Language & Literacy Intervention Tips: Metalinguistics, Visualization, Memory Strategies
Children and adolescents can learn strategies to improve their language & literacy skills. They can make gains in academic and linguistic abilities when they practice their strategies during speech/language therapy sessions, the classroom, and at home. Speech/language pathologists, teachers, and parents can guide them through applying metalinguistic, visualization, and memory strategies to succeed across school curriculum areas such as language arts, science, social studies, and math.
Metalinguistics is an individual’s ability to actively think about, talk about, and analyze language. These skills are essential for higher-order language or critical thinking. This is an essential component in language learning and involves someone thinking about oral and written language. Children who have good metalinguistic awareness have a solid understanding of phonological awareness, morphological awareness, syntactic awareness, semantic awareness, and pragmatic language or social skills.
For instance, students with excellent phonological awareness are good at identifying and manipulating speech sounds in words, a meta-awareness skill. Children with excellent language or metalinguistic skills can actively think about their learning and new language or academic concepts. These individuals have a good understanding of word structure, sentence structure, vocabulary, and social language use. They are strong thinkers and readers who can make inferences, predictions, draw conclusions, understand multiple meanings, and comprehend non-literal or figurative language. They are able to think about science concepts, social studies topics, and learn and explain math concepts. They are able to answer verbal reasoning questions and math word problems. Effective language comprehension skills are the foundation for academic success in all subjects or classes.
To visualize means to create a mental image, or to imagine. Visualization strategies help a reader develop a mental image of what is being described in a story or text. The artwork in picture books can be used with children of all ages, not just younger children, to help them see how words and images connect. With visualization, the first step is to explain to the child what visualization means and that by picturing what the text describes will help them remember what they read. It is like making a movie in their head about what they read or about information that is read aloud.
A pre-story task can be conducted where the child is asked to examine a scene in the story they are reading. Then the scene is removed, and the child is asked to visualize it on their own. Finally, the clinician reads a sentence to the child and describes what she “sees.” The clinician then chooses sections from the text and asks the student to practice visualizing and discussing what they see. These visualization techniques are designed to help students make references so that it is easier for them to recall and understand information.
The visualization technique provides an opportunity for children and adolescents to use mental imagery by making a picture in their mind of a vocabulary word or information they are learning at school. Visualization is an excellent language strategy to build comprehension and oral language skills. During speech/language therapy, the speech/language pathologist can ask students several probing questions to help them describe familiar or personal objects with key attributes. Children can practice describing tier 1 vocabulary or objects that are not directly in front of them (e.g., food, item at house, a pet, a piece of jewelry, etc.). Once children can accurately describe familiar or personal objects, they learn to create mental images of simple sentences, paragraphs, and eventually the whole text to improve their listening and reading comprehension skills.
The speech language pathologist can guide a child or adolescent, to process language visually, express what they visualize, orally define vocabulary, and answer literal and inferential questions from information read aloud or presented in text.
Additionally, there are various memory strategies that may be utilized in speech/language therapy, the classroom, and at home to build essential skills. These include:
1. Mnemonics and Acronyms:
A mnemonic is a learning method that involves using a phrase or pattern of letters to remember information. Using an acronym or abbreviation from the initial letters of words can improve memory. Let children create their own mnemonics to assist them in memorizing important curriculum facts, the elements of a process, list, definition, etc.
2. Visual Lists:
Write down an agenda throughout speech therapy next to your workspace. Children will visualize and recall the items that must be done in the therapy session. Children can practice remembering key items from a grocery list when with their family.
3. Games and Puzzles:
Use games such as checkers or chess as a preferred activity to strategize with each child. Puzzles are a great exercise for the brain to build cognitive or thinking skills.
4. Categorizing and Making Connections:
Let children create a hierarchy and classification of categories to enhance archiving and memory skills. They can learn key language arts, science, social studies, and math vocabulary by organizing and listing words according to topics or categories.
5. Drawing and/or Tracing:
Another activity can be performed by allowing children to draw or trace new vocabulary actions and objects to help visualize and ingrain the word within their minds.
6. Color Coordination:
Children can use different color highlighters, colored pencils or markers to emphasize key vocabulary or color-coordinate study guides/class notes.
This is a simple and important strategy, repetition. It can significantly improve memory and performance for a child. Mental repetition is crucial.
Children can utilize different modalities to transfer information from short term to long term memory. For example, when studying for a test, they can say the information from a study guide aloud, rewrite notes, use highlighters, draw diagrams, or move their body (e.g. clap hands, jumping jacks) to practice vocabulary or math facts such as multiplication tables.
Language & Literacy Connection: Phonology, Morphology, Syntax, and Orthography
Effective language and literacy skills are the foundation for successful communication, academic, and life skills. Therefore, it is important to understand the connection between phonology, morphology, syntax, and orthography. Children and adolescents with excellent linguistic skills readily learn various tasks in these language domains. However, those with language disorders, learning disability, and dyslexia will struggle immensely with these areas.
Phonology is the study of phonemes or sounds and their patterns. This is a pre-requisite skill to develop literacy skills. It is part of language form. Children with language and reading disorders need direct instruction in this area. Those who struggle immensely with reading decoding do not have a solid understanding of phonology, phonological awareness, and phonemic awareness. It is imperative that speech/language pathologists, reading teachers, and literacy specialists provide remediation in this area for children and adolescents who struggle with understanding and completing phoneme tasks.
Reading decoding and encoding (orthography or spelling) begins with the simplest and smallest units of language (e.g. phoneme) and progresses to increasingly larger and more complex structures. As learners progress in their understand of sound to symbol correspondences (e.g. phoneme to grapheme), word patterns, and language structure, then intervention shifts more to advanced word analysis (morphology) and sentence structure/conventions (syntax).
Morphology is the study of word structure that includes root words, prefixes, and suffixes. Children and adolescents with morphological disorder have a spoken and/or written language disorder in the area of word structure. They do not have adequate morphological awareness or an understanding of how words can be broken down into smaller units of meanings including the root words, prefixes, and suffixes. Children and adolescents who demonstrate morphological errors that are not due to language or dialectical differences have a language impairment in the area of morphology.
Syntax is the sentence structure. Language has a rules of word order and word combinations to form phrases and sentences. Solid syntactic skills require an understanding of correct word order and language organization of simple, compound, and complex sentence forms. Children with language impairment, reading disorder, and writing disorder often have difficulty with syntax. They may have difficulty spontaneously communicating sentences in a clear and cohesive manner. In these instances, their verbal or written message may not be understood by their communication partner or the reader.
