Ah, Valentine’s Day! That holiday you either love or hate depending on your romance status! Although, I am sans Valentine this year, my heart is filled with love. I have amazing friends, family, the best caseload ever and a job that I love! Perhaps my single, yet hopeful, status and my work with so many kids struggling to form friendships led me to this year’s selection of quirky and fun Valentine’s books to include in therapy. Best thing about these books, they are not Valentine’s specific, so you can use them all year round!
Mr. Prickles: A Quill Fated Love Story written by Kara LaReau; illustrations Scott Magoon
Poor Mr. Prickles! This charming little porcupine only wants to find a friend but “by their very nature porcupines are very hard to get close to.” After failing to fit in with the other woodland creatures, Mr. Prickles finds his perfect match and discovers porcupines do hug….very carefully! Great book for children 3 to 8 years old. Younger children will enjoy this story on its fundamental level - someone looking for a friend. Older children will enjoy the puns, subtle humor and may identify with being teased, left out and struggling to find a true friend. Language: This book is packed with powerful adjectives. Help your child find the picture that illustrates the adjective. This is also a great story to practice making predictions. The author and illustrator beautifully build the story. Before turning the page, ask, “what do you think happens next?” Another favorite language exercise is to look at the pictures and explain what is funny. Kids love this game! My favorite, is the picture of Mr. Prickles using his quills to make shish-kabobs! For kids with more sophisticated language skills, have them look for and explain the plays on words. Articulation: Loads of words with consonant clusters (i.e., “Prickles,” “close,” “fruitless”) allow for plenty of practice pronouncing consonant blends! Social Skills: Parents, teachers and SLPs, there are enough social skills lessons here to keep you busy for weeks! At the most basic level, talk about emotions (lonely, angry/”prickly”, bored, happy) presented throughout the story. Work on buidling empathy skills. “How does Mr. Prickles feel when the other animals are unfriendly to him?” “Have you ever been teased?” “Have you ever teased someone?” At an even higher level, talk about how to handle bullying and what makes a true friend! Activity: Check out Kara LaReau’s website for her ready-to-make Mr. Prickles Valentines and have a Prickly Party!
Zombie in Love written by Kelly DiPucchio illustrated by Scott Campbell
I LOVE this book and so will kids 4 and older! Your kids will laugh at this hysterical and wonderfully illustrated story about “Tall, dead and handsome,” Mortimer, as he looks for his soulmate. All of the girls seem immune to his charms. In a last gasp effort to find his dream ghoul, misunderstood, yet sincere Mortimer, places an ad on Stalemate.com: “If you like taking walks in the graveyard and falling down in the rain. If you are not into cooking, if you have half a brain…” (SING ALONG! Enhance your reading enjoyment by playing this in the background!) Language: SO many opportunities to play the “what is funny about this game”! Provide a model for your responses such as, “this funny because ______” or “this makes me laugh because ________.” Social Skills: Mortimer is the poster zombie for being misunderstood. Talk with your child about how they might be misunderstood by others. What can your child do to make friends? What kind qualities does he look for in a friend? Discuss how shared interests create a foundation for great friendships. Activity: Have your child (or speech therapy group or classroom) write his/her own personal ad in search of a friend. Start by having your child list his or her best characteristics. Next, list the qualities they think make a good friend. Then, take a Mortimer-esque picture of your little zombie (wouldn’t the personal ads and pictures make a fabulous display for a bulletin board, classroom or refrigerator!) Finally, throw a Zombie Party!!! I would serve dirt cakes and of course BRAINS! So. Much. FUN! (I would actually do this with my grown up friends who have come to expect just such quirky festivities from me!) (If anyone has a GFCF recipe for dirt cake, post it in the comments and share the love!)
Lest you think I have a truly warped sense of love, here is a more traditional (but no less magical) book for you! This sweet book is appropriate for toddlers up through adults who are kids at heart! “Little Miss” plants a kiss. What do you think happens when you plant a kiss? LOVE GROWS! And in this book, love grows in sparkly, glittery grandeur! Little Miss’ friends are in such awe of the love that they warn her to keep this beautiful love to herself for fear that it “go bare” if she plucks any off and gives it away. Little Miss ignores her friends’ well meant advice and gives and gives of her love! So what do you suppose happens then?! Grab at least two copies of this book (one for yourself and one to give away) and find out what happens! Language: Focus on the great verbs in this book. Model them in sentences for your child to repeat. Also, try reading the book once in present progressive tense (verb+ing….”Little Miss is watering the kiss”). After you read the book, close it and announce “all done!” Then ask, “what happened?” and go back and read it in the past tense (“Little Miss watered the kiss”). Another great lesson in Social Skills. Discuss how it feels when we are kind and loving to other people! Activity: I found this picture for centerpieces at a wedding while perusing the web and thought it would make for a great sequencing activity. Have your child plant a seed in small pot (bonus activity…decorate the pot making sure to have your child make requests for all the craft supplies). Add a little paper grass or moss to the top and top with a chocolate kiss or two. Even better – personalize the message coming out of the chocolate kiss! Before starting this activity, have your child sequence the steps involved (e.g., decorate the pot; fill with some soil; add a seed; add more dirt; top with moss; plant your kiss!). What a fantastic gift for your child to give to someone he or she loves – a plant AND a kiss! I am betting you will see the love grow!
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY! I think this year I will plant a kiss and head over to my brother’s house, snuggle up my little niece and nephew, read them a story or three and watch some love grow!