Techniques, books, and e-books for the young, unengaged reader
Melodi Pulliam, Senior Assistant, INALJ Kentucky
I would like to tell you all a little story. My son has ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and I am sure we all know someone (or know someone who knows someone) who has a child that has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I figured out early on (when he was about 3 or 4) that he was not going to sit still while I read him a book (with one exception- Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon). As time went on, I started my college career (back in 2009) and decided that I was going to pursue my lifelong passion of becoming a Librarian. I despaired thinking to myself, “What kind of librarian can get others to read, but not her own child?”
Let me tell you, I was in dire straits, because I did not want to tell people, “I love to read, I read all the time, but my kid, not so much.” How do you tell people that? Well, I found the solution, after much trial and error…e-books. Yes, I will say it again, e-books.
I didn’t even get an e-reader until 2013, but I wish I would have gotten one sooner. With all the choices of interactive books there is a world of options at the touch of your finger. And guess what? Thanks to Dr. Seuss, I got my son, who wouldn’t so much as pick up a book, let alone read it, to actually want to read and love it!
Interactive story books are jewels in the world of digital entertainment overload. Thank you to the creators of interactive storybooks for our e-readers because you have done a great service to those of us who have special needs children (and adult) loved ones. I cried, a lot, the first time I watched him follow along to Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which he still reads at least once a day, because I saw that little lightbulb go off above his head, and I knew that he was finally gaining the confidence he was lacking before.
What worked and what did not
When I would read books to him, he would fidget and not want to follow along, and his speech therapist told me that this was because I was the voice of everything to him (mother, teacher, nurse, disciplinarian, etc.) and he heard me enough, so maybe we could try having someone else read to him.
I did, first his Nana (my mother), and he actually sat perfectly still while she read Hop on Pop by Dr. Seuss to him…I was floored, something so simple as changing who read the story made a world of difference!
Then I had my best friends read Fox in Socks, The Sneeches, and The Cat in the Hat (again, by Dr. Seuss, whom I would call his favorite author) and The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.
I saw how the simplest, smallest change had him engaged. He was looking at the book, looking at the pictures, repeating words after us, and I could see he wanted more.
Then I discovered that they were digitizing and recording audio for his favorite Dr. Seuss books, and I had to get them. Now he replays parts of the book he wants to listen to, until he can repeat it exactly like the audio in the book. This is how he interacts with the world and how he learns a lot of his vocabulary, through repeating and mimicking what the narrators in these books are saying.
Fast-forward a few years, and I now have a reading machine for a son…I can’t keep up with all the books he finds on the Kindle and wants me to download…he brings me the Kindle with the book already up in the store and says “Book, please!”…I do a little happy dance and download it. Simple as that.
So take heart, those who have children, both special needs and not. Even if your children do not read right now, you just need to look outside the box to find new ways to engage them. You will be creating and making readers and lovers of books in no time!
Melodi Pulliam is a Graduate Student in the MSLIS program at University of Kentucky. She is a mother to a wonderful 11-year old son, who is moderate to severe on the ASD spectrum. She engaged to the best man on the planet, with a wedding to happen sometime this year. Melodi loves to read anything she can get hands on, including but not limited to, books, magazines, newspapers, even the back of the cereal box (all that nutrition information is very helpful in maintaining a balanced diet). She also loves all things Japanese, especially anime, manga, and donburi! Ultimately, Melodi plans to become a Professor of Library Science, teaching the next generation of Librarians how awesome and interesting the field of Library Science can be, training them and guiding them with the goal of making them the best Librarians and Information Professionals they can be.