using Harlem's Little Blackbird in speech therapy

Frequent Speech Sounds:

/fl/ initial
/s/ initial (sing, song, sang)
/s/ final (voice)


Black History Month
Women’s History Month

Book Details:

Diverse Characters: Yes
Age Recommendation: Elementary, Late Elementary, Middle School

Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills

By Renée Watson

Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by her fellow black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights. Featuring a moving text and colorful illustrationsHarlem's Little Blackbird is a timeless story about justice, equality, and the importance of following one's heart and dreams.

This moving Black History and Women's History Month book can be used in speech therapy to address social/emotional issues like perseverance. It is also great for sequencing and for targeting similes and inferencing as well as for/fl/ and /s/ sounds! Discover more of the speech and language teaching concepts for using Harlem's Little Blackbird in speech therapy below: 

Key Teaching concepts

Narrative Structure:

complete episode
expository text

Narrative Concepts:

character analysis
figurative language
verbs (present progressive)
verbs (regular past tense)
text features
illustration study


order of events that led to Florence and her fame


fragile, spirituals, slavery, cakewalk, perform, begged, adored, role, renaissance, cultural movement, boycott, international, marquee, disguise, tribute

Character Analysis:

Florence persisted and made a career for herself during a time when it was difficult for women and daughters of slaves to do so.



Figurative Language:

similes (peace like a rive attendeth my way, sorrows like sea billows roll, Mother’s voice wrapped Florence like a warm blanket, her feet were like wings fluttering in the air)


verbs (present progressive)
verbs (regular past tense)

Text Features:


Phonological Awareness:



What did they think about Florence and her singing?
How do you think she felt about her voice?
How did being the daughter of former slaves impact her?
Why do you think the manager snuck her friends in to see the show?
How do you think Florence contributed to the cultural movement?
Why do you think she turned down the leading role in the Broadway show?
How did Florence change people’s minds about her?
How do you think helping others made her feel?
How do you think Florence changed history?


What else do you think her voice could do?
What else do you think she will do with her voice?
Why do you think it wasn’t like she dreamed it would be?
What do you think she said to stand up for herself and her family?
What do you think happened?
What do you think will happen when Florence performs on the ship?
What else do you think she will do with her voice?