As most of you know, our youngest child has Down’s Syndrome. He’s four, he’s very funny, he started mainstream reception this year and, like many children with Down’s Syndrome, he has some developmental delays.
Children with Down’s Syndrome are strong visual learners and research has shown they find it easier to learn if they’re shown accompanying images or objects to reinforce the task in hand. Visual learning can be really helpful in all areas of growing up: making sense of the world around us, learning and remembering bed-time routines, strengthening memory, improving speech sounds, learning to read and the list goes on…
Early intervention is key, so we’ve been working on letters and phonics with him from an early age, which not only helps him with the early stages of reading but it also helps him directly with his speech. It’s all paid off because having started in mainstream reception in September, he’s now reading 4-letter words. One proud Mama!
At our last community speech & language session, we were advised to start working on verbs, as this is a known area of likely difficulty. We were told to gather some motivating photos of our boy doing things he enjoyed and to add a caption underneath to include the appropriate verb. e.g. ‘I like eating.’ As with all these things, my heart sank as I thought of the prep work and then storing it all once I’ve put it together. If you’re not careful in this life, you can end up submerged in a sea of paper…
Then miraculously I was contacted by Caroline at love2read and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing one of their personalised photo books (not just for children with special needs!). Er…yes please! This would solve my problem entirely. Well, unless it was complicated like those sites where you upload images to make a Christmas calendar for Granny & Mother-In-Law and somehow it takes you seven weeks for each one…
I had a look at the ‘love2read’ website and realised with relief, you can generate any book you like, with just ten images. I had a look through all the different titles, immediately wanted several of them and finally decided to go for ‘I like…’ as that’s what we’d been working on. I could then just include a verb in each caption and we’d be off!
You can choose from 83 different ‘sentence starters’ and there’s also a blank one, where you can just write what you like. This would be good if you wanted very short captions or a book that didn’t run on one theme. Actually, the blank one would also be great for making mini photobooks for the older children as a record of their childhood. So for each Christmas or birthday (or every couple of years of so), you could include your ten favourite images of them over that time period and just add the location and age of the child etc.
You can change the colour of the borders, reposition photos and edit the text as many times as you like. You can save as you go, so you don’t need to do it all in one go. Once I’d got the photos I wanted to use together, I’d say it took me about 20 minutes to upload them, fluff about a bit (as one does) and create my book. I ordered it on the Tuesday and it arrived on the Friday. I’m really pleased with it!
It feels sturdy but as with all paperbacks, the corners will inevitably get that ‘loved’ look. The text is a good size, the paper is thick and strong and the images came out really well. More importantly, ALL the kids clammered to get their hands on it. The one for whom it was intended was only too keen to sit down and read it with me while he admired himself thoroughly.
After he’d finished thumbing his way through the book, we sat down with our ‘reading fingers’ and had a look at the words. As I chose quite long sentences in some cases, I covered up the caption, apart from the words ‘I like’ and we talked about what was in the picture and what he was doing. Then I uncovered the rest of the words and we worked on them together.
It’s a really lovely simple idea that executes very well.
Each page has one image and a caption. The text is a good size and obviously your sentence can be as long or as short as you like…
There’s also a page to reinforce the words in the sentence starter. This is really good for helping them to focus on these high frequency words. You can facilitate their learning by playing games: ‘Can you find the word ‘like?’ ‘Can you find the word ‘I?’ “How many ‘like’ words can you spot. It’s fantastic for their confidence and very personal and motivating to the child as it’s all about them!
There’s also a page with just images. Now I love this page, because it’s perfect for working on visual processing! The child has to look very carefully at the page to tell what’s going on and then you can play games like ‘Can you find a green shoe?’ ‘Can you find the number 4?’ and ‘Can you find a yellow brick?’ etc. I wrote a guest post for ‘Down’s Side Up’ about visual processing, which you can read if you’re interested in knowing a bit more about visual processing (link below).
I have to say, I love the tidiness of a simple book you can pop back on to the bookshelf. I love that you can make sentences as simple or as complicated as you like, I love the easiness of the photo upload business. I love not having to deal with printing, cutting and goodness knows what else to make the resource myself.
To create your own book(s) click on the ‘create’ tab over on love2read and you’re off. Prices start at £14.99 + £2 P&P for one book and if you buy 2 or more, you get free postage and incremental discounts on the cost of the book.
I’m a fan and it appears the boy is too…! I took this pic this morning without him noticing.
…and the whole ethos behind love2read?
‘I got the idea for using photos to create personalised reading books to help my middle child, who has special needs, learn to read. I made a book using photos of our family and it was a real hit, so I made some more using different words. Then I noticed that my youngest child, who was only two at the time, was always picking up the homemade books and was reading them to anyone who would listen. Friends starting asking me to make books for their children… and so love2read was born.
In fact I knew why the books were so successful because I’m a qualified teacher with over fifteen years experience working in primary schools as a classroom teacher. I’ve used this knowledge to design our range of books so now you can help your children without having to resort to glue and scissors like I did!
The aim of each unique book is to help your child develop a love of reading. It does this by presenting photographs which reflect your child’s world and relating them to simple words. Research shows that if your child loves books they will learn to read much faster and you will be encouraging a lifelong love of reading.
The key words in each book are known as high frequency words which are some of the first words your child will be taught to recognise when they start school. As they start to recognise these key words on sight (also know as the ‘look and say’ method of learning) their confidence builds.’
*I was given this book for free, but all views are my own.
You may also enjoy:
Encouraging Younger Children To Read
Visual Processing and the Power Of The Puzzle
If your child believes in Father Christmas and you want to keep the magic for as long as possible, Elfie’s Christmas Letters (advent letters) and our North Pole Christmas Letters are absolutely perfect! You will be able to preorder these for Christmas 2016 very soon, so please join the mailing list if you’d like us to let you know when. Elfie’s Birthday Letters are available in the Shop too!
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