Saturday, November 13, 2021

USING PICTURE BOOKS WITH OLDER STUDENTS

This week I'm over at Beth Anderson's blog sharing my new article - Not Just for Little Kids: Five Reasons to Use Picture Books with Older Students. In promotion of Beth's blog, I'm giving away a FREE copy of Story Frames for Teaching Literacy: Enhancing Student Learning Through the Power of Storytelling.

Just leave a comment on her blog for a chance to win a FREE book. Be sure to read the article for tips on how to use narrative fiction picture books with older students. For instance, did you know that many picture books have a similar or even higher Lexile than chapter books or novels. Consider that the highly acclaimed The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway has a Lexile of 610L while the picture book, Six Dots: A Story of Young Louis Braille, written by Jen Bryant and illustrated by Boris Kulikov has a similar Lexile of 590L. Even more interesting, Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal written by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie has a Lexile of 860L. Head over to Beth's Blog to learn more.

On a separate note, Brookes Publishing is offering a 20% discount for my book and many others at the Brookes IDA Virtual Bookstore through December 24, 2021 in honor of the recent International Dyslexia Association Conference. Just use the code IDA2021 to get 20% off your purchase including Nancy Hennessy's new book, The Reading Comprehension Blueprint: Helping Student's Make Meaning from Text.

Hennessy was generous enough to let me use one of her visuals for expository text in Story Frames. Her books is full of practical and useful tools for teachers. 

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Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Children's Books Featuring Main Characters with Speech, Language, Learning, and Hearing Challenges

After spending 20 years working in the public schools as a speech-language pathologist with students with a variety of speech and language challenges, it's exciting to see so many books featuring characters with the same challenges I observed in my students. A few noteworthy titles are described below.
Unbound: The Life and Art of Judith Scott, released June of 2021, is a picture book biography for ages 4-8 exploring the life of a fiber artist with Down Syndrome and hearing impairment. Judith has over 160 sculptures featured in museums around the world. The book was written by Judith's twin sister, Joyce, along with Brie Spangler and Melissa Sweet. Born in 1943 before laws were in place to protect disabled children, Judith was not allowed to go to school and was sent to an institution instead. Joyce took Judith out of the institution as soon as she was able to live with her in California where Judith attended the Creative Growth Art Center where her innate talent blossomed. On the subject of disability rights, check out the picture book, We Want to Go to School: The Fight for Disability Rights by Maryann Cocca-Leffler and Janine Leffler who has cerebral palsy. 


See my September 20 Post about the picture book, Tad Lincoln's Restless Wriggle: Pandemonium and Patience in the President's House.  It's another new 2021 release. Read the Q&A with author Beth Anderson as she talks about the evidence that Tad Lincoln may have had a partial cleft palate in addition to speech and learning challenges. My Educator's Guide may be downloaded as a PDF

I Talk Like a River written by poet Jordan Scott and illustrated by Sydney Smith is a picture book that explores the world of a boy who is full of words, but has difficulty expressing himself because he stutters. In the author's note, Jordan Scott talks about his own struggles with stuttering. Winner of the 2021 Schneider Family Book Award. Find activities and lesson plans at Teaching Books.

A Boy and a Jaguar is the autobiographical account of author Alan Robinwitz's early struggles with stuttering. He loves visiting the cat house at the Bronx Zoo and discovers that when he talks to the animals, he does not stutter. He learns to speak for the animals and becomes a wildlife conservationist. This picture book, illustrated by Catia Chen, is for grades Pre K - 2 and is a 2015 Schneider Family Book Award Winner. The Teacher's Guide from the Classroom Bookshelf includes tips for teaching students to write memoir.

Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte for ages 9-12 explores the little-known history of an 1805 deaf community on Martha's Vineyard. There was little distinction between the hearing and the hearing impaired because almost everyone used sign language. Though the heroine is fictional as are the events of the story, the history of the island was well-researched by the author who is deaf and the back matter includes an author's note about the island. Winner of the 2021 Schneider Family Book Award. Find Lesson Plans at Teaching Books.

