“My Travelin’ Eye” by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

My Travelin' Eye, kids picture bookBorn with eyes that look opposite ways, Jenny Sue is out of the ordinary, but thank heavens for her mom who loves her child and turns different into “creative!” Exploring the difficulties of a disability–kids laughing, calling names, and pointing, getting into trouble and enduring doctor’s appointments–first time author Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw adds a clever spin to the dilemma of living with misaligned eyes called “strabismus.”

Her travelin’ eye takes her to new places, navigating through adventures of numbers and colors. Think of what elements she would miss, had she not had a travelin’ eye to remind her to “smell the flowers, kiss the butterflies, and read the clouds.” With much apprehension, Jenny Sue visits the opthamologist, Dr.Dave, who declares her eye lazy and in need of waking up! He sent her home with big, thick glasses and a patch to cover her strong eye so the lazy one would strengthen. The author-illustrator takes us on a visual tour of what it is like to see through one weak eye. Floating letters on the blackboard set against blurry backgrounds make navigating Jenny Sue’s world challenging. After this brave little girl confides in her mom about her dilemma, her creative  mom gets busy making “fashion patches,” a new one for each day. Debuted to a classroom of peers, the patches are a hit. No sooner has she become a “patch” star, then Jenny Sue gets the news that her lazy eye has woken up. No need for patches, now she just sports one-of-a-kind glasses.

The real Jenny Sue, author and illustrator Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw, has written this endearing autobiographical story from a child’s perspective. Maybe that is why she doesn’t miss a step–what it feels and looks like to have a disability, how people react, what the steps are to get help from the doctor, and how to cleverly face being different to become included. Her punchy illustrations in collage bring a cheerful element to a challenging situation.

I highly recommend this book for parents, teachers and therapists to talk about being different, feelings, reactions, and including others. Use the story to encourage text to self and text to life comparisons. Have you ever been made fun of or been called a name because of being different? How did it feel? How should we treat kids that are different? Were you ever afraid to go to the doctor? How can we celebrate differences? Whenever you talk about the book in addition to reading it, you are building a child’s language skills as well as social skills as you model talking through situations for positive, creative solutions.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Elementary School Age, Preschool, Strategies to Enhance Language | Leave a comment

I Can Do That Book Review

preschool speech therapy book, I Can Do ThatSpeech Pathologists, by profession need to be creative people, when working with children to build their speech and language skills,  making the sessions so much fun that their little clients have no idea they are “learning.”  In the case of I Can Do That and I Can Say That by Dr. Suzy Lederer, a professor of speech-language pathology with over 25 years experience, these inviting, educational, research-based,  books were both authored and illustrated by speech-language pathologists. 

Simple, clear stories aimed at children learning beginning vocabulary, gestures, sounds and language, these books use the strategies that speech pathologists seek in a book. Lists of target nouns and verbs, their corresponding signs, short rhyming lines, repetition of vocabulary, invitations to imitate in gesture and word, simple drawings and layout to limit distractions, bold-faced single words to encourage pre-literacy, and a quick pace, contribute to the magic of these stories. As therapists, we must constantly adjust our materials to meet the needs and interests of our little clients, providing stimulating and refreshing content. I Can Do That and I Can Say That invite, amuse and teach the child in a useful context. 

Children are drawn in by the story’s simplicity and can’t help but join in the repetition of core vocabulary while pretending to eat, drink, hug, or kiss. My little testers enjoyed the kiss the most, anticipating and slobbering on the glossy page with delight. Answering yes and no questions and practicing greetings are included in the stories too.

Research shows that play and reading fosters language development in children. These books encouraged interaction and play, as an active 19 month-old sat on my lap through both stories in a book, spontaneously saying the sounds while looking at the animals quack, moo, meow, and woof. Acting out the verbs, brought in an element of pretend play, encouraging gestures and higher language function.

As an added feature, an interactive CD-ROM for your PC is included in both English and Spanish.

One mom declared these hard covered books so nice that they belonged in “supervised reading.” When I asked her to clarify she said, “I wouldn’t leave them out for him to rip the pages. They belong in the special Mommy and Me section of his bookshelf!” She clearly enjoyed reading the books as much as her son delighted in hearing them.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Reading, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers | Leave a comment

“Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed” by Mo Willems

Naked Mole Rat Gets DressedWilbur doesn’t get it. He loves fancy clothes. Why do naked mole rats have to miss out on dress up? Who made the rules? Scooped up by his colony of critical mole rats, he is taken before the great portrait of Grand-pa, a revered titan to nakedness. Unconvinced, Wilbur continues to question, “Why not wear clothes?” Frustrated, his fellow naked mole rats appeal to Grand-pa who proclaims to his shocked subjects, “Why not?” Clothes don’t hurt anyone and can actually be fun. Given this new choice, some mole rats begin to sport new fashions and others prefer nakedness, but all are united in fun. This tale of inclusion and questioning the rules is delightfully illustrated by Mo Willem’s trademark lined characters. Simple facial lines change a rat’s expression from a “yuck” to a “Eeeeewwww,” leaving you laughing at his antics.

