.
School-based SLPs don’t usually enjoy an unlimited materials budget. Children’s books offer a highly portable, low-cost—or no-cost when from a library—option. Busy, on-the-move SLPs can use them effectively in individual or small- or large-group settings.
I particularly like “Do’s and Don’ts,” by Todd Parr. I can read this compact, inexpensive and elegantly simple story aloud with students from kindergarten through the upper grades to meet a variety of targets.
On one page is a “do,” and the facing page offers a matching “don’t.” For instance: do … pick up your socks, but don’t … make anyone smell them. After reading the first few do’s and don’ts, the reader pauses after the do page and invites students to brainstorm a matching don’t. They can guess any don’t related to the do. This engaging activity requires students to listen, comprehend and formulate an answer.

Selecting fun books, which inspire a child to want to read, creates a functional context for learning language in both the oral and written modes.

Books are fun.
The evidence linking motivation to success is extraordinarily robust. There’s a reason repetitive, non-contextual activities get dubbed “drill-and-kill.” Without developing intrinsic motivation to learn (plainly said, no stickers required), a child’s potential for skill carryover drops significantly. Not surprisingly, the National Reading Panel found the best readers read the most and the worst readers read the least. Selecting fun books, which inspire a child to want to read, creates a functional context for learning language in both the oral and written modes—and a natural catalyst for carryover.
I often use books with lots of visual detail to up the “fun factor” and encourage active engagement. The “Look-Alikes” series by Joan Steiner remains a favorite. A detailed inspection of objects photographed by Thomas Lindley yields surprising findings. For instance, in a street scene, the bus sign is actually a meat thermometer, while a sweater with buttons becomes a storefront. These scenes provide a virtual smorgasbord of engagement opportunities for learners of all ages. Most students even want to read the book’s fine print to find out how the author “did that.”
Books do not have LED screens.
A growing body of evidence documents negative effects from too much screen time—particularly in young children. In addition to delays in speech and language development, too much screen time can result in disruptive sleep patterns and mood swings along with cumulative negative alterations to the visual and vestibular systems. Some studies point to long-term emotional problems and anxiety resulting from constant sensory overload. Books can help to counteract all of these less-than-desirable residuals of spending too much time in front of a digital screen.
Try These Books

Here are some of Shari Robertson’s favorite books to use in treatment—all requiring no power cord.

Note: Groupings are somewhat fluid. Each of these books can be used for NUMEROUS therapy targets.

Echo Reading

  • Bears in Pairs Niki Yekai
  • Brown Bear, Brown Bear Bill Martin, Jr
  • Capering Cows (also Paired Reading and Vocab)* Shari Robertson
  • Dinosaur Roar! Paul & Henrietta Langdon
  • Down By The Bay Raffi
  • I Went Walking Sue Williams
  • In the Small, Small Pond Denise Fleming
  • Quick as a Cricket (also Similies) Audrey Wood
  • Where is the Green Sheep? Mem Fox

Paired Reading

  • But Not the Hippopotamus Sandra Boynton
  • Each Peach, Pear, Plum (also predicting) Janet Alhberg
  • I Love my White Shoes Eric Litwin
  • Jump, Frog, Jump! (also predicting) Robert Kaplan
  • My Cow Can Bow* (also Phonemic Awareness and Fronting) Shari Robertson
  • One Duck Stuck Phyllis Root
  • Silly Sally Audrey Woord
  • Time for Bed Mem Fox

Friendly Questions and Predicting

  • The Adventures of Sadie and Sam* (also verb tenses) Peggy Agee
  • Bark, George! Jules Feiffer
  • Dear Zoo Rod Campbell
  • Is Your Mama a Llama? Deborah Guarino
  • Look! Look! Look! (and other titles by…) Tana Hoban
  • Mary Wore Her Red Dress Merle Peek
  • Raincoats and Rainbows* Elizabeth Redhead Kriston
  • Rosies’ Walk (also Echo Reading) Pat Hutchins
  • Shivering Sheep * (also vocabulary, echo reading, paired reading) Shari Robertson
  • Who is Driving? Leo Timmers

Readers Theatre

  • Clap Your Hands Pat Hutchins
  • From Head to Toe Eric Carle
  • I Can do That!* (also first verbs and gestures) Suzy Lederer
  • I Can Play That!* (also sequencing) Suzy Lederer
  • Run, Turkey, Run!* (also prepositions) Peggy Agee
  • The Seals on the Bus Lenny Hort
  • The Wide Mouthed Frog Kevin Faulkner

Phonemic Awareness

  • Bendomolina Jan Slepian
  • Ook the Book and Other Silly Rhymes Lissa Rovetch
  • There’s a Wocket in my Pocket Dr, Suess
  • Alligator Arrived with Apples Anna Childs
  • Pants on Ants*, Go By Goat*, The Bark Park* Miles of Smiles* Elizabeth Redhead Kriston
  • Some Smug Slug Pamela Duncan Edwards
  • The Hungry Thing Jan Slepian

