Thursday, March 30, 2017

Therapy Tip: Selecting Books for Toddlers

Welcome once again to Therapy Thursday! This is the day that I share a tip based upon my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and a mother of a child with special needs.

Today's tip is:

Selecting Books for Toddlers with Language Delays

If you have looked through the children's section of the book aisle in stores, you'll see a wide variety of options available. There are board books and regular books. There are cartoon drawings and books with real pictures. There are books on a wide variety of subjects and even some featuring familiar characters from television.

Which one do you choose?

If you have a child with language delays, then certain books may be more helpful. Here are some things I look for when selecting books for toddlers with language delays and why.

1. Books that are repetitious.
Sometimes, books that are repetitive are sort of annoying to read as parents. But, books that repeat most of the same words on every page have benefits for children learning speech and language. The repetition is great because the child can hear the same words over and over again. Some examples of these books are: Five Little Monkeys, Five Little Ladybugs, Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See, and That's Not My Cat.

Repetition is extremely important for children with language delays. But, not only that, repetition word practice is necessary for children diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech. These repetitive books often offer a way to get the child to say the same words many times, which is often the target in early therapy. Not every book you read to your child needs to be repetitive, but there are benefits to using these!

2. Books with real pictures.
I like to use books with real pictures to provide the child with a concrete visual example of the object. Over the last few years, there have been many books available for toddlers using real pictures. Some have different themes and some are designed for teaching "first words." These books are great for teaching basic vocabulary, and it helps when I can match up something in the child's environment to a picture in the book. I also like to use the faces of children in these books to work on body parts. Not every book HAS to have real pictures, but it is something I consider when choosing a book.

3. Books with touch and feel parts.
There are many books that contain different things to touch and feel on each page. I do love these books for a few reasons. For kids that may not like books, I have had good success getting them interested by having them touch the parts. They may not listen to the words on the page being read, but at least they are interacting with a book. For children with sensory issues, some of these touch and feel books provide them a nice way to stretch themselves to feel things that may be uncomfortable for them. Another reason, I like these books is that it gives an opportunity to target adjectives like soft, rough, hard, sticky, smooth.

4. Books on subjects that are meaningful to the toddler.
When you are working with toddlers that have 100 words or less, then the subject matter of a book is important. It should be meaningful to the toddler. Some books I have purchased contain pictures that are not relevant to the child's life. Take this book below for example.
I purchased this book because it was $1, so the price was right. Plus, it has some flaps on every page, which many children enjoy. I also like that this book isn't busy. Each page in the book has a theme that is presented with simply drawn pictures in rows. (Compare that to the touch and feel book with it's chaotic picture placement above.) Most of the pictures are relevant to the child's life, but some of them are not. How many toddler's first toys are yo-yos, tops, kites, and marbles? Despite some of its odd choices, I still like and use this book. I just focus on the words that are more relevant to the toddlers I am working with like ball, baby doll, and crayons. When I am working with children with delays, I rarely look/talk about EVERY picture on a page anyway, so I can ignore the pictures that I don't feel like the child needs to understand presently.

Still, it's a good idea to look at the book you are about to purchase and decide if the words/vocabulary targeted in it will be a good fit for your child.

The most important thing when searching for a "good" book is that the child will engage with it. If the toddler isn't interested, then it doesn't matter if you found a book with all the right features you are looking for. Hope this helps you find a good book for your child!

Related: Using Books to Build Language

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended as therapeutic advice.

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