Use the Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed to start a discussion about rules–rules at home or school. What is the difference between unfair and unnecessary? What makes someone different? How should we treat them? What makes me different?

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Book Review, Preschool, Reading, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers | Leave a comment

Review: “Come Learn With Me” by North Country Kids, Inc

Every speech-language pathologist yearns to grab a bag of goodies that will amuse, entice and teach their preschoolers the foundation of language, building the basics for communication and literacy.

“Come Learn With Me” is my goody bag of choice! Use it yourself and share it with parents. Save the precious time of collecting props and pictures and unzip this set of books, objects and pictures to begin assessing and teaching receptive and expressive language and cognitive skills. Clearly the authors’ 30 years of combined early childhood experience is evident in this well organized, complete, simple to use tool with step-by-step lessons.  They have anticipated developmental stages and what would be most useful to stimulate them.

Each area of development—receptive and expressive language and cognitive development—is broken down into 5-6 skills, progressing from the easiest to the hardest, with complete instructions on how to teach that skill beginning with ages that it is developing, prerequisite skills, sample objectives, baseline data, how to increase that skill and prompts, including modifications for children with visual or physical limitations. With each skill so clearly defined and broken down into activities, parents can easily utilize this manual and kit too. Parents often ask me, “What should my child be doing now?” I could easily refer to the developmental milestones and show what tasks were appropriate for their child’s age.

Therapists, teachers and parents have unlimited options with the bags of vehicles, food, farm animals, and function objects. Everything is kid-sized so they love to play with the objects, while the five books provide simple, colorful, cartoon drawings within the categories of things to ride, on the farm, in your house and moving out and about. With increased emphasis on data collection, therapists can easily record responses in the front cover of each book, using dry erase pens. The illustrations in the books as well as the 66 individual pictures of objects, animals and people by category, are a strength of this teaching tool. Clear enough to keep it simple, but just enough detail to identify the picture; these punchy drawings attract the child. The thick laminated, interchangeable pictures are the right size for a child’s hands while the thrill of ripping off the Velcro and sticking the picture on to the page is just the interaction needed to keep kids engaged.

The simple backdrop of book pages provides the flexibility we want in teaching preschoolers language skills. Kids can identify vocabulary, follow directions, answer questions, and create their own stories as they place their picture discs on each page of the books, interchanging the drawings to create unlimited stories as the groundwork for understanding and using vocabulary, grammar, and concepts. The inherent adaptability of this teaching tool is evident in the fact that I use it with children on the autism spectrum as well as with language and articulation delays or disorders.

Although parts are offered separately, my recommendation would be to buy the whole kit, ultimately saving money by giving you more flexibility and options for language learning.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Autism, Birth-3 year-olds, Speech and Language Delay, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers | Leave a comment

“Little Boy” by Alison McGhee and Peter Reynolds

 Baby Boy

Do you know someone expecting a Little Boy and need the perfect  gift? Here it is–the best preparation for Mom and Dad to get ready for a blue bundle of energy. Through simple rhymes–“Little boy, so much depends on…a puddle to jump, sand to dump”–the author captures the charm and curiosity of a little boy who gets stopped by the intrigue of stomping in a puddle, examining a bug, dumping sand or creating a toy tower. The author cleverly introduces the boy’s cardboard box throughout the story, as the child transforms it from a vehicle on wheels, stepladder, pirate ship. parking garage and robot costume. Finally, the little boy and his dog take refuge in this homey box and fall asleep after a busy, creative day. A refreshing peek into a little boy’s day where the only play opportunities are nature and simple toys, this story celebrates a day of imaginative play without technology, reminding us how fun things are when kept simple!

