When I read books aloud to my daughters, the younger two are constantly chiming in. If it’s a book we know well, they’ll gush about their favorite parts and recite the text from memory. If it’s a new book, they’ll ask lots of questions and predict what will happen next.
My oldest daughter, Elsa - who has special needs - is quieter in all circumstances. It’s partially her personality, but it’s also due to her motor and speech delays. She has just as many questions at the tip of her tongue and wants to be part of the unison recitation, too.
For children who are primarily non-verbal, like my Elsa, getting involved in the read aloud can be tough. But there is a way in: A communication button or switch. These devices go by a few different names (BIGmack, Big Talk, etc.), but the colorful augmentative communication tools all function in a similar way. About 8 inches in diameter, they are part microphone - part speaker - part switch.
Recording messages on big buttons is super easy, and so is activating the sound. Some switches say a single message. Others allow you to build longer ongoing messages. You can read an entire book into some buttons, building in page turns. Cool, right?
If you have a child who is non-verbal in your family or school, switches like these can bring everyone into the same experience. And isn’t that what the read aloud is all about? Here are a few simple steps to setting up a switch-assisted story time:
Read a picture book. (Fun homework, right?)
Search for a repetition, refrain and reiteration of concepts in the text.
Record those words into the button.
Read the story with a friend who uses switches.
When you come to the point of the story where the recorded text is to be read, STOP!
Present the button to your friend.
Give your friend all the time needed to push the button and read the recorded text.
Try not to re-say what they just said, through the button. (They already said it!)
Continue through the story, giving as many opportunities for participation as possible.
Repetition in switch reading is really wonderful because it allows friends to get involved… well… repeatedly! With the help of a WONDERFUL early childhood librarian at Geneva Public Library (thank you Natasha!), I gathered up 12 titles that present a wide range of read-aloud experiences. Below you’ll find the list.
Before you dig in… two quick favors!
PLEASE insert your favorite books with repetition, refrain and reiteration in the COMMENTS section below. (There are thousands of books that use repetition, and I’d love to hear about the ones you love most. This is just a start!)
Authors: A small school visit assignment… ASK TO BORROW a switch from the school’s speech therapist. Your heart will do flip flops when you see a child light up at the chance to participate in your story in this exciting way! Now, the list…
12 Books to Read with a Communication Button
The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard (HarperCollins, 1977)
The Button Message: “The important thing about…”
Hello, Door by Alastair Heim, illustrated by Alisa Coburn (little bee books, 2018)
The Button Message: “Hello…”
Go Fish! by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Zoe Waring (HARPER, 2018)
The Button Message: “Go Fish!”
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (VIKING, 2005)
The Button Message: ”Llama Llama red pajama…”
My Heart Fills With Happiness / Ni Miyawaten Niteh Ohcih by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett (Orca Book Publishers, 2016)
The Button Message: “My heart fills with happiness when…”
Let it Shine by Ashley Bryan (Atheneum, 2007)
The Button Messages:
“Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
“Oh, Lord I want to be in that number.”
“He’s got the whole world in His hands.”
All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Books, 2009)
The Button Message: “All the world…”
A Big Mooncake for Little Star by Grace Lin (Little, Brown and Company, 2018)
The Button Message: “Little Star didn’t think so.”
Rap a Tap Tap by Leo & Diane Dillon (The Blue Sky Press, 2002)
The Button Message: “Rap a tap tap - think of that!”
Just Because by Rebecca Elliott (Lion Hudson, 2010)
The Button Message: “Just because.”
Marta! Big and Small by Jen Arena, illustrated by Angela Dominguez (Roaring Brook Press, 2016)
The Button Messages:
“Big, very big.” / “Small, very small.”
“Slow, very slow.” / “Fast, very fast.”
“Quiet, very quiet.” / “Loud, very loud.”
“Tasty, very tasty.” / “Clever, very clever.”
Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Dial Books, 2017)
The Button Messages:
“Red Rows. Red Rows.” / “White Rows. White Rows.”
“Old Glory. Old Glory.” / “Sea Waves. See Waves.”
“Well Worn. Well Worn.” / “Woven Together. Woven Together.”
“All American. All American.” / “Stand Proud. Stand Proud.”
“Rising Up. Rising Up.” / “Fly High. Fly High.”
In case you forgot - a friendly reminder! Please add your favorite books with repetition in the COMMENTS section below. The longer the list, the greater resource this post can be for parents, educators and therapists. Thanks in advance for your help!