A syntactic disorder is a spoken and/or written language disorder that occurs when children or adults have difficulty sequencing words, thoughts, and information in order. When toddlers learn to speak, they may use incorrect syntax or word order. As children get older and enter school, the complexity of their sentences increases. Students, even in early grades, begin to understand the importance of word order and how it affects the meaning of a phrase, sentence, or passage. Children and adolescents who exhibit syntactic errors that are not due to linguistic/dialectical differences have a language impairment with sentence structure.
Children and adolescents with morphological and syntactic deficits have difficulty learning and using the rules that govern word formation (morphemes) and phrase/sentence formation (syntax). At the word level, these children may not correctly use plural forms or verb tenses. At the phrase or sentence level, children with syntactic deficits might use incorrect word order, leave out words, or use a limited number of complex sentences. For example, a child may omit prepositional clauses which decreases one’s use of complex sentences. It is important to target prepositions with one-step instructions such as stating, “Put the ball under the box.” In addition, locative prepositions can be targeted by presenting a descriptive photograph with many items, asking the child, “What is under the ___?”
Speech/language pathologists should provide direct instruction using structured and functional tasks. They can serve as a verbal model for correct grammatical usage. Then they can provide children and adolescents practice opportunities with root words, prefixes, suffixes, and verb tenses. During speech/language therapy sessions, students will need both oral and written language practice to master this essential skill. Similarly, they need practice formulating simple, compound, and complex sentences in both structured language activities and conversation. SLPs can provide picture description tasks for children to practice producing oral and written sentence with various syntactic structures. Fiction and non-fiction text can be used as exemplars for correct sentence structures. When planning intervention, it is important to keep in mind dialectical variations and provide language therapy for the word and sentence structures that are truly disordered rather than due to linguistic difference.
Additionally, general and special education teachers should directly teach alphabetic principle. This means that students should learn that there are predictable relationships between sounds and letters. Words are comprised of letters that each have a distinct sound. Consonant blends such as /th/, /sh/, and /ch/ are diagraphs that represent one sound. It is important for teachers to understand that a grapheme is an individual letter or sequence of written symbols (e.g. c – a – t). A grapheme is also multi-letter or consonant blends that represent one sound or phoneme (e.g. /th/, /sh/, and /ch/). Speech-language pathologists can help reinforce alphabetic principle as needed during speech/language therapy sessions with children who struggle with reading and writing. Children with language and literacy disorders can practice writing simple sentences through dictation. Teachers may use high frequency words (e.g. Fry or Dolch word lists) for sentence dictation practice. Speech/language pathologist may assist children and adolescents with written expression during functional tasks such as writing a letter to a parent, describing a personal narrative, or retelling a story with key story grammar elements. They can help guide them with organizing their ideas in a cohesive manner at the basic paragraph level or 3-5 paragraphs over time. Teachers address this in the general education and special education classrooms and also focus on conventions such as capitalization and punctuation.
There is a definite connection between phonology, morphology, syntax, and orthography. With a comprehensive assessment and intervention, children and adolescents with language, reading, and writing disorders can make noticeable gains in these areas. Speech/language pathologists and educators can collaborate to maximize student achievement with language, reading, writing, and spelling. This will contribute to an increase in functional and academic skills.
Phonological Awareness, Phonemic Awareness, & Phonics
Phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics are essential literacy skills for children to be successful readers and writers. Phonological awareness is the phonological or sound system that comprises oral language. It is critical for reading success and when a child’s awareness of the phonological structure is evaluated, the results can help predict later reading ability. It is a child’s knowledge that sentences are comprised of words that have syllables and then sounds. Phonological awareness skills should be mastered by approximately 1st grade. However, many elementary, middle, and even high school children lack effective phonological awareness. They need skilled and targeted intervention to remediate these weak areas to increase their reading decoding and reading fluency abilities. There is a developmental hierarchy of phonological awareness as skills increase in complexity and build on each other to maximize reading success. Phonemic awareness is part of phonological awareness and refers to a child’s knowledge of individual sounds.
Children typically develop awareness of larger sound units (words, syllables, intrasyllabic units) before they start attending to phonemes, but instruction focusing on these larger units should not be thought of as a prerequisite for instructional activities that support children’s phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness supports word reading skills for children with various diagnoses.
Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the spoken parts of sentences and words. Examples include segmenting a sentence into words, identifying rhymes, blending onset and rime, naming rhyming words, recognizing alliteration, identifying the syllables in a word, blending syllables, segmenting syllables, and deleting syllables. Phonological awareness includes activities at different units or levels of language, including the word level, syllable level, intrasyllabic level (e.g., onset-rime), and—most critically for this discussion—the phoneme level.
The most complex — and last to develop — is called phonemic awareness.
Phonemic awareness is the ability to notice, think about, and work with the individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words. Examples include blending sounds into words, segmenting words into sounds, adding sounds to create words, deleting sounds, and substituting the sounds in spoken words.
Phonological Awareness Activities
1. Rhyming Games:
Bingo can be used by giving a word to the player and asking the player to find the rhyming pair on the board. In small groups, players can state a rhyme in turn-taking activities.
2. Alliteration Activities:
Let children become creative by making their own alliterations and tongue twisters.
Exhibit stories that display alliteration.
3. Sentence Activities:
Distinguish separate words in a sentence and label each word with the part of speech (e.g. noun, verb, adjective).
4. Singing Songs:
For younger children, sing songs with hand movements that rhyme and contain alliteration.
5. Syllable Identification:
Count each syllable in words and sentences. Create a game by letting children clap or stomp for specific prefixes such as “un-” “in-” “de-” etc.
Phonemic Awareness Activities
1. Isolating Sounds:
Ask the student for the initial and final sounds – to become aware of the isolated sounds.
2. Segmenting Sounds:
Separate each sound in a simple word such as /cat/.
3. Adding Phonemes:
Add /s/ to common words to recognize plurality.
4. Substituting Sounds:
Let students change the initial phonemes to create new words. Example: /p/ in pat to /k/ in cat.
5. Deleting Sounds:
Take /h/ away from math to make the word /mat/.
It is important for speech/language pathologists and educators to assess children’s phonological awareness skills. You may use this Phonological Awareness Progress Monitoring Tool to effectively do so. Get direct access now.
If you need a standardized or formal assessment, speech language pathologists, special education teachers, or school psychologists may use the Comprehensive Test of Phonological Processing, Second Edition (CTOPP-2).
Public school districts throughout the U.S. may also use other screening instruments with phonological awareness components including the Dibels 8th Edition. MClass, with Dibels 8th Edition, provides teacher administered literacy assessments and intervention for children in K-6th grade. Learn more about that here.
Other school districts may use a diagnostic test such as iReady reading to evaluate various components of literacy such as phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, phonics, and comprehension. Learn more about that here.