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly, sign language interpreter, written for grades 4-8 explores the connection between Iris, a girl with a hearing impairment, and a Blue 55, a whale that cannot communicate with other whales of his species. She is the only deaf student at her school and she understands what it is like to have difficulty interacting with her peers. Winner of the 2020 Schneider Family Book Award. See the. Educator's Guide by Random House.

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You written by Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice, and illustrated by Rafael Lopez,  is a picture book for ages 4-8. Sonia writes from her own experience with having diabetes, but the additional characters, with a variety of physical and cognitive challenges, are all fictional. The book tells the story of a group of children working together to create a garden. It embraces diversity by encouraging children to "Just Ask" when they wonder about someone who is different from them. The text points out that not all children are comfortable talking about their differences, in which case children can seek answers from parents and teachers. The book includes perspectives from children with dyslexia as well as asthma, blindness, hearing impairment, autism, stuttering, Tourette's Syndrome, Down Syndrome, ADHD, and allergies. There is also a child in a wheelchair. Winner of the 2020 Schneider Family Book Award. The Lesson Guide from Read Across American includes resources for teaching kids about disability. The Nora Project offers additional guidance about the difference between showing respectful curiosity versus requiring answers of children who may feel very private about their challenges.

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret) for grades 8-13 explores the lives of two young people with hearing impairments. Ben and Rose each set out on a journey to find lost parents that ends at the Museum of Natural history in New York City. Their stories intertwine even though they are separated by fifty years. Ben's story is told in prose while Roses's story is told in beautiful black and white illustrations. Winner of the 2012 Schneider Family Book Award. Find lessons plans from the Texas School for the Deaf Statewide Outreach Center and a Discussion Guide by Scholastic.

Rules was written by Cynthia Lord who is the parent of a child with autism. In this book for ages 11-14, Catherine develops a list of rules to help her autistic brother, David, regulate his behavior. While waiting for David at the Occupational Therapy clinic, Catherine befriends Jason, a boy in a wheelchair, who communicates via words in a communication book. The story explores feelings of love, frustration, embarrassment, acceptance, and sibling conflict. Winner of the 2007 Schneider Family Book Award. It is also a Newbery Honor Book. See the Discussion Guide from author Cynthia Lord. 

To find my list of children's books featuring main characters with DYSLEXIA, visit my October Blog Post.

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter HERE and receive a FREE fill-in-the-blank story template PDF called Travel Trouble. Each month you will get updates, activities, and tips about writing and working with students along with book news. 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Dyslexia Networks

My presentation Dyslexia Networks: Supporting Students by Fostering Collaborative Connections Between Disciplines with me, Paula Moraine, and Dr. Shreya Hessler is part of a Science of Reading Content Power Session, an extension of the 2020 Annual Conference. Is now available on IDA Streaming TV.  It is free if you paid for the 2020 IDA conference supplemental program. Otherwise, there is a fee for IDA TV. Watch for my upcoming IDA presentation, The Goldilocks Effect: Finding the "Just Right" Books for Struggling Readers. In addition, I now have a page on my blog that provides information about decodable books along with publishers and links to book information. If you are looking for titles to use with your struggling students, check out my new page HERE!

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter HERE and receive a FREE fill-in-the-blank story template PDF called Travel Trouble. Each month you will get updates, activities, and tips about writing and working with students along with book news. 

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Free Dyslexia Infographic and a Belgian Chocolate Dyslexia Fundraiser

Below is a free dyslexia infographic created by ALTA for Dyslexia Awareness Month that you may share.


The International Dyslexia Association is teaming up with Lekkco for a Chocolate for Charity fundraiser.  Go to their website for details and to order yummy Belgian chocolate.



Subscribe to my monthly newsletter HERE and receive a FREE fill-in-the-blank story template PDF called Travel Trouble. Each month you will get updates, activities, and tips about writing and working with students along with book news. 


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Children's Books Featuring Young People with Dyslexia

In celebration of Dyslexia Awareness month, this week I'm featuring children's books with main character's who have dyslexia or other language based reading challenges. Sharing these stories with students, whether fictional or real, helps them to see kids like themselves represented in literature and to know they are not alone.

