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What Makes a Storybook a StoryWhys Book for Literature-Based Language Therapy?

Updated: Feb 21

These are the critical elements for choosing exceptional storybooks to be StoryWhys book companions for speech and language therapy.

I think Those Darn Squirrels by Adam Rubin is a masterpiece.

As a speech language pathologist who has used storybooks in my therapy for decades (and therefore consider myself a bit of children’s book connoisseur after having perused thousands of shelves at book stores and libraries over the years!), I love everything about Those Darn Squirrels:

  • it follows a basic story grammar structure with problems and solutions

  • the language is rich and doesn’t talk down to kids

  • there are unspoken social dynamics that the reader has to infer

  • the illustrations and the story itself are hilarious

  • and the characters ultimately figure out how to be kind to one another.

It also has the kinda-but-not-really naughty word “darn” in it, which always sparks a great conversation with my students about words that are “cool for school” and those that are not. From these conversations about the idea that you can use different words in different contexts, I was surprised to learn how much confusion some of my language-impaired students have about which words are okay to say and the anxiety it can provoke knowing that saying the wrong word in the wrong context can upset the adults around them. Since discovering this, I have always tried to let my students know that I am a safe person to ask about those borderline words and what the rules are around using them, without the worry of a consequence if they say a word that is not “cool for school”.

A person choosing books for speech therapy

I found Those Darn Squirrels at a bookstore during a Spring Break one year, and I could not wait to get back to school to share it with my students. It doesn’t matter how many times my students and I read and re-read this story, it is still compelling and funny and I never get tired of reading it.

Those Darn Squirrels was the very first book that I developed a StoryWhys book companion for and it was a hit with my students. Since then, the list of StoryWhys book companions continues to grow, but I still require every new StoryWhys book to be that same level of quality. This is a list of features I look for when searching for StoryWhys books:

  • A story that has all the important story grammar elements, including problems, and solutions

  • A story that is rich with tier 2 vocabulary, words that are interesting from a morphological perspective, and figurative language

  • Plenty of opportunities to do some critical thinking about the elements in the story (comparing & contrasting, finding main ideas & details, finding cause & effect relationships, categorizing, etc.)

  • Stories with diverse characters

  • Interesting interpersonal dynamics and feelings among the characters

  • Compelling subject matter, either because it’s an interesting topic or funny or relatable for my students

  • A positive message

Want to try a StoryWhys book companion with your speech therapy students? They are perfect for 1:1 sessions or mixed language groups.

You can download a FREE book companion with step-by-step instructions on my Special Offers page, and you can go to my store, where there are many different book companions to choose from, including the Spotlight Series ones that target a specific skill (perspective-taking, finding and describing the main idea & details, comparing and contrasting, comprehending figurative language, categorizing, and recognizing and explaining cause & effect relationships) or ones that target all of these skills with just one high-quality storybook.


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