Light, breezy, rhythmic and upbeat, Pete the Cat I Love My White Shoes shares a message of resilience that will appeal to children and adults. Pete begins his day with bright, white new shoes. When he steps onto a pile of strawberries, his shoes turn red and, when he encounters blueberries, his shoes turn blue. Regardless of what poor Pete has to walk through, he maintains his happy outlook. Very popular with young children who enjoy learning and singing about colors, Pete also has a message for older children and adults:
“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” Helen Keller
An excellent choice for young readers who will benefit from the repetitive and predictable text, Pete’s coolness is oh so groovy!
Since September 2013, I have been working twice a week with a four year old boy who has delayed speech. He lives in a bilingual household and he has one older sibling – a girl who also had delayed speech. It has been enormously rewarding to help this child find his voice. He is unfailingly happy and is always excited to welcome me and my “bag of tricks” into his home.
Here are some of the items that have been particularly helpful as we find ways to engage him verbally.
At almost every one of our sessions, my student has touched, lifted flaps and pulled the tabs of this cheerful and engaging alphabet book and accompanying (pop up) poster. Whether feeling the alligator’s scaly tail or the yak’s shaggy head, this is a book that children love to explore through touch.
Phonemic awareness is also supported as the author effectively uses alliteration, ‘Wet waddling Warthogs,’ rhyming and onomatopoeia, ‘Furry Lions roar, Whiskered Mice squeak, Hungry newborn Nightingales – cheep, cheep, cheep!‘ while introducing a variety of animals. Older children will notice that extra details have been added to the illustrations but not the text. Termed, Safari Sightings, these animals and plants are illustrated and listed in an afternote.
I can’t tell you how many times we have solved this Ravensburger See Inside Puzzle together. My young student happily turns the puzzle upside down, and together we turn all the puzzle pieces over. We chat as we start with the corners and work towards the middle of the puzzle. There are so many ways to enrich a child’s vocabulary, understanding and problem solving as we talk about the puzzle pieces and their attributes while noticing the plants, insects, animals, birds and structures featured in the puzzle itself.
Rather than focusing on the enunciation of specific sounds or words, I want to encourage playing with sound and making a variety of sounds. It is amazing how an inexpensive plastic toy ‘Echo’ microphone can encourage a child to sing, make sound effects and speak. I pick up an Echo Mic and put the other one on the table. Before long, we are both singing The Alphabet Song or The Wheels on the Bus or Happy Birthday. I hate to think what we sound like but progress is progress and the plastic ‘Echo” microphone has helped us along the way.
As we work toward improved verbal communication, I want to ensure that my student has a rich listening or receptive vocabulary as well as a large speaking or expressive vocabulary so I want to provide him with repeated meaningful encounters with words. I want him to hear and know colors, numbers, positional words (over, under, beside, inside) and nouns (windows, doors, wheels, roof, trees, flowers, bricks, fences, house, car, truck, steering wheel). Of course, I turn to my favourite toy. Ever. Each day I arrive with a bucket of Lego . We build houses and towers, we look for small bricks and blue bricks and yellow, white, red, black and blue bricks. We add windows and doors, stairs and roofs. And I talk about everything we do. I chat constantly and now he chimes in.
From the start, we have played Tic Tac Toe. I made a laminated game board (that includes a letter of the alphabet in each square) and I use Xs and Os from a dollar store game. When we first played, his job was to say, “Your turn,” after he played his “O.” Now, he says the letter name in the box and a word that begins with the letter, “C is for Cat.” He also says, “Your turn, ” and “I win!” He has never tired of this simple game. When we first started, he said very little. Now, it is a constant exchange of short sentences and the joy of communicating about a shared activity.
Spot the Dot created by David A. Carter Novelty book published by Cartwheel Books, an Imprint of Scholastic Spot the Dot is an appealing, brightly colored, interactive pop up book that includes flaps to lift, a wheel to turn and tabs to pull. Visual clues and predictable text encourage children – even those with delayed speech – to venture into ‘reading.’ My student thoroughly enjoys this book and now points to the words as he ‘reads’ each page and then pretends to ‘search’ for the dot.
Over the weekend, I read a completely charming and adorable picture book called Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes. I had never heard of it, so when my daughter asked to read it to me, and my friend said it was great, I sat back and listened. Its language is simple, perfect for early readers and the message is strong, perfect for kids of all ages. Pete is a cat who likes his shoes, which start out white. As the book progresses and Pete steps into some different things, such as strawberries, blueberries, and mud, his shoes change colors. Though the message is clear throughtout, I love that the story ends by telling the moral of Pete’s story. No matter what color your shoes or what happens, go with it; carry on and be okay. The multicolored shoes, of course, can be substituted for a wide multitude of things.
People often see picture books as a way to engage young children, but their message can be very important to older children as well. In fact, sometimes, the simple but powerful messages in a picture book can be more meaningful than a long novel, particularly for struggling readers. Even for strong readers; who are used to making sense of text, finding connections, predicting, and summarizing. Ask them to give you the moral and key points of a picture book and they often get stumped. They stopped reading such books when they were around eight or nine so now, to them, those books are for little kids learning to read. They forgot, or don’t see, the message that is embedded in most pictures books and young children’s tales. Taking them back to those stories and seeing what they pull from it, is a true delight. Every kid loves to be read to.
My grade five class, whom I read to almost every day, was asked by our librarian if they wanted to hear a story. There was a resounding yes. They all sat on the carpet in front of her rocking chair, listening to her animated voices. They did exactly what we want kids to do; they fell into the story. They engaged and enjoyed. They saw the moral and the next day, when they did their writing, the book was mentioned more than once. Picture books are powerful tools, regardless of a person’s age. This is why, at the workshops I attend, there are frequently picture books used to share and show strategies and ways to improve reading levels. Picture books connect; they draw you in and charm you in a short amount of time. You can never be too old for that.
Canada in Colours
written and illustrated by Per-Henrik Gurth Picture Book for Canada Day published by Kids Can Press
This vibrantly illustrated concept book depicts the colours of Canada from coast to coast. Mr. Gurth begins with a happy, snowy white scene and then takes readers into a lush, green forest. Vivid, graphic illustrations highlight the red sands of Prince Edward Island, the deep blue St. Lawrence River, parklands and dancing fields of sunny, yellow wheat. After sunset, he shows us a twinkling Big Dipper and shimmering northern lights.
A bold celebration of colors and Canada, Canada in Colours is suitable for toddlers and preschool-aged children.
“Red was a hot head. He liked to pick on Blue, “Red is a great color,” he’d say. “Red is hot. Blue is not.” Then Blue would feel bad about being Blue.”
Red is a loud, brash bully while Blue is a quiet, introspective color. When Red relentlessly picks on him, Yellow, Green, Purple and Orange witness the unkind words and are sympathetic to Blue but they fail to act. The don’t tell Red to stop the abuse. When none of the colors speak up for their friend, Red is emboldened. He grows larger and larger until all of the colors are afraid of him. Thankfully, a newcomer appears, “with bold strokes and squared corners…One stood up straight like an arrow and said, “No.”
Featuring bold, dramatic illustrations and a deceptively simple storyline, One delivers a terrific anti-bullying message. A great read aloud, One offers many opportunities for discussion and the inspiring illustrations will encourage artists young and old.
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