Great Books to Read Aloud With Your Child

Great Books to Read Aloud With Your Child

Sharing books with your child is a fantastic way to boost their language and social understanding. Children who are read to when they are young are more likely to grow into confident independent readers. Add to that the simple pleasure of snuggling up together to share a book and you have a perfect excuse to explore together the great wide world of books.

February plays host to World Read Aloud Day, an initiative first set up by LitWorld: ‘empowering young people to author lives of independence, hope and joy.’ I regularly share books as part of my speech therapy sessions, though rarely as a simple ‘read aloud’ exercise. Often, I’m using them as a more flexible prop to inspire conversation and play, or to look together for words with a particular sound that we are practising.

Whilst books can be a great springboard for creative play and conversation, some books really lend themselves to reading every word aloud. I’ve gathered a few suggestions here:

The Book With No Pictures – B. J. Novak

This is such a fun and hilarious read. Without any pictures, the beauty of this book lies in the telling. The reader is told to ‘say every word’, tapping in to a child’s love for making adults say silly things. Watch your child’s eyes light up as this book has you trying funny voices, singing rhymes and reading nonsense words. Check out the author sharing this book with a group of delighted kids.

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy – Lynley Dodd

The first of a large range of dog adventure books. With timeless illustrations adding character, Dodd’s genius lies in her ability to build a catchy, building rhyming phrase. I’ve shared before the importance of rhyme for young children and this is a perfect example. You might like to pause before the end of each word to give your child a chance to guess the rhyme.

Momo and Snap Are Not Friends – Airlie Anderson

In sharp contrast to Hairy Maclary, this story consists only of sound effects. It’s a wonderful example of how much can be communicated with barely a word. As you share the pages together you will see how Momo the monkey and Snap the crocodile meet, argue and compete before uniting against a band of hungry lions. This is a fun book to take turns reading as one of you can be Momo and the other Snap.

Dinosaur Roar! – Paul and Henrietta Stickland

A deceptively simple book, with no more than two words per page, Dinosaur Roar actually includes some great ambitious vocabulary. It’s a fun way to explore descriptive language and opposites. The beautiful pictures include every dinosaur imaginable, so if your child is a dinosaur expert they will likely teach you a thing or two.

What about you? Do you have some favourite books you return to again and again? I’d love to hear your recommendations as I’m always on the hunt for fun books to share.

First picture image credit: Freepik

Mission Statement

SaLT by the Sea Mission Statement - Bryony Rust - Speech and Language Therapy

Three years ago I sat down with pen and paper to write my intentions for SaLT by the Sea. As a new business I was considering my core mission and creating some accountability for myself. This is what I wrote:

Communication is the key to a full life. It enables us to build things together, care for each other, solve problems and share our experiences. No matter our level, we can all make a positive contribution, develop our skills and have fun whilst doing it.

I will dedicate my energy, creativity and clinical expertise to ensuring that your child improves their speech, language and communication skills and enjoys the process. I will work with you to understand the needs of your child and ensure that key adults know how best to support them.

I will actively contribute to the global conversation about communication needs and work to raise the profile of speech and language therapy. Because when we communicate effectively we can achieve great things.

Three years on and my mission remains the same. I continue to deliver real change for families, working together to nurture confident communicators. Every family’s journey through the therapy process differs, as every child is unique, but what remains the same is having a therapist who turns up with enthusiasm and dedication.

I’ve also continued to contribute to the wider discussion around speech, language and communication needs. In addition to training events, conference presentations and parent workshops, I am on the steering group for our regional hub of Speech and Language Therapists. We run events for therapist across the south central area to discuss current issues within the profession and develop our knowledge and expertise.

Looking to the next three years, I will continue to provide tailored support for families and information to the wider community. Being self-employed is not without it’s challenges, but being able to make a positive difference in children’s lives is hugely rewarding and I am excited about the year ahead.

Photo credit: Designed by Freepik

5 Gift Ideas for Under 5s

5 Gift Ideas for Under 5s

Whether it’s Christmas, a birthday or a simple ‘just because’, it’s fun to keep an eye out for gifts for our young ones. Here’s a few gift ideas to spark their imagination.

Grimm’s Rainbow

I love the flexibility of these rainbow pieces. There’s a beautiful balance and lightness to each one that encourages a huge variety of play. Great for construction and experimentation, the pieces are also fun to use in creating small worlds, be it a doll’s house or zoo. This rainbow was found at Myriad Toys.

A Superhero Cape

If I could have a super power I’d choose to fly. Whilst Edna Mode from the Incredibles may famously warn against capes for real superheros, they are still great fun for imaginative play. The elements, ‘earth, air, fire, water’ often come up in superhero conversations with children, offering a good excuse to discuss nature and science. I found this cape at Not On The High Street, but there’s always the DIY option!

A Mud Kitchen

Designed and built here on the Isle of Wight, these little kitchens are perfect for making mud pies or serving up a mighty mud roast dinner. If we have a white Christmas, they’d be a great place to make snow cones! Available to order from the Glorious Muddy Kitchen Company.

