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Diverse Books to Use in Speech Therapy

by Liliana Diaz August 24, 2020 2 Comments

Diverse Books to Use in Speech Therapy

Growing up, I was very fortunate to have diverse teachers who came from different backgrounds. Many of my teachers were either black, Latinx, White, Asian and/or Arabic all throughout my elementary school and high school experience. Unfortunately, not many people can say they grew up having diverse teachers while in school. However, although I had many diverse teachers growing up, and as I reflect back to my childhood education, I do not recall reading stories or remembering lessons where I saw my own culture reflected upon or where I saw a mirror image of my own cultural identity being a Latina, being a Mexican-American female living on the Southside of Chicago. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you or give you an example of a book that deeply resonated with who I am because all the stories I ever read in school were about mostly white characters. At the time, I did not think much about representation in story books growing up. It wasn't a factor that bothered me growing up because I did not know better. I was not taught to question the teacher and that was the mentality that I grew up with as a kid. However, now as an adult and as I reflect upon the literature that I read growing up, I can strongly say that I believe I missed out on a lot of opportunities to learn about my own culture in the school setting. I wish I could have learned about Mexico's rich cultural history a lot sooner. I am, however, very grateful and fortunate to have two loving parents who have always taught me valuable lessons about my culture and have passed down rich Mexican traditions to me. They taught me what it means to have cultural pride. Unfortunately, not all students are fortunate to have families that are invested in embracing their own cultural practices, teachings, identities for whatever the reason may be; these are the students on our caseloads that we need to keep in mind when doing speech therapy and considering the types of materials that we are using. 

The Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) School of education, at the university of Wisconsin Madison, collects data on books by and about people of color. According to the CCBC, children's books depicting main characters from diverse backgrounds are lower than the number of books with main characters who are animals. The following data has been obtained from the CCBC website:

  • 11.9% of main characters in children’s books are Black/African
  • 1% are Native/First Nations, 5.3% are Latinx
  • 8.7% are Asian/Asian American, .05% are Pacific Islander
  • 41.8% are white
  • 29.2% are animal/other
  • 3.4% of books have a main character with a disability
  • 3.1% have a main character who identifies as LGBTQIAP+
As listed above, almost HALF of the books are about white characters and roughly about 30 percent of books are about animals. We need to improve this situation and we can do that by including more diverse books in our therapy materials as SLPs for the following main reasons: 
1. We need to demonstrate representation
2. We need to be able to reflect the reality of our communities
3. We need to create an environment of inclusivity 
4. We need therapy materials that can create a positive learning environment 

 

We can ensure to provide representation and inclusivity through the therapy materials that we use on a daily basis with our students. Before choosing diverse materials in therapy, there are some important points to consider when selecting the material. 

Ask yourself these questions before purchasing a book or therapy material that represents a certain group of people:

  • Who wrote it?
  • Is the author of the book from the culture that is being depicted?
  • Does the book reflect the community that you work in
  • Does the book express negative attitudes towards a group, a heavy negative bias, or express stereotypes?
  • Is the book accurate?
  • Are the events in the story accurate?
  • Does it align correctly historical events?
  • Is the book age appropriate?
  • Does the book include age appropriate vocabulary?
  • Does the vocabulary or language of the book align with the culture or group being represented?

As speech therapists, we are often easily influenced by the popular speech therapy books that are often talked on social media or blogs. I am guilty of using popular books like “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly, if you give a mouse a cookie, etc. Don't get me wrong, these are great books that allow SLPs to target a variety of goals. However, you can also target a variety of goals with the following diverse and multi-cultural books as well. Here are my top picks for books to use in therapy as well as language goal areas that you can target with the books.  

Multi-Cultural Books

Book Title: The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Summary: This book is about being and feeling different and/or feeling like an outsider but accepting who you are and where you come from.