Just Ask written by Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice, and illustrated by Rafael Lopez,  is a picture book for ages 4-8. Sonia writes from her own experience with having diabetes, but the additional characters, with a variety of physical and cognitive challenges including dyslexia, are all fictional. The book tells the story of a group of children working together to create a garden. It embraces diversity by encouraging children to "Just Ask" when they wonder about someone who is different from them. The text points out that not all children are comfortable talking about their differences, in which case children can seek answers from parents and teachers. The book includes perspectives from children with a variety of challenges including asthma, blindness, hearing impairment, autism, stuttering, Tourette's Syndrome, Down Syndrome,  and ADHD. Winner of the 2020 Schneider Family Book Award. The Lesson Guide from Read Across American includes resources for teaching kids about disability awareness. The Nora Project offers additional guidance about the difference between showing respectful curiosity versus requiring answers of children who may feel very private about their challenges.

The Truth As Told by Mason Buttle written by Leslie Conner is about a boy who struggles with reading and writing. Taunted by bullies because of his dyslexia, he finds himself in continual conflict with the neighborhood boys at the same time that he is struggling with the mysterious death of his best friend. When his new friend goes missing, he must figure out what has happened. This Middle-Grade Mystery for Grades 4-8 was a National Book Award Finalist in addition to a 2019 Schneider Family Book Award Winner. See the Educator's Guide by Harper Collins.


Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt, is the recipient of the 2016 Schneider Family Book award. The story features a bright and creative six grade girl who hides her dyslexia by creating numerous distractions in class. With the help of a new teacher, she is able to embrace her dyslexia and celebrate her talents. Read the Q&A on the author's blog where she discusses her personal struggles with reading. 

Hank Zipzer: The World's Greatest Underachiever, is a series of middle-grade novels based on Henry Winkler's own experiences with dyslexia. Hank is smart, resourceful, funny, and creative, but he struggles with the many ways dyslexia can impact everyday life. The series is for grades 3-7, ages 8-12. The Here's Hank series is based on a younger version of the same boy in second grade and is written for ages 6-9. Read my post about Henry Winkler.

The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan features a main character with ADHD and dyslexia. Characters throughout his books face a variety of challenges. Percy Jackson, the main character of the series by the same name, has ADHD and dyslexia, but in this colorful adventure series, these differences are a sign of his extraordinary powers. He is a demigod, the son of a Poseidon. Just like the other demigods at Camp Half-Blood, he never fit into the ordinary world, especially not at school. Author Rick Riordan, a former classroom teacher, modeled Percy after his own son who has dyslexia and ADHD. In his article with The Guardian, Riordan tells how his son hated books and so each night Rick would tell him stories from Greek mythology. When he ran out of stories, his son asked him to make some up. That's when the author created the Percy Jackson character. 

Thank You, Mr. Falker is a picture book that the author/illustrator, Patricia Polacco, wrote about her early struggles with reading. See the Classroom Resource Guide for the book published by the International Literacy Association. Polacco did a video interview with Reading Rockets where she discussed her reading challenges and the Teacher Who Changed Everything. Mr. Falker was the first one to realize she had dyslexia and he even paid for her reading therapy out of his own pocket. 

See my September 20 Post about Tad Lincoln's Restless Wriggle: Pandemonium and Patience in the President's House and the Q&A with author Beth Anderson as she talks about the evidence that Tad Lincoln may have had speech and learning challenges. My Educator's Guide may be downloaded as a PDF.


My book, Take Me There, is a gritty teen story with mature subject matter for ages 14 and up that explores the correlation between incarceration and learning disability. It is a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. Dylan Dawson tries to turn his life around after a stint in juvie, but trouble just seems to follow him wherever he goes. On the run from the police and an LA street gang, he goes to Texas looking for his father who is in prison. When they reunite, he learns how his father's struggles with literacy limited his options which led to a life of crime, the same path that Dylan appears to be following. Even so, Dylan refuses to believe that his father is responsible for the murder for which he has been convicted and sets out to find the real killer.