A Favourite Book Character

Anyone who knows me will know I love to gift books at Christmas, even more so with a soft toy character. It’s fun to put together little story sacks with props from each story, whether it’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea or Paddington Bear. There are a variety of companies, such as StorySight that put together ready-made story sacks, though you’ll likely find many of your favourite story props at home already. Cup of tea anyone?

Little Bus Mini Lotto

This simple lotto set has been in my therapy bag quite a lot over the last month. Not only practical and portable, it also has cutest animal passenger pics, offering lots of opportunity for conversation. Orchard Toys have a huge variety of fun board games that children enjoy and are worth checking out if you’re on the hunt for a board game to entertain the younger members of the family.

So, there you have it: a few gift suggestions to add to the list. I’m hoping to make many of my gifts this year, though I’ve no doubt I’ll find myself in the bookshop or toyshop soon enough. However you choose to celebrate, I hope you enjoy all the festivities of the season.

Image credit: Designed by Freepik

Social Thinking and Me: A Review

Social Thinking and Me: A Review

Earlier this year I attended a Social Thinking conference.  I left feeling fired up about the potential of this approach to develop social understanding.  In fact, I wrote all about it here.  Since then, I’ve been applying the principles to my everyday work with children from three to thirteen.   It has been an exciting shift from merely teaching social skills to helping children develop their social understanding.  So I was delighted when Social Thinking contacted me about reviewing their latest resource: “Social Thinking and Me”.

The resource consists of two books: a pack of Thinksheets and a Kids’ Guidebook.  The Thinksheets book includes a useful introduction to the key principles of Social Thinking.  It’s this focus on establishing a common language that I find most powerful about the approach. Understanding ideas across different situations is often a challenge for people with social communication difficulties, so this shared language enables families to reinforce key concepts throughout everyday situations and take understanding beyond the therapy session.  As the authors points out, “Adults provide the often-needed structure and real-life examples that keep learning alive for students.”

The Thinksheets hold a wealth of activities for adults to work through with children.  It was a conscious decision to call these ‘thinksheets’, in order to emphasise that these are intended to be done with an adult, rather than independently by a child.

The independent part of the process comes with the Kids’ Guidebook, intended to give children the opportunity to revisit ideas in their own time, at their own pace.  A number of my children have commented on how they like ‘quiet time’ to think through ideas, so this format is ideal.

The Kids’ Guidebook lays out the Social Thinking Vocabulary through detailed explanations, picture examples and one-page summaries.  This combination of formats makes it accessible for a variety of children.  I’ve noticed that those with low literacy levels are interested in exploring the cartoons, providing a great opportunity to discuss ideas together.

I’m currently using this resource in 1:1 home sessions and in schools.  I’ve found it a flexible tool as I can dip in to the relevant chapters for each individual therapy programme.  The layout makes it possible to use as a more structured programme for intervention, giving potential to be used by a variety of adults who support children in this area.

If you live in the UK, I can happily recommend ‘Thinking Books’ online shop. I like to buy books from smaller retailers, particularly as they so often have a passion for their topic. The team at Thinking Books are no exception!

Intensive Interaction and the Art of Being

Intensive Interaction and the Art of Being

Last week I found myself lying on the floor, looking up at Phoebe (not her real name) while she reached for my mouth. She laughed, enjoying the buzzing sound as I hummed against her open palm. In our therapy sessions we often play with stories and songs, taking turns with sounds and gestures. We usually sit on the floor, but lying down was a new ‘low’ for me. It was worth the shift. I was amazed by how positioning myself below Phoebe’s gaze made her so much more attentive.

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Things My Dog Taught Me

Things My Dog Taught Me

Today is Bring Your Dog to Work Day. My office is at home, so I’m lucky to have my dog at work with me every day. It’s one of the extra benefits of becoming an independent Speech and Language Therapist.

So, two years ago, when I left my council job and set up in independent practice, Tom and I also welcomed a mutt named Rolo in to our home. As a nervous rescue dog with a difficult start to life, he’s had a lot of things to learn along the way. It came as a surprise how much I also had to learn. So, in honour of this day, I thought I’d share these things with you.

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Learning to be a Social Thinker

Learning to be a Social Thinker

“Want a good life? Enrich your social, emotional experience.” A week after attending Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Conference, her ideas still ring strong in my ears. Her perspective on how we share space with others and help our clients to do so effectively is a powerful message.

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Empty Space: giving children room to grow

Empty Space: giving children room to grow

Last week I left our little town by the sea to attend London’s Nursery World conference. I had the privilege of listening to the Director and Atelierista of Reflections Nursery; a beautiful setting inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach to early education, with no small dash of Danish forest school action.

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Before You Teach the Alphabet: helping your child be ‘school ready’

Before You Teach the Alphabet: helping your child be 'school ready'

Parents often ask me how best to introduce their child to the alphabet. Whilst it’s good to introduce children to letters, there is a lot of early sound awareness skills that are more fundamental than knowing the letters of the alphabet. Children need to notice the sounds within words so they can start applying this knowledge when exploring books or crayons.

Having a good awareness of the sounds that make up each word, understanding their structure and spotting patterns are all important early literacy skills. These sound awareness skills not only support reading and writing, but also play a part in how we learn new vocabulary.

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