Happy National Read Across America Day! We all know how important reading to our kids really is and nothing beats just picking up an engaging ("actual") book and sharing some reading time. In these times of online school and online therapy , it can be a bit more challenging to work that shared reading magic as a language and literacy building experience. To kick off the month of March and honor the invaluable role of shared reading and literacy instruction in building communicative independence for children learning language through AAC, I wanted to share a few of my favorite AAC-friendly reading and story creation resources to support family time, school time, and therapy time.
1. Story Jumper
Story Jumper is free for families and professionals to use online and not only has an awesome platform for creating your own digital or printed books, but has a library of books created by kids for kids. You can add your own photos or drawings, or choose from their engaging scenes and props to create a story about anything you want. Type text, record voice, and even add sounds and music. I love using this tool to target core vocabulary, illustrate concepts, talk about tough topics, and practice language structure in a fun and meaningful way.
I have started a play list with some fun shared-reading videos to enhance literacy and language. Many of these videos have symbols embedded and focus on core vocabulary. If you have a favorite You Tube collection for literacy, language, or shared reading for AAC users, please share in he comments and we'll add it to the ongoing playlist.
Tar Heel Shared Reader provides free access to materials and technology that support shared reading for school-aged students with significant disabilities. These awesome resources are also supported by free professional development modules to help you learn how to teach literacy, communication and language using Tar Heel Shared Reader. You can create digital books on Tar Heel Reader and read them on Shared Reader with symbols infused. You can also choose books from their library shared by other authors.
Based on the Living Books Collection with titles like the Bernstein Bears and Arthur, these fun and engaging storybook apps run on several mobile platforms and MAC OS computers. They are amazingly interactive and come with teacher guides to help the shared reading experience build valuable skills in a more structured way as desired. You can load a free sampler to check out how they work and see if your kids are interested before committing. Even better, they are available in many languages.
This free UK resource has a nice collection of online storybooks with audio and even an option to have accompanying ASL. Some titles also have "reading tips" that play along with the book to help parents engage with the child during reading. Outside of these interactive components of the site, they offer wonderful resources for professionals and parents to support literacy for children of all abilities.
Symbol Infusion Tips
All of these resources offer an opportunity to use a very engaging, digital platform that you can pace to make modeling language with symbols a bit easier. I love the digital access afforded by this avenue to reading, making turning the pages easier for kids with physical limitations. The back lighting and high contrast on many of these resources also makes access for many visually impaired kids easier. If you're conducting telehealth sessions or online school, share your desktop with the reading resource window alongside your AAC emulator or other aided language modeling tool. You can even create an activity board with key words from the stories that uses your communicator's symbol set to model onscreen, sending a copy to families for printing or to load into the child's communication device. One strategy I'm excited to try is using the Symbol It app during shared reading to provide symbol language immersion hands-free.