5 Tips for Selecting Culturally Appropriate Books for Therapy

  • December 3, 2021
  • Raquel Martinez Suh

It’s mid-year for many school-based speech-language pathologists and everyone is looking for new book ideas as the holidays approach. Let’s face it- we all know how books can either make or break a therapy session and can enhance or deter student participation.

Things to Consider

As you close out November, we have provided some book recommendations as the December holidays approach. And as you are all eager to head out the door for an extended and restful break, make a lasting impression before everyone heads out. Below are some tips on how to select culturally appropriate books for therapy.

  • Choose books that reflect the students you serve.
    One of our roles as support staff is to help everyone you serve to succeed. This includes being able to identify with those you encounter or at least be able to discuss one another’s differences in a safe place. And doing it all while targeting each student’s speech goals. Ultimately, giving the spotlight to let your students shine. So, look for books that mirror your students and their peers’ beliefs.
  • Choose books that help one live out the experiences of others.
    As SLPs, this tip helps everyone better understand your students and their peers, while helping everyone become more accepting of one another and their differences. For instance, you can help the student who fronts, target /k/, while talking about Kwanzaa or work on multi-syllabic words while learning about Hanukkah.
  • Choose books that accurately reflect ones’ beliefs.
    Whether its Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or Chinese New Year- intentionally do your research and make sure what is about to be read is accurate.

Choosing a Book Topic

Much like tip number one, you want to specifically talk about a topic that a student can relate to. Perhaps, you have made the mistake of having a Christmas activity for all of your students without asking “how does this relate to him/her?” The last thing anyone would want is to give a writing prompt about Hanukkah to a middle-school or high-school student who celebrates Kwanzaa and has not one clue what Hanukkah is.

  • Ask yourself, “what are the values being taught in this book and are they accurate?”
    It’s important to keep in mind that each holiday has historical details that are pertinent to the heart of a book. If you are not sure get a parent’s opinion, a librarian or ask a colleague. Regardless, you should certainly take time to do your research.
  • Make sure the book is age-appropriate and relevant.
    Do you really want to be the person to tell a pre-K student that Santa isn’t “real”? Or do you want to read a preschool book to a middle schooler who is targeting complex sentences or subordinate clauses? What you choose can drive a student to better understand a lesson or can simply leave them more confused. Be mindful of the content, complexity, and message.

Keep in mind that these tips work for a variety of ages regardless of what your student’s goals and objectives are. Books are great because you can target a variety of cultures and their celebrations. Additionally, it’s important to remember that with each new book not only do you add vocabulary but experiences, too! Books help build an array of communication skills. Everyone benefits from learning new vocabulary, auditory comprehension, reading comprehension, memory skills and more. Here are a few books to start with to bring your students together:

  • Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson
  • Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis
  • Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto
  • Hanukkah Hamster by Michelle Markel

In need of more book recommendations? Try using these additional resources to discover a variety of culturally appropriate books that will fit the needs of your students:

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