What is phonics? This is an instruction method that requires teachers to teach children letter-sound relationships. When children are taught phonics, they learn how to read letters, consonant blends, diagraphs (e.g. two letters that make one sound /sh/ and /ch/) by saying the corresponding sounds. Skilled readers use phonics to decode or sound out words rather than mainly memorizing sight words. Children learn vowels, that every syllable has a vowel, and consonant sounds. It is important that multisensory strategies are used for them to learn letters, keywords, and sounds. Additionally, children may practice reading words with various word families or words with similar ending sounds (e.g. at, all, ink, ook). They will also learn that one sound /k/ may have different spellings such as c, k, ck, or ch. It is important for children to understand phonics because a change in the order of letters or a simple vowel change changes a word’s meaning.
Phonics is often taught in kindergarten and first grade. However, it must be taught in other grades when children have not mastered this essential literacy skill. Children that are identified with specific learning disability or dyslexia often struggle with phonics. However, some children many not have a disability or dyslexia, but need proper research based intervention to learn to read accurately and fluently.
1. Visual & Tactile Cues:
Children will look at flashcards with letters. Then, write the letter(s) on a mini white board with dry erase marker or on a multisensory surface.
2. Blending Practice:
Children can clap their hands to represent each sound or tap their finger to represent each sound in a blend
(e.g. bl……/b/ /l/, br ……/b/ /r/….. sk……./s/ /k/)
3. Finger Spelling:
Children can use fingers as a visual aid to help separate or segment sounds on fingers.
4. Word Mapping:
Children can draw squares around each sound. Then write the words.
5. Digital Practice:
Children can use technology via an ipad, tablet, or website to play phonics games.
Additionally, the Florida Center for Reading Research has numerous activities according to grade level that teachers, intervention specialists, speech/language pathologists may use to provide practice opportunities to remediate phonological awareness, phonemic awareness, and phonics. You may access that excellent information below:
Lively Letters is another excellent multi-sensory program that provides phonics intervention. It is important to know that these are just a few recommendations. You may learn more about that program below:
Early Identification of Language Disorders and Language-Based Learning Disabilities
It is imperative that children with language disorders and language-based learning disabilities are identified at an early age. Speech/language pathologists are skilled at identifying receptive and expressive language disorders across the lifespan. Children can start receiving speech/language therapy as a toddler if their comprehension and oral language skills are not age-appropriate. Services can continue through the preschool and school aged years as needed to build essential communication, language, and literacy skills. Speech/language pathologists participate in special education eligibility meetings in the public school setting with school psychologists, special education teachers, and general education teachers and assist in the identification of children with learning disabilities. Language-based learning disabilities negatively impact a child’s understanding and use of spoken and written language. Dyslexia is a neurologically based disorder and a type of language-based learning disability, but the specific language and literacy difficulties are not due to cognitive or intellectual impairment. Early identification is necessary to mitigate consequences that may result from a lack of screening, diagnosis, and effective intervention for language disorders and language-based learning disabilities.
Children with language impairment have a history of speech/language delay, speech sound disorder, oral language difficulties, and/or language processing challenges that persist during school years. Speech/language pathologists and educators can play an important role in recognizing the signs of dyslexia specifically.
Recently, legislation has changed in the U.S., and the public school system is now required to provide universal screening for dyslexia and related language and literacy intervention in the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS).It should be noted that there was always a system in place to identify children with language and reading disorders via the previous Response to Intervention (RTI) process. However, the new legislation calls for an immediate overhaul and strategic focus on enhanced evidence-based dyslexia screening and intervention. In Georgia, the Department of Education has a three-year Dyslexia Pilot Program (2020-2023) in pilot districts throughout the state. In 2024-2025, there will be an official statewide dyslexia screening mandate.
Many important factors contribute to dyslexia including heredity and phonological processing deficit. Learning disabilities including dyslexia often run in families and are a lifelong learning difference. Research confirms that children with inadequate phonological awareness, phonological memory, phonological retrieval, and phonological production may occur in approximately 50 % of children with dyslexia (Pennington et al. 2012). Another study confirmed 48 % of children with phonological awareness deficits also had dyslexia and then 73% if the participants also had language and rapid automized naming deficits (Catts et al. 2017). Other factors may operate with dyslexia as well such as language impairments, attentional deficits, executive functioning difficulties, visual problems, and trauma/stress.
To mitigate dyslexia in the family and school environments, it is wise to build a growth mindset, task-focused behavior, adaptive coping strategies, as well as family, teacher and peer support. In the school setting, children and adolescents with language based learning disabilities are taught learning strategies, receive classroom accomodations and supports so that their brain can effectively process and retain curriculum content.
Sometimes, reading becomes an aversive activity for a young child with dyslexia. In addition, with a negative mindset, children may believe that they are not smart enough to read which diminishes the child from practicing reading. It is important for any child to feel confident in themselves while recognizing their strengths and areas of need. Children, adolescents, speech language pathologists, educators, and parents can find ways to increase opportunities for successful experiences at school, home, and in the community. It is equally important for children and adolescents to learn from challenging situations so they can learn perseverance. Coping strategies may include having higher self-confidence which stems from one’s environment, self-determination, positive aspirations, and hope that one can succeed academically and with everyday life skills.
As speech language pathologists, it is our responsibility to support children by understanding their thoughts regarding their struggles in language and reading, while assessing their critical needs across all literacy domains of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. It is important for families to seek out literacy professionals who have the training to effectively assess and provide skilled speech, language, literacy, and dyslexia therapy/instruction. Contact Building Successful Lives Speech & Language Services if you require further consultation or evaluation for a child or adolescent.
T. Anderson, M.S., Ed.S., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist, Education Specialist, Author, Consultant
Dr. Hugh Catts
Professor and Director of the School of Communication Science and Disorders
Florida State University
Characteristics of Dyslexia and Areas of Impact for Children with Speech, Language, & Literacy Disorders
Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that is characterized by deficits in understanding and using the phonological system for literacy. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other speech and language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words. Dyslexia affects individuals throughout their lives; however, its impact can change at different stages in a person’s life. It is referred to as a learning disability because dyslexia impacts the way a person’s brain processes information and subsequently can make it very difficult for a student to succeed academically in the typical instructional environment. In its more severe forms, it will qualify a student for special education, special accommodations, or extra support services.
About 15%-20 % of people have characteristics of dyslexia in the United States (United States Department of Health and Services).
People with dyslexia may exhibit challenges with:
- Learning to speak
- Learning letters and their sounds
- Reading decoding and fluency
- Organizing written and spoken language
- Memorizing number facts
- Reading quickly enough to comprehend
- Persisting with and comprehending longer reading assignments
- Learning a foreign language
- Correctly doing math operations
How is dyslexia treated?
