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Sunday, January 12, 2020

Do You Do This? Read Aloud Strategies You Can Use with Your AAC Users

The “word gap” is real. You’ve heard this before if you read this blog regularly.  In fact, here is a link to my post on the 30 million word gap.

The fact is that children who are not read to come to school with far less vocabulary knowledge than kids who are. And children with fewer words in their vocabularies understand far less of what they read than their peers.

Our AAC users are particularly vulnerable.  Far too often parents and teachers alike underestimate their nonverbal child’s interest in or attention to books.  And yet books are the perfect way to boost an AAC user’s vocabulary.

BUT - and I’ll bet you know what I’m going to say - they need a robust AAC system with lots of room for a growing vocabulary.

So, you’ve settled your AAC user down with a pile of good books, all based on his interests.  You’ve had him choose one to start with, and off you go.
Vocabulary needs explicit instruction.  Illustrations and context are wonderful for comprehension, but children often need explicit structured instruction for word meanings.
So, when you come across a new word, stop and offer a child-friendly definition, using the context and pictures from the story.  Talk about the word and its meaning. See if you can relate it to something familiar. Provide other examples. And try to use the word in other contexts, as well.

And don’t forget to find the word in the AAC system.  Where is it? What kind of word is it? Where does it belong and what does it relate to? Talk about its features as you determine whether it belongs with the describing words or the action words or….

We need to give our AAC users the opportunity to love books and to learn from them. We need to provide them every opportunity to learn what their peers are learning and say what their peers are saying.  Books are one way in.  Read. And….keep on talking.

You might also be interested in my post about teaching vocabulary in themes.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Is it Story Time Yet? Why We Read to Children

The wrapping paper is gone, the boxes have been recycled, and - hopefully - the kids are still enjoying their presents.  It’s a new year, and perhaps we can build some new skills.

One of the things my children could always count on receiving as presents was books.  My kids loved being read to and I loved doing it.  I read to my children even before they were born, and instilled a love of books in them very early.  Even my ADHD poster boy would sit still for reading time.

Reading aloud to our children is so important. Research says they should be read to at least 15 minutes per day.  Which doesn’t seem like a lot. My kids would rarely settle for anything under 30 minutes - and they could be happy for hours being read to.

Reading to children opens up so many worlds.  For one thing, reading comprehension is based on understanding vocabulary.  By listening to stories with varied vocabulary in an illustrated context provides children with much-needed understanding of different words than they hear throughout their day.
Reading comprehension also requires a degree of background knowledge.  It is difficult to understand a story about a topic or event that you have no frame of reference for. But children can’t experience everything first-hand.  Reading a variety of books to them provides some background knowledge on a variety of subjects.

Screen time is a hotly debated issue, and we know we want kids to have quality screen time. What better way to harness their interest in technology than with the many quality book apps on the market.  The Nosy Crow apps have always been among my favorite; their stories are interactive and have some great humorous elements that keep kids engaged.
For students who want a bit more independence, the low reading level and high interest of the books are attractive to many of our students.

Dial in to your child’s interests and find a variety of books - both fiction and nonfiction - to keep them engaged. And make sure to keep their AAC systems accessible so they can talk about the books. Encourage comments and opinions, and make a game of retelling the stories.

Books are our window to the world and, for many of our children, the only way they will experience some things. Open the window, let in the light, and pave the way for literacy skills.

And keep on talking.