On a related topic, see my previous post about Children's Authors with Dyslexia. Many of them have interviews featured on Reading Rockets. I hope you have the opportunity to share some of these great books with your struggling learners during Dyslexia Awareness Month and all through the year.

Subscribe to my monthly newsletter HERE and receive a FREE fill-in-the-blank story template PDF called Travel Trouble. Each month you will get updates, activities, and tips about writing and working with students along with book news. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Educator's Guide for TAD LINCOLN'S RESTLESS WRIGGLE


Last week's blog post featured an Interview with Beth Anderson, author of the picture book, Tad Lincoln's Restless Wriggle: Pandemonium and Patience in the President's House. This week I'm providing an analysis of the plot that teachers and SLPs can use with students to talk about the story after reading the book. The analysis is based on the approach found in my resource, Story Frames for Teaching Literacy. Find out more about Story Frames HERE. This blog post is also available as a downloadable Educator's Guide.

This narrative non-fiction picture book is an excellent resource to use with students of all ages for the following objectives:

1. Improve Understanding of Text Structure. Talk to students about the plot structure found below. Then ask them to retell the story to a peer or write a summary. 

2. Connect to the Social Studies Curriculum. The narrative explores what it was like living in the White House during the Civil War and contains an extensive Author's Note that will appeal to older readers. Ask students to find other books about the Civil War appropriate for their grade level.

3. Build Grit, Resilience, and Disability Awareness. The story features a child with both speech/language and learning challenges and can be used to talk about resilience, determination, and acceptance of self and others as well as additional topics related to social-emotional development. Ask students to list their strengths and weaknesses.

4. Improve Vocabulary. The author uses many action verbs to portray Tad's exuberant nature. Have students go through the book looking for action words like careen, launch, scurry, trot, scramble. Have them find definitions for each word and practice conjugating the verb for various tenses (scurry, scurries, scurried, scurrying). Then use the verbs in a story or summary.

5. Promote Ideas for Writing Personal Narratives. The book can be used to inspire students to write their own stories. After reading the book, ask students this question: Have you or someone you know ever tried to find a small way that you could help impact a big problem?  Examples might include homelessness, hunger, poverty, or protecting the environment. 

For more suggestions on how to use picture books to encourage students to write personal narratives, see my AUTHOR PANEL video with Beth Anderson and other children's authors and download the free PDFs from my website below:

PDF for Parents: Picture Books for Reminiscing

PDF for Teachers: Writing Personal Narratives: Using Narrative Nonfiction Picture Books as Inspiration for Telling Your Story


PLOT ANALYSIS

ORDINARY WORLD- Tad lived at the White House with this father, Abraham Lincoln, during the Civil War. He was a restless child who ran from his tutors and interrupted his father's meetings, but he also brought joy and comfort to the president during a very difficult time.

CALL TO ADVENTURE- His father invited him along on official business. 

MENTORS, GUIDES, & GIFTS- Tad learned much from watching his father. He preferred learning from his father to learning from his tutor.

CROSSING- When Tad was 10, his parents took him to visit an army camp.

NEW WORLD- Tad slept in a tent and visited the troops. He was greatly affected by the experience and when he returned home, he listened to the problems of the people who came to visit his father.

PROBLEMS, PRIZES, & PLANS- There were many problems related to the war, but the one that seemed to affect Lincoln the most was that the generals didn't have enough bandages and medicine for their soldiers. Tad planned to raise money to help the war effort.

MIDPOINT ATTEMPT- Tad charged a fee to people who wanted to visit his father at the White House until his father shut down his efforts. He also tried selling food, broken toys, and his parent's clothing until his father brought that to an end as well.

DOWNTIME- He finally settled for keeping his father company in his office. Late each night, his father carried him to bed.

CHASE & ESCAPE- Tad tried to find other ways to help. He gave coins to the homeless and freed a turkey that arrived shortly before the holidays.

DEATH & TRANSFORMATION- When Tad realized that the cook had recaptured the turkey was going to cook it for Christmas dinner, he begged his father to intervene. Lincoln wrote a note saving the turkey's life.