Educators and speech/language pathologists must first recognize the characteristics of dyslexia and provide language/literacy screenings. Then skilled intervention should be provided in the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) and subsequently from the Special Education program as deemed necessary in the public school system. MTSS helps educators provide academic interventions and strategies for students struggling with various skills. Schools can implement academic accommodations and modifications in the classroom to help students with dyslexia succeed. For example, a student with dyslexia can be given extra time to complete tasks, help with taking notes, and work assignments that are modified appropriately. Educators can read aloud test questions and answer choices or allow students with dyslexia to use alternative means of assessment. There are private schools and speech/language pathologists that specialize in providing dyslexia assessment and intervention.
Early intervention that specifically targets phonology, sound-symbol association, semantics, morphology, and syntax can significantly influence the language and literacy skills for children with dyslexia. By practicing structured language and reading strategies from an early age, dyslexia characteristics may be reduced or hardly recognizable. Older students can benefit by reading texts with an audiobook simultaneously. In addition, as professionals, it is important provide empathy and guidance for individuals with dyslexia.
As speech language pathologists, we can use the Orton Gillingham Approach when aiding a child with dyslexia. Using various speech techniques in cuing, the Orton Gillingham Approach includes multisensory, phonetic, sequential, repetitive, incremental, cumulative, individualized, and explicit strategies to help children with dyslexia. It is also important to note that using principles of structured literacy instruction is an excellent method to remediate language-based learning disability, reading disorders, and/or dyslexia. The five key elements in structured literacy are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.
Keep in mind that there are other multisensory reading approaches or programs to successfully remediate language-based learning disability, reading disorders, and/or dyslexia including Wilson Reading System, Barton Reading & Spelling System, and S.P.I.R.E. Reading Program. However, the structured literacy approach is the most effective multisensory approach for children who experience significant and unusual difficulty learning to read and spell printed words.
Research indicates that the majority of children learn to read best with direct and systematic language and literacy instruction in the key structured literacy areas of phonology, sound-symbol association, syllables, morphology, syntax, and semantics.
Dyslexia may impact various areas in the human system:
- Visual and/or Auditory
- Phonological Processing
Each child should be treated individually. For every area, each child experiences dyslexia differently. One may have co-occurring impacted areas, while some children may experience one or two areas of impact.
Visual symptoms may include an interrupted style of learning in pictures, diagrams, demonstrations, displays, handouts, films, etc. Auditory symptoms may include difficulty with the transfer of information through listening to verbal speech and discriminating/identifying letters and their corresponding sounds.
Phonological processing deficits include challenges with the sound structure of spoken words. Children will demonstrate difficulty distinguishing various sounds. It is a core deficit in processing the sounds of a language. For example, it may include the difficulty of pronouncing words, remembering names, identifying words or rhymes, segmenting sounds, blending sounds, and manipulating sounds essential for effective reading and spelling.
Spatial/sequencing symptoms can include a disruption in various senses that may combine in different ways such as orientation and/or sequencing.
Temporal symptoms involve uncontrollable emotions, language, and certain aspects of visual perception as well as orientation and/or sequencing.
Language symptoms include deficits in both spoken (expressive and receptive) and written language as well as how we process language.
Children with dyslexia and co-occurring ADHD and/or executive functioning disorder often demonstrate challenges with organizational tasks. Specifically, some children may experience difficulty with oral expression, handwriting, writing cohesive information, and/or completing everyday academic tasks with multiple steps. They need language scaffolding, visualization strategies, and metalinguistic strategies to break down large functional and curriculum tasks at school and home so they can complete them. They need practical strategies to improve their focus during the school day in order to listen attentively and learn curriculum content. Additionally, parents may seek guidance from a pediatrician, school psychologist, or neuropsychologist, regarding the possibility of medication management for ADHD symptoms.
Other co-occurring characteristics with dyslexia may include:
- Working memory weakness
- Processing speed weakness
- Social/emotional challenges
- Motivation difficulties
- Math difficulties
- Low self-esteem
Children with dyslexia are in every classroom in public and private schools. Therefore, it is imperative that they receive speech/language/literacy screenings, comprehensive evaluations, speech/language therapy, and special education services as deemed appropriate by trained professionals. If you have further questions, contact Building Successful Lives Speech & Language Services to inquire about consultative and direct speech/language/literacy services.
Anderson Multicultural Books- Children’s Book Launch
The mission of Anderson Multicultural Books LLC is for children and families around the world to develop a love for literacy and an appreciation for individuals from diverse cultures. Communities are enriched by preserving, embracing, and encouraging cultural diversity. It is the co-existence of diverse cultural, ethnic, and religious groups within a society. Multiculturalism enriches communities rather than a belief in a dominant culture. Anderson Multicultural Books also honors and supports linguistic diversity. Many individuals around the world are bilingual and multilingual. Most families in the United States also have ancestral roots from Africa, the Caribbean, South America, Europe, Asia, and/or Central America. We are different yet similar in many ways. The books that are promoted by the company will reflect diversity from the nations around the world.
The debut children’s book, Yikes, I Saw a Barracuda! was officially released on August 14, 2022. Speech-language pathologist, education specialist, author, and consultant, Tamara Anderson and Jamaican illustrator/artist Rachel Moss are excited about this collaboration to contribute to the literacy space of Caribbean artists. The first book signing event was held at the annual ball and scholarship awards hosted by the Atlanta Jamaican Association for the 60th Independence Celebration! It was an amazing event!
This book is the first in the series with the characters, the Edwards family. They are going to take you on their journey. They are a Caribbean American family who has new experiences and life lessons to share with you. Have you read a children’s book or any book by a Caribbean author? What about with a Caribbean illustrator? Many have not. You will have the opportunity to do BOTH. That’s why REPRESENTATION is significant. Children and families need to see themselves reflected in the literature. Additionally, individuals from other backgrounds need access to literature that expands their library collection and world view. After all, we truly live in a global society.
In the book, Alexandra and her brother Samuel are beyond excited because they are going somewhere that they haven’t been before. This trip is not an ordinary beach vacation. Different country. New adventure. They are excited to be at la playa! They race to the blue waters of the Caribbean Sea while their parents lean back and enjoy the breeze. Another day, they begin their trek to the dock. Snorkel, check. Fins, check. Life vest, check. Underwater sights await them. What will they encounter?
