When I was a child, I loved “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. They fueled my wonder and imagination. One moment, I would dream about long lost cities, like Atlantis. Then the next moment I would be standing along side Greek Gods, with mythical superpowers. I would read and re-read these books to jump through different endings. I loved those books!

One challenge I find with Choose Your Own Adventure series is that they are paperback readers — chapters with much writing and limited pictures. They’re a little too advanced for the emergent readers. However, there is the possibility that you can still use the Choose Your Own Adventures with your readers for receptive language purposes. This means, we, the parent can help with the reading and the child will listen and follow along. Of course, you might need to pause to help explain new vocabulary or help children understand some of the material.

But, what happens when you are working with a toddler or emergent reader? This is where finding the right book comes in. We must first recognize that there are many communication goals that can be worked on during book sharing. The two primary language goals include “receptive” targets and “expressive” targets. “Two different types of books?”, you must be thinking. Well, yes! When we communicate, do we not bounce back-and-forth between listening and understanding what is being said to saying and expressing?

Books As Expressive Language Tools – Find books that relate to your child’s understanding and current language abilities. Share and re-share the book so that they know the content and are able to narrate the book. You can support your child by adding something new each time you read the book — the actual words may be the same, but you can always model and highlight key words, then offer other words or synonyms that mean the same thing. Familiar books allow a child to develop and work on their oral language skills.

Books As Receptive Language Tools – Introduce new books every so often. This ensures that your child will grow and constantly immersed in new vocabulary and new concepts. A receptive book may be just slightly above your child’s oral language level, so that can be exposed to advanced sentence structures and higher tier vocabulary. Books are rich and bursting with author’s voices and perspectives. Avid readers are also learning to become avid storytellers. Books provide a way to model and experience language that is just not common, nor everyday.

In school, they don’t return to the same textbook each year. It’s the same at home. We need to curate our child’s toys, books and experiences so that they meet the current curiosities and child’s learning goals. The ‘expressive’ piece, or oral language, is very important in helping a child demonstrate what they know, and practice the language they have learned. Therefore, I was so excited when I came across the Usborne “You Choose” series of books. They are beautifully illustrated, language-rich books that are at a level accessible to even the youngest readers!

There are a few versions available, and I have just ordered a whole bunch of “You Choose” and “Choose Your Journey” books. These books are visually stunning, with a lot of detail and questions that go beyond the here and now.

There is a “You Choose Your Dreams” edition.

And, even a “You Choose Fairy Tales” edition.

If you are in Canada, you can also find Usborne You Choose : You Choose and You Choose Your Dreams. This is for the coloring book version You Choose!: Colouring Book with Stickers

Another book that is really interesting is the “Choose Your Own Journey” series. There are two books,Choose Your Own Journey and Choose Your Own Journey Under the Sea. Although similar to the above “You Choose” series, these books have 3 main characters that you follow from page to page. You can see from the cover that in Choose Your Own Journey, you can ride the boat, train, or plane. In Choose Your Own Journey Under The Sea, you choose a boy diver, turtle or girl! The left/right direction of the lines and characters helps children learn about the directionality of books. This is an emergent literacy skill. The ability to choose also engages kids and keeps them attending as we share and discuss all the things we see on the pages. It also means you can read the book over and over!

If you’d like to read more, there is a wonderful article at ReadingRockets.org by Celia Genishi called Young Children and Oral Language Development.  https://www.readingrockets.org/article/young-childrens-oral-language-development

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