About the author: Sarah Pedonti, M.Ed., is a Ph.D. candidate in Applied Developmental Psychology and Special Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Education. Her research focuses on early reading and language interventions for young children with or at risk for developmental language disorders. She has worked in varied settings serving young children with disabilities, including Early Head Start, Head Start, North Carolina Pre-K (co-located within a Title I Engineering Magnet Elementary School), NC State’s Engineering Place Summer Programs, and the Office of Head Start’s National Center on Early Childhood, Development, Teaching, & Learning (NCECDTL)
Adapted storybooks are an easy and inexpensive way to help children with sensory, visual, motor, and linguistic differences to access STEM learning through reading. While dialogic (DR) and shared interactive book reading (SIBR) strategies have been shown to support children with and without disabilities in engaging with books (Lonigan et al., 2008; Mendez et al., 2015; Fleury & Schwartz, 2017; Towson et al., 2017), many children may also benefit from tangible adaptations and modifications to the book itself.
Adapted books can be categorized as a form of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Some readers may be familiar with adapted books from seeing their efficacy with children with visual impairment (Brennan, et.al.,2009; Lewis & Tolla,2003), significant intellectual impairment (Erickson et al., 2010) significant motor or communication impairment (Light et al. , 1994; Light & Kent-Walsh, 2003), or autism spectrum disorders (ASD, Carnahan et al., 2009).
However, adapted storybooks can promote access and engagement for all children in DR (Justice, 2006), and DR may provide an important scaffold for children’s understanding of more abstract content (Gonzalez et al., 2011). Abstract content in STEM may include more complex “academic” words featured in many informational and expository science books (“evaporation”, “reptile”), and that don’t appear in every-day conversation. Families that read expository books together are more likely to have longer, more complex conversations about the books afterward, and those conversations feature more diverse vocabulary (Price et al., 2009). Moreover, diverse academic vocabulary is essential to later reading success (Beck et al., 2008), yet many children with disabilities may struggle to access and comprehend it.
Storybook props and adaptations are therefore an important means of supporting STEM access for young children with disabilities. Many “high-tech” resources are now easily accessible for augmenting STEM storybooks, through tablets that support picture software such as Picture exchange communications (PECS) systems (Frost & Bondy, 1998), Boardmaker (Mayer-Johnson, 2002) and electronic storybook apps such as Tar Heel Reader (tarheelreader.org). However, “low-tech” resources are often more easily reproducible at home, and may be more durable and feasible for families to implement than expensive software.
The chart below outlines 7 easy at-home storybook adaptations, categorized by the type of support they may provide (motor, sensory, communicative/linguistic, visual, or auditory).Download PDF here.
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