This book is ideal for families to enjoy a lighthearted, fun, and captivating story. It’s recommended for children in grades K-3 and up to 5th grade for children with special learning needs (e.g. intellectual disability, learning disability, autism). Yikes, I Saw a Barracuda! is available now globally and can be purchased online in the U.S. on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookshop, & more. Individuals may also purchase their copies online via Amazon UK and Amazon Canada. Anderson Multicultural Books LLC values the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity. When speech language pathologists, educators, librarians, educators, and parents do so, it enriches lives and communities. Culture matters. Language matters. Diversity matters.
Visit andersonmulticulturalbooks.com to learn more and order your copy!
Summer Language & Literacy Books
Summer is in full swing, and children need to continue to have fun, relax, and also build essential speech-language skills. In recommendation, here are six excellent books for use during speech/language therapy or at home during family literacy time. As always, the books may be used with children with identified communication disorders, learning disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and autistic children.
Family Reunion by Chad Richardson and Dad Richardson
Family time is important and brings together different generations to share stories, food, and memories, while also creating new experiences, playing games, dancing, and relaxing. Family Reunion is a great book that captures the important tradition of a family reunion in the Black community. In the story, the main character is surprisingly not excited to travel to this family gathering. He’s not sure how much fun he’ll have, but that changes quickly. He learns the value of family and enjoys quality time which is priceless. This book is ideal for preschool to early elementary school-aged children. It was originally published last summer. You may support the authors by purchasing the book.
Earth’s Incredible Oceans by Jess French
Many families can’t wait to visit the beach during the summer and Fourth of July week. This is a pastime for many people, and they have their favorite beach spots while others venture out to new areas. Earth’s Incredible Oceans is a vibrant non-fiction book that teaches children about the ocean, ocean animals, food web, ocean habitats, and preserving the ocean. The author, Jess French, and illustrator, Claire McElfatrick, did an amazing job depicting the vastness of the five oceans: Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic, Indian, and Southern (newly named). The author also describes how the oceans are constantly in motion due to the currents, tide, and even the moon. Children and adults alike will enjoy the vivid illustrations and the numerous facts described in the book. Make sure that you support the author and illustrator by purchasing a copy this summer to add to your home or speech/language therapy library.
Restate Main Idea & Supporting Details
Tier 1, 2, & 3 Vocabulary
State Facts & Opinions
Elmer and the Whales by David McKee
David McKee is an excellent British children’s book author and illustrator. His series about Elmer, the patchwork elephant is great for elementary school-aged children. The illustrations are vibrant, and the book has plenty of language-rich vocabulary. This is a favorite series for many children and families, while it may be a new discovery for others. In this book, Elmer has an idea to visit the seacoast with his cousin to spot the whales. His grandfather Eldo, the golden elephant, has made the trek before. How will they get there? What will happen along the way?
Story Retell/Story Grammar Elements
Describing with attributes
Flotsam by David Wiesner
David Wiesner, received the Caldecott Medal, for this engaging wordless picture book. The title of the book, Flotsam, is intriguing by itself. The word “flotsam” means something that floats or the cargo/wreckage of a ship that is found washed up by the ocean or beach. This book is recommended for upper elementary school-aged children. They will definitely have the opportunity to practice their critical thinking, reasoning, and descriptive language skills to tell this story. The illustrations are striking, and sometimes a bit unusual. The story begins with a boy spending the day at the beach with his family. He inquisitively inspects a small blue crab, while his family remains reading, kicked back in their beach chairs. He walks towards the water’s edge with a bucket and a shovel. He then spots a red crab. All of a sudden, a strong wave unexpectedly knocks him over. After catching his breath, the boy looks out. He spots something washed up in the sand. What could it be? The speech/language pathologist and/or parent may have to provide some background information for one or two nostalgic picture scenes from a different generation. Nevertheless, this book is exceptional and ideal for building language skills in children with language disorders.
Hello Ocean by Pam Munoz Ryan
Skillfully, Pam Munoz Ryan allows the imagery of her text to come alive with her poetic use of language to tell the story, Hello Ocean. Most likely on the West Coast of the U.S., a family of five arrives at the beach. All of them have their beach ball, shovel, bucket, and boogie board to ride the waves. The text is simple, yet lyrical and invites the reader or listener to enjoy a pleasant day at the beach. “I see the ocean, gray, green, blue, a chameleon always changing hue.” It continues, “Amber seaweed, speckled sand, bubbly waves that kiss the land.” You may visit the Language & Literacy YouTube channel for a full read-aloud video of the book. A Spanish edition of this book is also available, entitled Hello Mar. Visit the author’s page here for more details. “The sun dips down, it’s time to go. But I’ll be back to see your show, hear the stories you have to spin…”
Describing with attributes
Tier 1 & Tier 2 Vocabulary
America the Beautiful by Cholena Rose Dare
America has a vast history. There are many stories and events that make this country what it is today. It has been 246 years since America declared its independence from England. When you reflect on historical and current events, America carries both proudful and shameful moments. Everything is a part of what makes America, the nation that it is today. Nevertheless, America the Beautiful, highlights the beauty of the country for young readers. Children will get a glimpse of national parks, landmarks, while learning about state birds and flowers too. They will also learn about innovations, artists, and food. This is an ideal summer book, or it may be used year-round during family literacy time or speech/language therapy lessons. As the author states: “Like a big family, we laugh and cry together; we celebrate and mourn together. We sing, we march, we make changes — together. We are each different, and our differences are beautiful. The freedom to be your own self is a basic human right — but when we stand together, our beautiful differences build one amazing country. We are a strong and proud family called America!”
Tier 1, 2, & 3 vocabulary
AAC- Core vocabulary
State Facts & Opinion
Here are other great children’s literature selections for use during the summer months:
My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World by Malcolm Mitchell
Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee by Chris Van Dusen
Pete the Cat and the Treasure Map by James Dean
Soccer Star (with ocean theme) by Mina Javaherbin
A House for Hermit Crab by Eric Carle
What’s the Commotion in the Ocean by Nyasha Williams
Pete the Cat Scuba Cat by James Dean
Spring Language & Literacy Books
Speech language pathologists frequently use a variety of children’s literature during speech/language therapy to build functional communication, language, and literacy skills. There are several books that are great for use during the spring season. Here are six recommended selections for use with preschool-elementary school age children. Many of the books may be used with children with identified communication disorders, learning disabilities, intellectual disability, and autistic children.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
This is a favorite book for many speech/language therapists and parents. The illustrations are vibrant and children get to see a snapshot of the life cycle of a beautiful butterfly. In this classic book, the caterpillar is hungry for a random assortment of food that would make a real caterpillar or person have an upset stomach. However, in this book, the storyline is simple, yet inviting and amusing for young children.
