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Using Books to Model Purposes of Communication

Updated: Feb 5

Shark in ocean holding an open book.

Last week, we began talking about communication functions such as requesting, commenting, and asking/answering questions. This week, we’ll continue our discussion by talking about how to use books to support your child in developing and growing their language skills. Books provide a meaningful and authentic way for developing language skills and are very rich in vocabulary. Books are great for bonding and developing social skills. In addition, books provide great opportunities for modeling all the different purposes of communication that we discussed last week.

In honor of Shark Week, I’ve chosen two of my favorite shark themed books to help provide examples of using books to model purposes of communication.

*Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

“Never Feed a Shark!” by Rosie Greening: This book is a board book with a different animal on each page. Each animal has their mouth wide open with sharp teeth. It is such a great interactive book.

  • Protesting: This book provides a great opportunity to practice protesting in a very natural and fun way! Each page has the words, “Never feed a ….”. I like to be overly dramatic when reading each page. I then like to practice protesting even more by modeling phrases such as “Ahhh…. Don’t feed the Shark!” or “No eat!”, “Don’t feed!”, “No, No No!!” Sometimes I’ll even get some toy food and pretend like I’m going to feed the animal on the page so that the child has an opportunity to practice protesting. Other times, the child likes to be “naughty” and be the ones to pretend to feed the animal while I protest. This usually gets a lot of laughs!

  • Requesting: We often work on requesting while playing toys or during snack time, but I love to model requesting during books as well. This book allows us to have the animals request food. Each page has a different animal. After reading each page, I use a different voice and pretend I’m the animal requesting some food. I use phrases such as “I want apple”, “Give me cookie”, “Eat ice cream”, or even one word phrases such as “Eat”, “Want”, “Cookie, etc. This works even better with toy food items.

“The Three Little Fish and the Big Bad Shark” by Ken Geist: I love this book. This is basically an ocean version of the classic "The Three Little Pigs".

  • Commenting: This book provides a great opportunity to use more descriptive comments which will also support vocabulary development. I model comments about each house the fish build such as “little house”, “strong house”. I also model comments about emotions such as “The fish is scared!”, “Sad fish”, and “Hungry shark!”. Other examples of comments might include “I see” statements such as “I see the shark”, “see fish in house”, etc. As usual, I am often overly dramatic when modeling these words and phrases.

  • Asking Questions: We often think of asking the child questions in order for them to practice answering. But, it is also important to help them learn how to ask questions as well. When modeling questions, emphasize a change in intonation in your voice. You may even use gestures to emphasize the question you are modeling. During this book, I like to pretend to be the shark by knocking on the wall or table or whatever is near. The child most often follows this action automatically. I then pretend to be the shark and model questions such as “Where are you fish?” or “Where fish?”.

Additional Tips for Modeling Communication Functions:

  • AAC users: While I am verbalizing, I point to the word/phrase on a Communication Board or activate the word/phrase on the AAC device. Please note that you do not need to model each word that you verbalize on the Communication Board or AAC device. You may choose the most important words or the words you are choosing to target on that day. We will discuss modeling AAC in a future post.

  • Nonverbal Communication (i.e. gestures, facial expressions, body language): When modeling, it works best when over-exaggerating your facial expressions and using gestures and actions to emphasize your words and phrases.

I hope you have fun using the books in your home with your child to help them in commenting, requesting, protesting, asking questions, sharing information, and even expressing emotions. My desire is to continue to provide you ideas in order for your child to learn these skills in a meaningful and natural way. Next week, we’ll talk about utilizing different games and toys to continue to model different purposes of communication.

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