CLIMAX/THE FINAL TEST- For Christmas, Tad received many books as presents. That's when he got his best idea yet. He packed up the books along with warm clothing and food and took a large box to the soldiers recovering in the army hospital.

REWARD- The soldiers are the ones who received the gifts in the end, though we can be certain that Tad benefitted as much as they did and that his generosity brought joy to his father as well.

To get the most out of this narrative analysis and to find additional supports for writing, vocabulary development, and comprehension, check out my book, Story Frames for Teaching Literacy.

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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Interview with Beth Anderson, the Author of TAD LINCOLN'S RESTLESS WRIGGLE

I’m excited to be interviewing author, Beth Anderson, for a Q&A about her new book, Tad Lincoln’s Restless Wriggle: Pandemonium and Patience in the President’s House. The book is illustrated by S.D. Schindler and due to be released on October 5, 2021, but I was very lucky to get a sneak preview. Speech-language pathologists and classroom teachers are going to love this unique look into Abraham Lincoln’s special relationship with his most unique son, especially as we approach Dyslexia Awareness Month coming up in October.

Carolee: As a speech-language pathologist, what excites me the most about your new book is that you feature a main character with a speech difference which your sources indicate may have been a partial cleft palate. Could you give us more details about what evidence points to that conclusion?

Beth: Thank you for inviting me to share some of the research, Carolee. It was fascinating to see what experts learned from the historical record. But, before I share their work, it’s important to know that they used limited details reported by non-professionals at a time when there was no generally accepted terminology for speech disorders. I found one in-depth analysis and a few other articles that explore possibilities while noting the limits of available information and the complicated nature of diagnosis.

Definitive evidence for cleft lip shows up in photographs, while strong evidence for cleft palate or partial cleft palate comes through other sources. Considering the hereditary aspect of cleft palates, a picture of Tad’s grandfather appears to have the same notching on the upper lip.

A reference to an orthodontic device of the time signals a dental abnormality. Also, Tad’s need for specially prepared food indicates problems chewing/swallowing. Some of Tad’s speech patterns are associated with cleft palate, as well as some of his reported social emotional and learning challenges that young people with cleft palate sometimes face. 

Carolee: Because I work with so many students with dyslexia, I’m also interested in learning more about Tad’s language-based learning disability. Were there interesting details about his learning style and/or differences you would like to share that didn’t make it into the book?

Beth: This area lacks specifics. The most detailed research addresses his speech rather than learning disabilities. The evidence for LD tends to be that of association with other issues of his. There’s a strong indication of language delay and possibly dyslexia. Tad was called a slow learner, impulsive, and hyperactive. And he was also described as quick-minded and wise beyond his years. I’ll share some of his documented language issues here.

There are multiple examples from first-hand accounts of Tad’s pronunciation issues. Many are consistent with immature speech patterns. Tad called Elizabeth Keckley “Yib” (probably for “Lib”), Crook was “Took”, Papa dear was “Papa-day,” and Mrs. Sprigg was “Mith Spwigg.” There seems to be a consensus that Tad had an articulation disorder, perhaps a severe one.

As far as his "gushing" speech, it’s possible he had a cluttering disorder as he also exhibited a few of the issues that go with it like distractibility, hyperactivity, certain social/vocational problems (such as delayed ability to dress himself), and language difficulties. Experts are cautious due to the difficulty in diagnosing cluttering.

Tad’s behavior also had signs of ADHD. Though this is supported by association with some of his other difficulties, a diagnosis would require more information.

He insisted (at age 12) that a-p-e spelled monkey when presented a picture and the word. It appears to be more than a substitution as the anecdote notes the interaction had an intentional focus on the letters. Some see that as evidence of dyslexia.

As a former educator, when a child runs away from his tutor and does anything he can to avoid lessons, I tend to think he’s frustrated by his failure and learning differences—even more disheartening when your older brother is a whiz kid. And when you consider all the stress he was dealing with from his personal challenges, as well as living life in the White House (age 8 to just after his 12th birthday), it adds another layer. When Willie died in 1862, Tad lost a brother, playmate, and the person who “translated” his speech for others. In school, he was mocked for his garbled speech and called a stutterer. There’s no real evidence he was actually stuttering, and it’s likely that people used the term for a speech impediment. Many reported a lisp and said his speech was unintelligible due to both his pronunciation and his words flooding out and being jumbled. So you can imagine how people reacted to him, rejected him, and discredited him. Learning about what Tad struggled with and all he faced helped me try to understand the world from his point of view.