Tier 1 vocabulary
AAC- Core vocabulary
Chameleon, Chameleon by Joy Cowley
This non-fiction book uses real photographs of a unique chameleon to help tell a story about a chameleon who wakes up hungry one day. He climbs down the limb of a tree and encounters a gecko that is camouflaged. He spots other animals and insects as he makes his way to the ground including a tiny chameleon, tree frog, gecko camouflaged as a brown leaf, and scorpion. As the chameleon searches for food, he climbs into a tree and sees his next meal, a caterpillar. Children can learn non-fiction facts at the back of the book about panther chameleons that are native to the island of Madagascar, that is located off the coast of Africa.
Articulation- initial /ch/, medial /l/
Verbs- express actions
Syntax- express simple sentences, increase mean length of utterance (MLU)
Language Memory- recall/state facts
Come On, Rain! by Karen Hesse
This book is full of imagery. In this story, the main character, a young girl, wishes for rainfall because of the scorching heat. Her mother is busy working in her garden and her tomato plants are in need of a rain shower too. The girl beckons the rain in a whisper, come on, rain. The main character goes to visit her friend in the neighborhood, Jackie-Joyce, and invites her friend to put on her swimsuit and to come outside in the rain when it starts. She returns back home and pours a tall glass of iced tea and gives it to her mom to cool off. By this time, Jackie-Joyce, arrives to her friend’s house. The main character asks her mom if she can put on her swimsuit and join her friend outside in anticipation of the rain. What will happen next?
Tier 2 vocabulary
Picture Description/Syntax- express simple & compound sentences
Southwest Sunrise by Nikki Grimes
This book provides children with views of New Mexico which is a contrast from New York where the main character previously lived. Initially, the main character, Jayden, is unsure about his new surroundings since his family had to move when his dad got a new job. As he begins to explore his new community, his appreciation for nature grows. The writing by African-American author, Nikki Grimes, provides a glimpse into life in the southwestern United States paired with skillful illustrations by Wendell Minor. Children will learn the importance of adapting to change and being open to new experiences.
Story Grammar/Plot Elements
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
This is an excellent children’s book that provides an extensive amount of non-fiction facts about the Grand Canyon. The text features in the book including the maps, illustrations, captions, headings, and diagrams will provide opportunities for children in grades 3rd-5th and even middle school to practice essential speech/language skills. Children will learn that the Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and one of the biggest canyons in the world with varying elevations. They will learn about the Colorado River that runs through the canyon and that canyons are carved or created by rivers. The climate in the canyon also provides habitats for different animals and plant species. The paired illustrations by Jason Chin, talented author/illustrator, provide children with an opportunity to visualize hiking through the canyon along the adventure with the father and daughter duo in the book. Children are absolutely engaged with this book during more than one speech/language therapy session. I recommend it for use with children with language disorders and/or co-occurring specific learning disability. There are additional facts at the back of the book for more language building activities.
Literal & Inferential Questions
Compare/Contrast- discuss plant life at different elevations, discuss animals
Language Memory- recall of facts
Oral Language- describe animals/plants during picture description
Morphology/Syntax- express sentence structures with correct grammar (e.g. simple, compound,
complex) during picture description
Pragmatic Language- practice conversation, verbal group discussion about topic
One Well the Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss
This book is excellent for Earth Day themed speech/language therapy activities and for non-fiction higher level thinking activities. The book is full of text, so it is recommended to use over at least two speech/language sessions with children in 4th-5th grade and middle school students. Children will learn that all the Earth’s water is connected like One Well, that all people around the world gather from. Therefore, it is essential for the survival of living things and it’s important to conserve it’s use. They will also learn that 1/5th of the earth’s population does not have access to sufficient water. The text features or subheadings in the book provide a great overview of the main topics discussed including: One Well, The Water in the Well, Recycling Water in the Well, Plants at the Well, Animals at the Well, Watery Habitats, Freshwater in the Well, Access to the Well, Demands of the Well, Pollution in the Well, and Saving the Water in the Well, and Becoming Well Aware. This book is ideal to address language comprehension, oral language, critical thinking, and children’s ability to reason and draw conclusions on the topic.
Literal & Inferential Questions
Cause & Effect
Fact & Opinion
Pragmatic Language- initiate conversation, topic maintenance
What are other excellent books to use in speech/language therapy to remediate communication disorders during the spring season?
Too Many Carrots by Katy Hudson
Quiet Bunny’s Many Colors by Lisa McCue
Ladybug Girl by David Soman and Jacky Davis
A Way With Wild Things by Sara Palacios
Birds by Kevin Henkes
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Frog by Lucille Colandro
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Here’s another blog article with children’s literature recommendations:
Women’s History Language & Literacy Books
Women’s History Month originally began in California as Women’s History Week. The first week was celebrated in 1978 and purposefully coincided with March 8th or International Women’s Day that is sponsored by the United Nations. Each year, The National Women’s History Alliance selects a theme for the month. Since we are still in an ongoing pandemic, the organizers selected “Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope” as the 2022 theme to honor frontline workers, women who work in the service professions, and women from diverse cultures who provide both healing and hope in their communities. You can learn more about that organization here.
This month is celebrated each March since the U.S. Congress passed Women’s History Month as a Public Law in 1987. Numerous women throughout the decades have committed their lives to service in various areas. Often times their contributions are overlooked and not celebrated as they should. You can learn more about the month on history.com.
Children and adolescents need to increase their understanding of non-fiction text. Consistent use of informational text is essential to remediating language impairment. They must be provided guided practice opportunities to increase linguistic skills using engaging and higher level content. Therefore, Women’s History Month is an ideal theme to use meaningfully during speech/language therapy sessions. I recommend the following six books to use with students with communication disorders, language disorders and learning disabilities.
Herstory 50 Women and Girls Who Shook Up the World by Katherine Halligan
This book is a new addition to my speech/language library this year. Children and adolescents will have an opportunity to learn interesting facts about a wide variety of women. The illustrations depicted in the text are bold and vivid. You can select women that relate to the 2022 theme of providing healing and read aloud information about Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, to children with language disorders. She was born in Florence, Italy and then her family moved back to England. From a young age, she had a desire to become a nurse and provide vital assistance to others. She worked in a London hospital, cared for soldiers during war time, and even started the Florence Nightingale Training School for nurses in 1860. She was the inspiration behind the creation of the International Red Cross, a humanitarian organization that exists in over 192 countries today. Mary Seacole is another historic woman that made a significant contribution to society. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica and was a nurse, writer, and war hero. She learned many of her nursing skills from her mother who was a traditional healer and cared for injured soldiers in a boarding house. She traveled to various countries in the Caribbean, Central America, and England. She was instrumental in ending the cholera epidemic in Jamaica and a yellow fever outbreak. During the Crimean War, she went to England and treated soldiers where she earned the name “Mother Seacole.” These are two of many women that were positive contributors to our global society that are highlighted in this excellent book.
