Selecting The BEST Books For Speech Therapy

The Best Books For Speech Therapy

When implementing a literacy-based approach to your sessions, it’s important to know what goals you are targeting when selecting the best books for speech therapy. Are you working on phonemic awareness, building vocabulary, improving comprehension, inferencing, sequencing, recall, or retell?? The book you choose for a 3rd grader is likely to be different than that of a Preschooler. Likewise, the book you select for working on figurative language will be different than one you select to target print awareness. Regardless, we know the research supports using picture books as a way to build oral language skills. “Reading storybooks aloud to children is recommended as a vehicle for building oral language and early literacy skills” (International Reading Association & National Association for the Education of Young Children, 1998). 

Some general things to consider when selecting books:

Engaging, Diverse Characters – find books that your students can relate to the character’s emotions and actions. Do the books on your shelves reflect the students you teach and/or their life experiences? Do they offer a “window” to things they don’t know about?

Rich Language – when children see and hear rich vocabulary words, they will begin to use it in their own conversations and writing.

Strong Story Grammar – is there an identifiable plot? Also look for books with a message of kindness, inclusion, or self-confidence.

10 minutes – You should be able to read the book and still have enough time left in your session to reinforce concepts through post-reading discussion and activities.

I love a new resource I’ve found from Maya’s Book Nook – she uses the acronym “M.U.S.T.” when selecting books.

Here are the places I look for the best books to use in Speech Therapy:

1. Award-winning books (look at each honor list too!)

Each award has its own criteria in selecting their book. Simply search Amazon for “Children’s Book Award Winners” and you will see specific titles like the Newberry Medal, Geisel Award, Caldecott Medal, Coretta Scott King, Pura Belpré and many more suggestions!
A FEW of my favorites:
Hi! Fly Guy – Geisel Award
Swimmy – Caldecott Award 1964
Green – Geisel Honor and Caldecott Honor
Wolf In The Snow – Caldecott winner 2018
Owl Moon – Caldecott winner 1988
Mercy Watson Goes For A Ride – Geisel Award
I Want My Hat Back – Geisel Award, New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book
The Day The Crayons Quit – Amazon 2013 Best Picture Book, Barnes & Noble Best Book 2013, Goodreads’ 2013 Best Picture Book, E.B. White Read-Aloud Award
Waiting – Geisel Honor, Caldecott Honor
Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive The Bus – Caldecott Honor

2. Curriculum-Aligned

Ask each grade level teachers what books they will be sharing in their classrooms. Maybe ask to sit in on their planning time (bring cookies) and you’ll hear what books they are selecting. Read the class newsletter -often these are posted in the hallway or classroom or they are emailed out to families – ask to be added to their email distribution! Especially in upper elementary and middle school grades, teachers choose books based on specific literary themes. This is a good opportunity to preview the book with your student and prepare them for vocabulary or figurative language they will see in the classroom – giving them confidence!

3. Instagram

I have an Instagram account dedicated solely to sharing quality picture books to use in Speech Therapy: @literacybasedspeech. While your there, follow my friend, Jenna from Speech Room News also has a similar account: @speechroomlibrary. Other accounts I love to follow for SLP book inspiration: @slplibrary is all about Usborne books by my friend, Emily Diaz. @librarymombooks is run by a school librarian turned SAHM. @literacyforlittles is an account by Sami, a Reading Specialist – she often shares activities she does with her sweet young daughter. You can also search and follow hashtags to find great books! Here are some I follow: #literacybasedspeech #readalouds #booksharetuesday #picturebooks #mentortext

4. Pinterest 

If you’ve noticed, Pinterest is now basically a search engine. I often go in and search topics like, “books for teaching the main idea” or “children’s books for inferences.” I have a fantastic Pinterest board: Books and Reading For Speech Therapy that I pin specific book themes to use in therapy.

5. Blogs

Read Aloud Revival is a great blog & podcast. Sarah Mackenzie shares excellent book suggestions for many age levels.
Ramona Recommends is another blog with book lists for many themes. She also regularly shares great books on Instagram as well.
Growing Book By Book is an excellent blog. Jodie Rodriguez shares great ideas for emerging readers.
THIS BLOG! I share many of my favorite themed books right here. You can download and print these Language Bookmarks and Road Maps For Speech Sounds to use in therapy. Each book has specific language or articulation targets!

6. Reliable Authors

There are some children’s book authors that are my go-to for offering exceptional narratives that are perfect for mentor texts.
Bill Peet – his books are longer but unbelievable in quality for story grammar!
Tomie dePaola – magnificent storyteller offering classic books with depth of story elements.
Cynthia Rylant – I have SO MANY of her books. Such fun stories.
Kate DiCamillo – She has such an engaging way to hook readers no matter if it’s a picture book or chapter book!
Leo Lionni – The imagery he creates along with the text is just as much a part of what I love about this author.
Julia Donaldson – Her storytelling is clever and the rhyme she creates is so engaging!
I could list 50 more at least of my favorite authors. I’m sure you have some favorites as well! I’d love to hear them.

7. Amazon Lists

I’ve created a list of all my recommendations listed through this blog including my language bookmarks and articulation sound. If you are searching for seasonal books, books for inferences, sequencing, rhyming, holidays, or even professional development simply click on the Sweet Southern Speech Amazon Lists and you will have them all in one place.

When you are looking through a book to consider it for therapy. Consider your student’s goals. Do they need more tier 2 vocabulary words? Are they needing more exposure to similes & metaphors? Do you have goals for rhyming? Sequencing? Main Idea or Theme? How about the sounds /S/ or /R/ at the sentence level?

Selecting the best children's picture books to use in a literacy-based speech therapy session.

What’s next?

Read it TO THEM. They need to hear the vocabulary in context, the inflection, the tone, etc. Take that reading pressure off the student.
In 1983 the U.S. Dept of Education Commission on Reading had one of the following findings, “The single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to the children.”

I promise, even 5th graders LOVE to be read to…you just need the right book.

Check out my other posts on Literacy-Based Speech Therapy
Tell me, what’s one of your favorite books for therapy?

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