We all know how useful and important books are for children’s learning. Helen wrote this post about using books to develop language skills. One of my favourite books to use with younger children is ‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell. It is a simple lift the flap book, but you can use it to target lots of different skills.
Now before I talk about all the different areas you can target, there is something really important to mention – REPETITION. We are going to read this book again and again. Now, I don’t just mean 3 or 4 times, I mean 20 +. It maybe once a day or once a week, but remember to repeat. Every time you can extend a skill or teach a new one.
- Attention and listening. Some children aren’t that keen on books and others can only look at a few pages before they move to a different activity. Lift the flap books are a great way to engage children. I always hold the book so I can control when the flap is opened and when we turn the page. At first I don’t read the whole sentence on each page, we might just make the noise of the animal, or repeat the phrase “send him back”. If you child isn’t talking yet, they may just open the flap. As you practise the story, you will be able to encourage your child to spend more time on each page and you will be able to say more of the story.
- Eye contact Once your child can spend more time on each page, you can start to pause and wait for a reaction from your child. I often say the sentence “So they sent me a…..” – (whilst holding down the flap!) and then wait. This is a great way to encourage engagement with you and not just the book. Your child may start by grabbing your fingers, which is fine. Hopefully it will extend to them watching you to see what will happen next.
- Animal noises Even before your child starts to use words, symbolic noises such as cars or animals are a great way to start. Dear Zoo gives lots of opportunities to practise these! Another great way to work in repetition is to look on the back page of the book. There is a picture with most of the animals hiding around a box, so you can go over all the animal sounds again at the end. When your child starts to use words, it’s easy to extend this to work on animal names as well.
- Working on the ‘b’ sound There are lots of opportunities to work on the ‘b’ sound. On every page you have to send the animal ‘back’ and they all come in ‘boxes’. So if you are starting to put the ‘b’ sound into words, this is a nice fun end to a session and you can still work in some more ‘b’s!
- Early concepts Each animal is given a description e.g. the giraffe is too tall, or the elephant is too big. I always try and add an action to show the word. So for too tall I put my hand up really high.
- Introducing/ using signs if you are starting to use or are using signs, this is a great way to teach some animal signs. You can also use gestures. When I am trying to encourage the word back, I point over my shoulder.
I also have many other books that I love to use in therapy. Do you have any favourites or other ways of using Dear Zoo?