Speech/Language Targets: Language Memory- verbally communicate 3-5 facts, Vocabulary- define tier 2 vocabulary
The Power of Her Pen, The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne by Lesa Cline-Ransome
This book is about Black journalist Ethel Payne who documented events as they unfolded during the civil rights era and beyond. She was a national television and radio commentator. Ethel was the first Black woman to join the White House Press. She traveled overseas and reported in various international affairs during war time and diplomacy negotiations. She was known for asking challenging questions that many did not want to pose and was given the title “First Lady of the Black Press.” This book is appropriate to read aloud to children in 4th-grade through middle school level. It is written at a fifth grade reading level with a lexile of 1010. Lexiles are a measure of text complexity. You can learn more about that here.
Speech/Language Targets: Listening Comprehension- answer literal wh and how questions, Language Memory- verbally communicate 3-5 facts, Vocabulary- define tier 2 vocabulary using sentence/paragraph context
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousazai
This is a timely book about young activist, Malala Yousazai, who desires for children to find their voice and use it to create a better world. She is a strong advocate for education for girls and helping those in need. Malala lived in Pakistan where girls were not allowed to seek higher education. She spoke out against oppressive practices. She currently resides in Birmingham, England. Malala later was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for her dedication as a female education and humanitarian advocate. What if we had the magic to find solutions to life’s most pressing global issues? What if we can truly make a difference? This book is deliberately written from her perspective. Did you know that there are over 130 million girls who do not attend school? Malala Yousazai’s organization, Malala Fund, has the mission of enabling girls to learn and lead.
Speech/Language Targets: Listening Comprehension- answer literal and critical thinking questions, Language Memory- verbally communicate 3-5 facts, Vocabulary- define tier 2 vocabulary from sentence and paragraph context
Elizabeth Leads the Way, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Vote by Tanya Lee Stone
This biography is about the life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It has a 3rd grade lexile level (700 L), but can be read aloud in speech/language therapy to children in 2nd-5th grade. As a young girl, she often heard that boys were able to do more things than girls. She lived during a time when girls and women did not have equal rights. Her father was a judge and she learned that women could not even own property and even if their husbands died, they would lose the property and land where they lived. Elizabeth wanted to change these unfair laws and she desired for women to have the right to vote. I like the author’s note that is provided at the back of the book that provides additional facts about Elizabeth’s life. Did you know that she ran for congress in 1866? She was the creator of the National Woman Suffrage Association with Susan B. Anthony. She served as the president of the organization for 21 years. In 1920, 18 years after she died, women finally were legally provided the right to vote with the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Speech/Language Targets: Listening Comprehension- answer literal and critical thinking questions, Language Memory- verbally communicate 3-5 facts, Vocabulary- define tier 2 vocabulary
Women in Science, 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky
This is another wonderful recommendation that has valuable non-fiction passages. Speech language pathologists can read aloud the passages to children and adolescents with communication disorders, language disorders, and learning disabilities. I think this book is ideal for children in 4th-8th grade. They will learn about phenomenal women in the scientific community who made contributions in research, medicine, science, technology, and engineering. Some of the women included in this book include Rosalind Franklin, a scientist who discovered DNA, Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated the trajectory of the Apollo 11 space shuttle to the moon, and Ada Lovelace, a computer engineer. The majority of the information in this book will be new knowledge for most students.
Speech/Language Targets: Listening Comprehension- answer literal and critical thinking questions, Language Memory- verbally communicate 3-5 facts
Little Dreamers Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison
This is an excellent book by Caribbean American author, Vashti Harrison. I added this book to my speech/language therapy library last year. The author purposefully selected amazing women from around the world from different cultures and wrote brief biographies with accompanying illustrations. Children and adolescents can learn about Marie Curie, Physicist and Chemist, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry and for contributions in medicine. Did you know that she invented a portable X-ray machine that was used during World War I? They can learn about Katherine Dunham, choreographer and anthropologist. She studied how the roots of African culture spread around the world and the contributions of dance from the African diaspora. She founded the Dunham School of Dance and Theatre in the U.S. She combined African and Caribbean movements with modern and ballet dance forms. Katherine is known as the Matriarch of Black Dance and the Dunham Technique is still taught today. There are over 50 women featured in this book so that you can easily differentiate instruction based on the content presented and students’ interest. I often provide children choices of influential women to learn about during speech/language sessions.
Speech/Language Targets: Listening Comprehension- answer literal and critical thinking questions, Language Memory- verbally communicate 3-5 facts
Have you used these books in speech/language therapy? What are your favorites?
Tamara Anderson, M.S., Ed.S., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Diversity & Equity Advocate
Black History Language & Literacy Books
In the United States, Black History Month is recognized and celebrated each February. The origin of this significant month is due to the efforts of Harvard scholar, Carter Woodson, and minister Jesse Moorland. In September of 1915, they started an organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH), with the mission of promoting the accomplishments of Black Americans and others from the African Diaspora. In 1926, the group sponsored, Negro History Week, in the United States with the same purpose. It took another 50 years before a President recognized the importance of this specially appointed time to recognize the contributions of African Americans in the United States. In 1976, President General Ford implemented that well needed CHANGE to make Black History Month part of the American landscape. You can read more about that history here.
Aside from language, multiculturalism, and the arts, history is another area that I truly love. I love learning facts about people, places, and events. Black people are truly the foundation of so many things in the U.S. and abroad. We exist at the very cradle of civilization and have contributed immensely in the U.S. and throughout the African diaspora. There are countless individuals who have made lasting contributions to every facet of American life. It’s important to share facts about Black Excellence during February and all year long with children receiving speech/language therapy and your children at home. Doing so will expand their knowledge while providing more culturally responsive therapy. Yes, kids can be engaged while learning truths about American history with the numerous contributions of African Americans and those from the African Diaspora. After all, Black History is American History, and World History. Speech language pathologists, educators, and parents must provide an environment that is conducive to the success of Black children and adolescents.
This year, I am recommending a focus on non-fiction books to use meaningfully with children. They can practice a variety of speech-language skills. My top six selections are:
28 Days Moments in Black History That Changed the Word by Charles R. Smith Jr
This is a great book that provides information about a variety of important people in Black history. Children have the opportunity to learn about individuals that they most likely have not learned about previously. For example, they can learn about Matthew Henson, one of two men who explored the North Pole. He traveled to Central America and on a later expedition reached the North Pole. He was given the name Maripahluk, by the indigenous Inuit Eskimos. Children can learn about Henry Johnson, who was part of an all black regiment of soldiers during World War I. He was a courageous man who received the Croix de Guerre, the highest French military honor. He was memorialized in Arlington National Cemetery with other American war heroes. They may also select to learn information about Bessie Coleman, a Black woman, who received her pilot’s license at the age of 29. She received her international license in France since she was not able to study in the U.S. due to discrimination. Do you know about Althea Gibson? She was the first Black woman to win a tennis championship title. She started playing tennis at age 14 and later won the international Wimbledon championship twice and the U.S. Open twice. Students can also learn about other significant moments in Black History such as the 1954, Brown vs. Board of Education decision that eliminated segregation in schools. There are many other important historical figures and moments in this non-fiction book.