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Babies, Birth-3 year-olds, Book Review, Preschool, Toddlers | Leave a comment

“Quack Quack” by Blue Orange

 Quack Quack, Call of the Farm Game by Blue Orange

Eight charming, little farm animals–simply illustrated using just three colors–are hanging out in a field. Players roll the three dice to see what colors they need to match to an animal. Spot the animal whose colors correspond to the dice, be the first to yell out a “moo”,  “oink” or a “woof” and win a scoring coin. If you line up four coins on your numbered scoring board, you are the winner! Although it appears simple, this game actually requires the player to remember three colors as they move from one animal to the other hoping for a match, identify the animal and then process what sounds it makes. Memory, observation, counting and association skills are all in use. And, don’t we all appreciate a game that comes with it’s own container? Cleverly packaged in a solid wooden box, Quack Quack gathers its pieces in a drawstring bag.

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“Pengoloo” by Blue Orange

 Pengoloo

Waddle on down to the South Pole and start gathering these adorable penguins for a hot game of Pengoloo. Kids love the element of surprise as they roll the two-colored dice and peek under two penguins per turn to reveal their brightly colored eggs. Get a match and declare they’re yours, placing them in order, 1-6, on your patch of ice. Keep it simple for a 4 year-old or step up the strategy and “steal” a penguin from your opponent’s iceberg to make your match. Blue Orange’s signature bright, bold graphics and tactiley pleasing wooden pieces attract kids and adults immediately. A full iceberg declares a winner who has reinforced color and number concepts and built visual memory skills.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Elementary School Age, Preschool, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment

Book Review: The Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen

Pout-Pout Fish

Being grumpy is a lot of work. Mr. Fish can’t seem to be cheered up by his convincing pals, Ms Clam, Mr. Jelly (Fish), Mrs. Squid or Mr. Eight (legged octopus). In spite of the efforts by his best-intended buddies, this dreary, sulking fish is convinced he is doomed to a life of mope. An unexpected visitor appears to plant a kiss on our prince to get this grump out of his slump. This charming tale, The Pout-Pout Fish, is filled with strong vocabulary, rhythm and rhyme with stanzas to be sung with your little one.

Tips to Build Language and Literacy:

Model putting words to your emotions throughout your daily experiences. “I’m frustrated, I can’t get this lid open” or “I’m tired and grumpy. I need a nap.” “Please be patient, I can’t help you right now.” Identify and name emotions in stories that you read aloud to your child. “The little girl is selfish—always wanting her own way” or “Grandma is disappointed in her behavior.” Brainstorm words that describe the main character and see how many you can list. After reading a story to a first grade class, I collected fourteen words to describe the “bossy, impolite, ungrateful” little girl. Our little pout pout fish is “glum,” “mopey,” “dreary,” with an “unattractive trait.”

Point out repeated words that are isolated in the text, “Blub, Bluuuub, and Bluuuuub!” Your child will begin to associate the sound with the letter as you stretch out the word and even “read” the word next time you encounter that page.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, 6-8 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Elementary School Age, Preschool, Reading, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers | Leave a comment

Book Review: Maisy’s Amazing Big Book of Words

Maisy’s Amazing Big Book of WordsNo child gets bored with this kaleidoscope of colorful objects, animals and people gathered into categories by theme–getting dressed, visiting the farm, making music, or playing on the beach. Each category in Maisy’s Amazing Big Book of Words is introduced with a full-size picture and flap to invite your preschooler into a world bursting with 300 words that are related by theme. Whether your child is at the stage of pointing to hear you label the picture, naming the illustrations or narrating a little sentence, she will delight in this feast of words, all relating to a little one’s experience.

Take the time to name the pictures, describe them, “the three swimming ducklings,” and talk about how they all belong to a group–things we use on a rainy day, animals in the sea, food in the kitchen, or objects for bath time. Naming the category builds your child’s language as she learns to group words by their use or function. Talk about what we do with the items–“We dry off with a towel,” or “we wash with soap,” or “we float the duck.” Talking about the function of objects, helps your child link concepts and builds language skills.

Posted in 3-6 year-olds, Birth-3 year-olds, Book Review, Books, Preschool, Reading, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toddlers | Leave a comment

Toy Review: eeBee’s Adventure Play Mat and Activity Play House 6 months-3 Years

eeBee’s Adventure Play Mat and Activity Play House

Every now and then a toy comes along that I get really excited about. This is one. Maybe because I had an older brother and he was always making forts out of our couch cushions and planting me inside with the bowl of popcorn!

This colorful set of foam sections, invites your child to make a house and climb in. Every day they can make a new creation and peek out at the family though the curtained window. See my full review at the Parents’ Choice website.

Posted in Birth-3 year-olds, Strategies to Enhance Language, Toy Reviews | Leave a comment