Phonics/Alphabetic Principle (and Language Development)

  • Alpha City Stephen Johnson
  • A is for Angry: An Animal and Adjective Alphabet Sandra Boynton
  • Hidden Alphabet Laura Vaccaro Seeger
  • Tomorrow’s Alphabet Donald Crews
  • Q is for Duck Mary Elting
  • I Spy: An Alphabet in Art Lucy Micklethwait

Reading Fluency

  • The Seals on the Bus Lenny Hort
  • Where the Sidewalk Ends Shel Silverstein
  • For Laughing Out Loud Jack Pretluski
  • Take me Out of the Bathtub Alan Katz
  • I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More Karen Beaumont
  • Old Black Fly Jim Aylesworth
  • Jack’s Garden Henry Cole
  • Vocabulary
    • GENERAL VOCABULARY DEVELOPMENT
      • Falling for Rapunzel Leah Wilcox
      • How Much can a Bare Bear Bear? (Words are Categorical Series) Brian Cleary
      • Eight Ate: A Feast of Homonym Riddles Marvin Terbain
      • Miss Alanius Debra Frasier
      • Imagine Allison Lester
      • Herd of Cows! Flock of Sheep! (collective nouns) Rick Walton
      • Monsters Can Mosey (verbs) Gillis Olson
      • Nearly, Dearly, Insincerely Brian Cleary
      • Pest Fest Julia Durango
      • Shrek (Figurative Language - Assonance, Idioms, Alliteration)
      • Stick (Irregular and Regular Past Tense) Steve Breen
      • What Do You Do? William Wegman
    • BOOKS FOR DEVELOPING MORPHOLOGICAL AWARENESS
      • If You Were a Prefix; If you Were a Suffix Marci Aboff
      • Pre- and Re-, Mis- and Dis-: What is a Prefix? Brian Cleary
      • -Ful and -Less; -Er and -Ness: What is a Suffix? Brian Cleary
      • Flight of the Dodo (Affixes) Higher Level Learners Peter Brown
      • What is an Adverb? (-ly Suffix) Rick Walton
      • Pig, Pigger, Piggest (comparative suffixes) Rick Walton
      • Happy Ending (A Story about Suffixes) Lynn Rowe Reed
      • Things that are MOST in the World (-est suffix) Judi Barrett
  • Comprehension and Motivation
    • WORDLESS BOOKS
      • Chalk Bill Thompson
      • Thunderstorm* Shelley Davis
      • Flotsam David Weisner
      • Firefly Fox* Alexandra Crouse Bowser
      • Tuesday, David Weisner
      • Spotless Spot* Alexandra Crouse
      • The Polar Bear Waltz Outside Magazine Editors
      • The Lion and the Mouse Jerry Pinkney
      • The Silver Pony Lynd Ward
      • Changes, Changes Pat Hutchins
      • Museum Trip Barbara Lehman
    • BOOKS FOR VISUAL LEARNERS
      • Bad Day at Riverbend Chris Van Allburg
      • Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse Marilyn Singer
      • Stephen Biesty’s Cross Sections Series Stephen Bietsy
      • Fun With Hand Shadows Sati Achath
      • Look Alikes (there are a number in this series) Joan Steiner
      • Zoom (also Re-Zoom) Istvan Banyal
      • Round Trip Ann Jonas
      • Bones Steven Jenkins
      • Lines that Wiggle Candace Whitman
    • JUST FOR FUN BOOKS
      • Arnie the Doughnut Laurie Keller
      • Diary of Wombat Jackie Lynch
      • Diary of a Worm Doreen Cronin
      • Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing Judi Barrett
      • Olive, the Other Reindeer J. Otto Seibold
      • A Porcupine Named Fluffy Helen Lester
      • Parts Todd Arnold
      • Children Make Terrible Pets Peter Brown
      • Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed Mo Williams
      • Tacky the Penguin Helen Lester
      • The Stinky Cheeseman and Other Fairly Stupid Tales Jon Scieszka
      • The Adventure of Hank the Cowdog (Series) John Erickson
      • Shark Versus Train Chris Barton
      • The Diary of a Worm, Diary of a Spider, Diary of a Fly Doreen Cronin
      • We are in a Book! Mo Williams

*Available through Dynamic Resources www.dynamic-resources.net

1 Comment
December 6, 2017
Rosalind Hurwitz
Books for Early Intervention
Just want to take this opportunity to plug my two favorite books: "Goodnight, Gorilla" by Peggy Rathmann (wordless) and "Yummy Yucky" by Leslie Patricelli.
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December 2017
Volume 22, Issue 12