Carolee: As an adolescent, Tad did learn to read and write and to speak clearly. Is there any more information available about how he overcame his challenges?

Beth: Tad was a joyful rambunctious child. I would bet he got away with a lot and pushed his limits because he was the son of the President. The President’s House, as the White House was called at the time, was an exciting place. An attic full of treasures. A bell system to call servants. A rooftop perfect for play cannons. A stable with all sorts of animals. A soldiers’ camp on the property. All pretty irresistible for a child! I think there are a number of factors contributing to Tad’s rejection of schooling, and there are a few hints that one of those was that he wasn’t giving lessons his all. After the loss of his father, he realized that he would have to take life more seriously, be more responsible, and grow up.

There is little information about how he overcame his challenges. At age 14, in Chicago, his brother Robert hired an “elocution” tutor. At 15, Mary took him to Germany where he boarded at Dr. Johann Heinrich Hohagen’s Institute and received special instruction. Tad didn’t learn to read, write, and speak clearly until he was sixteen. I didn’t find any information about his instruction.

Carolee: You portray a very unique relationship between Abraham Lincoln and his son, Tad. The president was quite understanding and accepting of his son’s differences at a time when most adults had little patience with children. When you consider that the story is set during the Civil War, Lincoln’s relationship with Tad is even more impressive. How do you think this relationship affected Tad’s development as a person? As a parent and an educator, do you have any personal suggestions for building self-esteem in students with learning challenges?
 
Beth: Abraham and Mary Lincoln were considered permissive parents and criticized for their lack of discipline. The quote that opens the back matter gives us a window into Abraham’s thinking:

“Love is the chain whereby to bind a child to its parents.”

Other quotes from Lincoln showed he understood the challenges Tad faced, the pressure of life in the public eye, and a child’s need to play. There was plenty of time for Tad to learn his letters. After Willie died, Tad and his father had a special bond that sustained both of them. Lincoln said, “I laugh because I must not weep.”

The more I learn about Abraham Lincoln, the more I see his extraordinary ability to see goodness in people, whether the “enemy” or an unruly child. And I think that’s the secret—being able to see past the inappropriate behaviors to find the goodness. Not always easy, right? When I look at father guiding son, I see the familiar “I do, we do, you do” pattern. I saw the father’s behaviors come through in the son. If you look at Tad’s actions, especially the turkey pardon, he’s seeing goodness, too, and speaking for those who can’t. Papa modeled, then guided, then gave Tad opportunities to be successful and use his energy in deeds that allowed others to recognize his goodness. Patience is hard, but I have to imagine that the child is feeling frustration too, and trying to be patient with the rest of the world. I think it’s about mutual trust and respect, and offering a scaffolded path that provides comfort and encouragement for each child to see their own goodness. 

Thanks so much for your questions and the opportunity to share the fascinating research!

Carolee: Thank you, Beth, for taking time out of your busy writing schedule to talk about your book.

Earlier this summer, Beth joined me and two other Colorado authors for a discussion with Second Star Books about writing memoirs and personal stories. Watch the video and read the Q&A HERE. Pre-order your copy of Tad Lincoln’s Restless Wriggle today from a local bookstore or from AMAZON.

Watch for next week's post where I will share an Educator's Guide for Beth's new book.

Beth has another book that is featured in my recent educational resource Story Frames for Teaching Literacy: Enhancing Student Learning through the Power of Storytelling. That title is An Inconvenient Alphabet: Benjamin Franklin and Noah Webster’s Spelling Revolution. Beth is a former ESL teacher and conducts intensive research for her books about the lives of popular historical figures. I always learn something new from reading her work. Narrative non-fiction picture books make great therapy tools for SLPs working in the area of narrative intervention which is the subject of Story Frames.