Back to School Language & Literacy Books- 2020 Edition

We are officially in the last quarter of the year and 2020 has certainly been a year of plenty twists and turns. I have been providing speech/language teletherapy services for the last few weeks and have started to provide some in person therapy services as well in my area. Children’s literature continues to be an excellent way for speech-language pathologists to build communication, language, and literacy skills in children with special needs. It is important to have books that children will be interested in and that reflect the diversity of our nation. I have selected six books to recommend to you all for the 2020 school year to use purposefully in speech-language therapy sessions. These books may be used to address speech articulation, receptive language, expressive language, and social-emotional skills of children with speech/language disorders, autism, and specific learning disability.

Connie Schofield-Morrison, is a Black author and entrepreneur in Atlanta who wrote, I Got the School Spirit, and her husband Frank Morrison, is the illustrator. She has a love for the arts and poetry too. She even opened an online art gallery and later physical art gallery with her husband in Atlanta.

This book is ideal for this time of year. Some students are eager for the start of the year and some will need a little nudging. The books follows a little girl who is ready for the first day of school after the end of summer break. Follow her along as she experiences the spirit, sights and sounds of her day. There are plenty of opportunities in this book to build communication and language skills. Use it to work on basic sequence of events, speech articulation, and even figurative language examples (e.g. onomatopeia). Kids can practice key vocabulary such as Stomp Stomp, Sizzle Sizzle, Zip Zip, Vroom Vroom, Hug Hug, Here Here, Crunch, Munch, Sip, Ka-Pow, Squish, and Squeeze. They can describe basic tier 1 word with attributes, name common nouns, name verbs, and describe pictures in sentences. This book is a perfect way to bring some pleasant vibes into your speech sessions at the beginning of the year. It’s a great way to start off for sure!

Charlie the Ranch Dog, by Ree Drummond, is one of my favorite children’s books to read aloud to children at the beginning of the year. It has a good storyline and wonderful illustrations. It is very appropriate for the current season we are in which many children are going to school at home. It also provides kids a glimpse of country life living on a ranch. In this story, the children are homeschooled by their mom. Charlie, their dog, has an idea to try out his teaching skills by starting his own school with the animals on the ranch! This book is good to work on basic listening comprehension, story recall, and basic narrative retell. Make sure that you have a copy of my complimentary WH questions quick listening check here. You’ll be amazed how consistent interactive read alouds and listening comprehension checks will build children’s language and literacy skills.

Different, A Story About Loving Your Neighbor, by author and speaker, Chris Singleton, is a new 2020 children’s literature release. It is beautifully illustrated by Wiliam Luong with vibrant colors and detailed depictions of the characters. This one is definitely near and dear to my heart. Chris Singleton wrote this book in honor of his late mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, who was the victim of a racial hate crime in Charleston, South Carolina in 2005. She was a speech-language pathologist at my former elementary school here in Atlanta. I think it’s amazing that he wrote this story while coping with the tragic death of his mother. He did it purposefully to send a message to the world that it is absolutely necessary to love others no matter their race, skin color, or religion. PAUSE. BREATHE. How incredible!

In this book, Obinna, the main character and his family immigrate to the U.S. from Nigeria because his father got a new job. On the first day of school, he decides to wear traditional African attire because he is proud of his heritage. Unfortunately, his new classmates are quick to remind him how different he is from them. However, his teacher encourages him that being different is a great thing and that he has special talents and abilities that others don’t have because we are all unique. This is an excellent book to develop community in speech/language sessions, in the classroom, or at home during family literacy time. Speech/language therapists can elicit oral story retell, answering literal/inferential questions, and tier 1/tier 2 vocabulary identification and expression. Purchase your copy here and make sure to promote anti-racist values throughout the year. Read my previous blog honoring Sharonda Coleman-Singleton here.

I Got the Rhythm, is another excellent and upbeat book by Connie Schofield-Morrison and it is illustrated by Frank Morrison. It’s ideal to use with children who are working on speech articulation skills and building basic expressive language skills. The main character experiences the rhythm with all her senses. Through her voice and movements, she emphasizes certain words and sounds with ease. Think Think. Beat Beat. Blink Blink. Sniff Sniff. Ohh La La. Clap Clap. Snap Snap. Children can practice the repetitive sounds and words as they follow the rhythm that the girl experiences. Knock Knock. Stomp Stomp. Beat Bop. Clapped and Snapped. Tipped and Tapped. Popped and Locked. Hipped and Hopped. Beat Bop. Bing Bang. Boom Boom. Boom Box. Beat Bop. Kaboom Kaboom. There are opportunities to practice these sounds: /th/, /b/, /bl/, /sn/ , /l/, /cl/, /st/ , /t/, /b/, /p/, /k/ and other phonemes too. This is a fun book to practice speech sounds, expressive language, and it is great for extension activities with phonological awareness practice too! I got the rhythm…what about you!

Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses, by James Dean, is another one of my recommendations for 2020. This series of kids’ books is ALWAYS a favorite in my speech-language therapy sessions when I give them a choice of books. My students with communication disorders, autism, and learning disabilities all love Pete the Cat stories year after year. I have used this book throughout the year for several years now. This book is great because it teaches children the importance of having a positive outlook. Everyday may not always be good, but you can find the good in every day. This story has a great message about having gratitude and it is ideal for working on answering who questions to name the characters in the book and describing the sequence of events. Children can try to remember the order that Pete encounters the animals as the story unfolds. Its okay to have them use the book as a visual prompt to assist them with retelling the sequence of events and answering questions if they need a cue.

A Boy Like You, written by Frank Murphy, and illustrated by Kayla Harren, is a 2020 book release. It is a book that depicts diverse characters of various races and ethnicities. This book has excellent vocabulary and message about living an authentic life. The author was deliberate about providing age appropriate advice for all boys like “do the right thing even when no one is looking.” It truly is an inclusive book that is perfect for use in speech-language therapy to work on “wh” questions and critical thinking skills. Children can practice identifying and explaining the meanings of tier 2 words such as: billions, strong, precisely, solve, curious, risk, fear, secret, fear, bravery, strong, dream, unique, exactly, wish, connect, travel, importantly, thoughtful, and original. This book teaches boys about physical strengths, inner strengths, and that it is ok and healthy to show their emotions. Remember, the world needs a boy…a boy like you.

Make sure that you check out last year’s Back to School Language & Literacy Book recommendations too. I always like to have a variety of books available in my speech/language therapy room while providing therapeutic intervention to address children’s communication and language needs. I typically provide kids new children’s literature choices every few weeks. I hope that you find these book recommendations helpful! Thanks for reading my blog and make sure to subscribe. I wish you all the best as you continue providing valuable speech/language services to numerous children and families while working in the school setting, pediatric private practice, and/or providing teletherapy services.

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