Language Memory- recall and restate three key facts
Syntax- produce oral sentences with simple, compound, and/or complex sentence structures
Kamala Harris, First Female Vice President by Rachel Rose
This book is ideal for early learners in kindergarten-third grade. The text is written with simple sentence structures that provide great comprehension practice for children with language disorders, learning disabilities, and autism. In this non-fiction text, students will increase their knowledge about Kamala Harris, the first woman to be elected to the prestigious job of the Vice President of the United States. Children will learn about her multicultural background as a daughter of two highly academic and accomplished parents from India and Jamaica. They will learn about Kamala Harris’ desire to help others and her careers as a lawyer, U.S. Senator, and her current role as Vice President.
Vocabulary-students can verbally define tier 1 and tier 2 words
Language Memory- recall and restate three key facts
WH Questions- answer literal who, what, where, when, why questions
Mary McLeod Bethune, A Great Teacher by Patricia and Frederick McKissack
This literature selection is a part of a series of books by the husband and wife team, who have written approximately 100 books about the African American experience in the U.S. and around the world. They have won several awards, including the Coretta Scott King Award. This book is ideal for children in the third-fifth grade. Do you know about Mary McLeod Bethune? She is known for starting a school in Florida to educate girls. She was born in South Carolina to parents who were former slaves. The great news is that Mary was born free in 1875. This would provide her with new opportunities such as attending school. Her first school ended in the sixth grade. Then she went to a boarding school in North Carolina, named Scotia Seminary, at the young age of 12. After that, she attended Moody Bible College in Chicago. Next, she worked in Chicago and then moved to Georgia to teach. Mary was inspired to move to Daytona Beach, Florida when she heard that there was no school for Black girls in that area. She opened her school in 1904 with 5 students. Over the next year, the school grew to 100 students and 3 teachers. She was an ambitious woman who raised money from wealthy sponsors to buy land, build her school, and even a hospital. Her all-girls school later joined with Cookman, an all-boys school that later became known as Bethune-Cookman. It is currently a private historically Black university. Children will learn a lot of important information about the contributions of Mary McLeod Bethune.
WH and How Questions- answer literal and inferential questions
Language Memory- recall and restate five key facts
Syntax- verbally communicate simple, compound, and complex sentence structures about the book
Booker T. Washington Leader and Educator by Patricia and Frederick McKissack
In this non-fiction book, elementary school students can learn about another historical African American, Booker T. Washington. Although he was born a slave in Virginia, he was able to overcome those challenges and make a positive impact on American society. As a young child, in 1861, the Civil War began. There was a divide between the Northern and Southern States. In 1865, soldiers visited the plantation where his family lived two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation that freed all slaves. His family and many others did not immediately hear this important news. His family then moved to West Virginia to gain work. He had the opportunity to attend a Black school for children and learned to read. He also had to work in the coal mines and as a housekeeper. Later, Booker T. Washington heard about another Black school in Hampton, Virginia. He traveled 500 miles away to attend this school that was known as Hampton Institute at that time. He graduated from there in 1875. After graduation, he taught in West Virginia and in Hampton, VA. He later moved to Tuskegee, Alabama, and held his first class in a Tuskegee church in 1881 with thirty students. Then he hired Olivia Davidson to be another teacher and they later got married. She is known as the cofounder of Tuskegee. Students will learn additional interesting facts about the life of Booker T. Washington in this book.
Language Memory- recall and restate five key facts
WH and How Questions- answer literal and inferential questions
Syntax- verbally communicate simple, compound, and complex sentence structures about the book
Marian Anderson, A Great Singer by Patricia and Frederick McKissack
Many children like the arts. However, they are most likely not aware of historical Black individuals that paved the way for modern day artists. In this literature selection, children in grades 3-5th can learn about the life and contributions of Marian Anderson, a famous singer. She started singing at the age of 6 and she also fell in love with the sound of the piano when she heard a Black lady playing this instrument. Although her family was very poor, she had aspirations to become a professional singer. Unfortunately, at that time, many music schools did not teach Black children. She eventually found her first voice teacher, Mary Saunders Patterson, and then another teacher Giuseppe Boghetti. By the time she was 21, in 1918, she sang in a concert at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. She later sang with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Marian Anderson traveled and performed internationally. Her first concert abroad was in Germany in 1930 and she later performed in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Due to discrimination in the U.S., many performers had opportunities in Europe that were not so easily attained in the U.S. When she returned to the U.S., she sang in many states and performed at a concert in the famous Carnegie Hall in New York, the White House, the Lincoln Memorial for an audience of 75,00o people. Additionally, she was the first African American to sing a leading role with the New York City’s Metropolitan Opera Company. Marian Anderson was quite accomplished. She served as a delegate to the United Nations and received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963.
Vocabulary- define tier 1 and tier 2 words
Language Memory-recall and restate five key facts
WH and How Questions- answer literal and inferential questions
Hidden Figures, The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Many students have heard about the famous women that were instrumental in the space industry because of the 2016 Hidden Figures movie. I like that this book provides an overview of their contributions. This book is ideal for children in grades 3-5 and middle school students. They will learn about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Christine Darden. They were bright and talented women who excelled in math, science, and engineering. The Black women are important because they worked for NASA and were instrumental in the development of advancements in the space industry. For example, Katherine Johnson is known as a brilliant mathematician whose calculations were essential to the success of numerous space missions including Apollo 11’s mission to the moon and back.
Summarization- verbally communicate key information about each Black woman
Vocabulary- orally define tier 1 and tier 2 words
Syntax- verbally communicate simple, compound, complex sentence structures about the book
Have you used these books in speech/language therapy previously? These non-fiction texts are ideal to use with children during individual or group language therapy with children with communication disorders, language disorders, learning disabilities, and autistic children. Review my previous blog posts with language & literacy content including recommendations of other great books for February and to celebrate Black History. If you desire read alouds celebrating Black History, check out Sankofa YouTube channel. I have a few on the Building Successful Lives YouTube channel too.
Tamara Anderson, M.S., Ed.S., CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist
Diversity & Equity Advocate