My daughter is 14. She doesn’t communicate with spoken words. She struggles with reading comprehension and with expressing herself in written form.
But she loves words. She loves to read. She loves spending time with me.
And she loves dogs. So we read novels about dogs together.
She checks out books from her school library. Her reading class goes to the library regularly and teachers help guide her to the dog books. If her class didn’t regularly go to the library, I would be taking her before or after school.
I read the novels aloud. Sometimes she sits or lies beside me and follows along while I trace the lines of text with my finger. Other times she grabs her stuffed animals and acts out whatever it is I’m reading. She may insist on turning the pages. At times she plays with toys and appears not to be paying attention.
However, I know that occasionally she is better able to listen and pay attention if her eyes and body are doing something unrelated to what we are reading about. It is important for me to remember that she has a different way of learning and listening than I do.
After each chapter, I write a 2-3 sentence summary of what the chapter was about. I include the title if the chapters are named. The chapter summaries are hung in her room for her to look at and review any time she wants to.
Each day before beginning to read, we read the chapter summaries aloud as a way to review what has happened so far in the story. It gives my daughter a chance to respond and relate to the story. These chapter summaries and reviews are a great way to review characters, setting, conflict, and other elements of literature. But to my daughter, it’s just us reading together.
Sharing these stories and chapter reviews each day lets us finish novels together and aids us in doing the book reports that are due each six weeks. It helps that I have read the books with her so I can help with completing the writing tasks. It also helps that we have read and re-read the chapter summaries so that my daughter has some thoughts and words and phrases to use in her writing.
So far, there is no sign that we will ever run out of dog books to read together. I’m hoping if it is possible to run out of books about dogs in our lifetime that my daughter chooses something else to love by then. Either way, we will keep on reading.
I recommend this video—“The Least Dangerous Assumption" Cheryl Jorgenson, Ph.D.—to learn more.
Find additional information about reading with your child on this website.
It is important for parents to help their children know the words to use when talking about disability. Arming them with the appropriate words will help them feel confident and able to educate friends and strangers.