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Learning to describe the characters in the story
  • Comparing & contrasting
  • Answering questions from the story
  • Describing emotions
  • Understanding perspectives of others
  • Sequencing the events from the story
  • Using helping verbs
  • Using conjunctions such as "because"

Book Title: We're Different, We're the Same by Bobbi Jane Kates

Summary: This book features Sesame Street characters and people to show how we are all different but have many overall likenesses. The book demonstrates that our differences is what makes us beautiful. 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Using descriptive words such as adjectives
  • Discussing emotions
  • Labeling verbs
  • Comparing & contrasting
  • Building mean length of utterance through picture description 
  • Answering wh- questions (i.e., who has an orange nose?"
  • Following directions (i.e., point to the girl that is running)

Book Title: Different and the Same by Adijah & Atiya Brabham

Summary: This book is about twin sisters who explore their individuality and celebrate their sameness. The book also demonstrates different activities that make them unique. 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Using descriptive words such as adjectives
  • Using adverbs
  • Using pronouns such as "she" and "they"
  • Comparing & contrasting
  • Building mean length of utterance through picture description 
  • Answering wh- questions (i.e., who likes to sing?)
  • Using negatives (i.e., who does NOT like to draw?)
  • Labeling verbs 
  • Using conjunctions (i.e., She likes to sing AND she likes to draw)

Books about the Black Culture 

Book Title: Black is a Rainbow Color by Angel Joy

Summary: This is a powerful book about a child who reflects on the meaning of being black and ties it to her culture and history. It is also about normalizing the word "black" and being proud of your identity. 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Discussing metaphors
  • Writing poems and discussing meaning (there are poems included towards the back of the book)
  • Using adjectives 
  • Defining and using new vocabulary such as freedom, community, culture, etc.
  • Building mean length of utterance through picture description 

Book Title: Mariama: Different but Just the Same by Jerónimo Cornelles

Summary: This book is about a girl from Africa that moves to a new country where she does not know the language and is unfamiliar with the culture. It's a beautiful story about identity, the process of integration and solidarity. 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Sequencing the events of the story
  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Making comparisons 
  • Defining and using new vocabulary (the back of the book has a glossary of vocabulary words).
  • Building mean length of utterance through picture description 

Book Title: Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

Summary: This book centers around the relationship between a black father and his daughter. It tells the story of how the father must do his daughter's hair for the first time. It's also about embracing and loving your natural hair. 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Sequencing the events of the story
  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Making comparisons 
  • Defining and using new vocabulary (the back of the book has a glossary of vocabulary words).
  • Using adjectives
  • Describing character emotions and perspective 
  • Answering wh- questions about the story 

Book Title: Parker Looks Up by Parker Curry & Jessica Curry

Summary: This book is about a little black girl who goes to a museum and comes face-to-face with a portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. The little girl sees the possibility and promise, the hopes and dreams of herself in the painting of Michelle Obama. It is a very symbolic book! 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Sequencing the events of the story
  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Picture descriptions and building MLU
  • Using pronouns 
  • Using adjectives
  • Describing character emotions and perspective 
  • Answering wh- questions about the story 

Books about Muslims 

Book Title: Under My Hijab by Hena Khan

Summary: This book celebrates the many Muslim women and girls who wear hijabs and provides an introduction to what a hijab is. 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Labeling and describing clothing
  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Picture descriptions and building MLU
  • Using pronouns 
  • Using adjectives
  • Comparing and contrasting 
  • Answering wh- questions about the story 

Book Title: The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad 

Summary: This is a very powerful book about a girl named Faizah on her first day of school. It's her older sister, Asiya's first day of hijab but not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah finds new ways to be strong.

