Trick or Speak!

I am a holidork!  I love holidays and celebrations of all kinds and have a tendency to go over the top in my holiday decorating.  My home and office are currently brimming with pumpkins, spooks, spider and bats!  While pulling out the holiday decor, I reach for my stash of holiday children’s books.  Feeling the need for a little something new this year, a trip to the bookstore this afternoon yielded some great Halloween treats!  I love incorporating literature into therapy – it keeps things fresh, improves vocabulary and listening skills, develops literacy and provides a vehicle to practice a number of therapy goals!  Something magical happens when you sit down and share a story with a child.  Here are my picks for some Halloween learning fun.

  Skeleton Hiccups by Margery Cuyler.

Appropriate for ages 2-6.  This funny, little story is about a skeleton who gets the hiccups.  He tries to get through his daily activities but those darn hiccups keep getting in the way!  He tries everything to get rid of them and finally does with the help of his friend, Ghost!

Language:  Practice verbs!  Ask your little one, “What is Skeleton doing?”  Model responses appropriate for your child’s language level.  That may be a single word, “raking” or a full sentence, “Skeleton is carving a pumpkin!”   Articulation:  This book is loaded with /k/ and /g/ sounds!   Pragmatics:  Pragmatics refers to the social use of language.  Explaining absurdities is a great pragmatic skill.  The clever drawings in this book depict tons of absurd situations. Ask your child, “What is silly in this picture?”

  Goodnight Goon by Micheal Rex.

For all of you who are enchanted by the classic, Goodnight Moon, by Margaret Wise Brown, you are going to love this spooky parody!  Playing off the artwork and story line of the original – a hairy, old werewolf helps his young werewolf cub say good night to the tomb!  (If you don’t have Goodnight Moon, make sure to pick that up too – it is a must-have for any child’s library).  I think this book is fun for all ages, but particularly appropriate for brave 2 year olds up through playful 8 year olds.

Language:  I love this book for practicing adjectives. Have your child point to the pictures the adjectives are describing. “Where is the loud, screechy bat?”  Read a line, “and a hairy old werewolf who was hollering Boo,” and explain what the adjectives mean. “Hairy means that the werewolf is covered in fur.  See the fur all over his body?”  This is another action packed book with great illustrations for verb practice.  Oh, and don’t forget prepositions!  Ask your child to “find” objects in the picture and use their “finding words” (prepositions) to tell you where they are.  “The goon is under the bed!”   Articulation: /g/ words galore for your little goblin to practice!

  Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

This is delightful book, written in rhyme, tells the tale of a witch who keeps losing her belongings (hat, wand, bow) but finds them with the help animal friends who join her on her flight – but how will she make room for them on her broom?  Guaranteed to delight children 3-9 years old!

Language:  Loads of adjectives and powerful verbs (shrieked, clutched, tumbling) to stimulate vocabulary growth!  Talk about the meaning of these words and encourage your child to come up with synonyms – “What is another word for shrieked?”  Phonemic Awareness:  Phonemic awareness is the ability to manipulate sounds and is an important pre-reading skill.  Rhyming is an early phonemic awareness skill and this book provides ample opportunities for rhyming practice.  After reading the story a few times, read a line from the story, leaving off the final word and encourage your child to guess the missing word (familiarity with the story and picture clues will help with this task!).  “Over the fields and forest they flew.  The dog wagged his tail and the stormy wind ____ (blew)”.  Play with the rhymes and have your child come up with additional rhyming words (shoe, new, glue).  Pragmatics:  This book is ideal for discussing feelings, social skills and problem solving!  The witch finds her belongings with the help of her friends.  Discuss how your child can be helpful and a good friend.  Help your child identify the emotions in the story.  “How did the witch feel when she lost her hat?” “How did she feel when the animals helped her?” Our poor friend, Witch, has lots of problems – she keeps losing her belongings, the animals all want to ride along on the broom, her broom broke AND she is confronted by a dragon! Discuss how she solved her problems?  Encourage your child to talk about what he/she would do to solve the problems.

  The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams

This is my sister-in-law’s (also an SLP!) favorite Halloween book for preschoolers and elementary school kids. This brave lady marches her way home despite the fact that she is being followed by a pair of clomping shoes, shaking pants, a wiggling shirt and more!  What do you suppose she will do with these items?

Language:  The repetitive refrain in this story is perfect for having your child join in the “reading” as they say the refrain with you.  Also a great way to model and practice syntax (grammatical word order).  I use this book for sequencing and retelling a story – perfect for the child who is learning to put sentences together to relate ideas and stories!  Have your child retell the story in sequence, offering prompts such as, “FIRST what followed her home?  THEN, what followed her next?”  If you are really creative, cut out a pair of shoes, pants, shirt and pumpkin from construction paper and have your child assemble their own scarecrow as they retell the story!  Articulation: Great opportunities to practice /l/, /r/, and /s/!

  Undead Mad Libs

I am mad about Mad Libs for elementary and middle school children!  Work with your child to fill-in-the-blanks to create some serious silliness. This is always a kid pleaser and if you haven’t done a Mad Lib in a while, you will be surprised at just how much fun it is!  For younger elementary children, look for the Mad Libs Junior additions which provide a word bank of silly nouns, verbs and adjectives.

Language:  Mad Libs are a fun and motivating resource for teaching and practicing parts of speech!  Remind your student or child of the grammatical categories – a noun is a person, place or thing; a verb is an action word; an adjective describes a noun; an adverb describes a verb or adjective!  Also fantastic for vocabulary development.  When a child gives me simple words – we work to make them a bit more interesting.  “What is another word for run?” Nice opportunity to put research skills to work and use a thesaurus to beef up vocabulary – why use “run” when “sprint,” “race,” or “jog” is more interesting?  Articulation:  I use Mad Libs all the time for articulation practice.  After we fill in the words, the child or I read the Mad Lib so we can appreciate the ridiculous story we have created.  Then, using a highlighter, we go back through the story and highlight all of the sounds we are practicing.  Depending on the child’s reading skills, the child repeats target words after me or reads the sentences out loud.  I generally make a copy of the story for the child to take home for more practice.

I hope your Halloween is spooktacular and  that you curl up with your little goblin to  share one of these fantastic books!  Do you want some ideas to turn your favorite Halloween book into a language rich experience?  Leave a comment and I will be happy to provide some suggestions!


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