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Labeling and describing clothing
  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Picture descriptions and building MLU
  • Using pronouns 
  • Using adjectives
  • Comparing and contrasting 
  • Answering wh- questions about the story 

Books about Divorce 

Book Title: Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton

Summary: This book is about dealing with the many changes that come with having divorced parents. It's about a boy who lives with his mother and father on different days of the week. 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Labeling the days of the week
  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Picture descriptions and building MLU
  • Using complex sentences with prepositions (i.e., On monday, On Thursday, etc.)
  • Sequencing the events of the story
  • Describing or recalling the events of the story
  • Answering wh- questions about the story 

Books about Autism 

Book Title: Too Sticky, Sensory Issues with Autism by Jen Malia

Summary: This book is about a child who has autism and is dealing with sensory challenges. She receives help from her family and her teacher through accommodations and encouragement in order to participate in an activity that is difficult for her. 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Following directions (there is a slime activity included at the end of the book)
  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Picture descriptions and building MLU
  • Using adjectives to describe slime
  • Problem solving 
  • Expected behaviors versus unexpected  
  • Character perspective 

Books about Gender 

Book Title: Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman

Summary: This is a great book that helps rethink and reframe the stereotypical blue/pink gender by emphasizing that boys can like the color pink as well. 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Following directions (i.e., point to the pink ball)
  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Picture descriptions and building MLU
  • Using adjectives by color
  • Labeling verbs 

Book Title: What Riley Wore by Elana K. Arnold

Summary: This book is about a gender creative character named Riley who loves to wear whatever clothes feel right for each day. Then at the playground, the character is confronted by a kid who asks if Riley is a boy or a girl. The author doesn't assign a gendered pronoun to the character and overall the story is about normalizing the gender expressions that people can have and about being confidently nonbinary.

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Labeling and describing clothing 
  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Picture descriptions and building MLU
  • Using adjectives
  • Labeling verbs 
  • Labeling body parts 
  • Using prepositions (i.e., glass ON Riley's head, Children IN the sandbox, etc.)

Books about the Latinx Culture  

Book Title: ¿De Dónde Eres? / Where are you from? by Camille Saied Mendez

Summary: This book is about a girl that constantly gets asked where she is from. She seeks advice from her grandfather who provides her with a very rich explanation. The story is overall about self-acceptance and cultural identity. 

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Defining and learning new vocabulary such as pampas, campo, soñar, etc.
  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Picture descriptions and building MLU
  • Using adjectives
  • Answering wh- questions about the story 

Book Title: Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

Summary: This book is about a little girl named Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela who believes she has too many names. Throughout the book she learns the history that she carries with her name and to be proud of her name.

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Picture descriptions and building MLU
  • Using conjunctions (i.e., Her grandmother loved books AND poetry)
  • Using pronouns
  • Answering wh- questions about the story 

Book Title: Islandborn by Junot Díaz

Summary: This book is about a little girl named Lola. She is asked at school to draw a picture of where her family immigrated from but she cannot remember because she left the Dominican Republic when she was just a baby. Her family and friends share their memories and histories, both beautiful and complex, helping Lola see that she's part of both worlds.

Speech Therapy Goal Areas: 

  • Recalling and describing details from the story
  • Picture descriptions and building MLU
  • Using conjunctions (i.e., The girl is wearing a pink coat AND purple boots).
  • Using pronouns
  • Answering wh- questions about the story 
  • labeling and describing verbs 

 

The list can go on and on but these are definitely some of my favorite books that I always keep on my shelf at school. What are some of your favorite diverse book titles to use in speech therapy? Comment below, I would love to know! 



Liliana Diaz
Liliana Diaz

Author


2 Responses

Andryce
Andryce

August 30, 2021

We Move Together is a lovely addition to your wonderful list
https://disabilityvisibilityproject.com/2021/07/12/we-move-together/

Monica
Monica

September 24, 2020

I recently found the book All are Welcome, which has beautiful illustrations! This rhyming and repetitive text features the themes of diversity within the school community. It is similar to the We’re Different, We’re the Same book in that the illustrations allow readers to identify how children may appear different but are similar in many ways, such as the activities they participate in.

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