Trucks, Ducks and Muck

My daughter has defied “normal” speech development from the start,  speaking in sentences and saying words like “applesauce” and “octopus” by the time she was 16 months old.  Now, at 4, she is often mistaken for a first-grader age due to her impressive language skills…and towering height.

My son has been a completely different story.  When he was 18 months old, I started to wonder if he shouldn’t be saying more.  I shrugged off my concerns initially, thinking “he’s a boy, boys develop later” and “I can’t compare him to his older sister – all kids are different.”

I casually mentioned the fact that my son was only saying a few words at his 18 month check-up, not thinking it was a big deal.  Our pediatrician said not to worry, just monitor his development and see where things were at in a couple of months.  By the time he hit 20 months and nothing had changed, I started to worry a bit more and we were referred for a speech evaluation, “just to be safe” our pediatrician said.

The evaluation consisted of umpteen questions about what, specifically, my son could say, his behavior, and numerous other factors I had never really considered, like if he could sort and categorize items (does anyone know off-hand if their kids can do that?).  After it was done, I was told that my son’s expressive language was a full year behind where it should be and we were given a diagnosis of a severe expressive language delay.

I struggled to fight back tears as the speech-language pathologist went over next steps.  All I could think was that this was totally and completely my fault.  I hadn’t read to him enough, hadn’t played with him enough, let him watch TV too much.  My daughter was so verbal, hadn’t I don’t the same things with my son? Where did I go wrong?

The guilt has since passed and now been replaced with a fierce drive to get my little guy talking.  Since we’re on a waiting list for speech therapy (which is unbelievably frustrating when you want to get your kid help, like, yesterday), we’re currently focused on the one thing I know I can do to help grow my son’s language skills – reading.

Inspired by the timeless and indispensable The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease, I’m trying to get as many books in front of my son as possible, every day.  The biggest challenge in doing this is getting him to sit still, so I’m trying to work on a couple of things.

First and foremost, I’m trying my darndest to create more opportunities to read. I’ve started reading books to my son when he’s playing, making our pre-nap and bedtime reading times just a little longer, even reading aloud to my kids at mealtimes.  And whenever I feel the urge to flip on the TV, I’m trying to grab a book for the kids instead.  Sometimes it’s just an extra book here or there and sometimes the TV still gets turned on, but I’m trying to default to books more often whenever we have a break in the day.

The other thing I’m working on is finding more books that interest my son.  As the second child, he gets a lot of his sister’s hand-me-downs, and (surprise, surprise!) he doesn’t love all of the same books that she did as a toddler.  My son’s main interests these days are trucks, trains and animals, and  it seems there is no shortage of children’s books that encompass these themes.  This past week I found myself reading three great books about farm animals, trucks and getting stuck in the mud:


  1. Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle
    My little guy loves trucks and anything blue, so this was an instant win for him.  The story is cute and has a nice message bout helping others.  While this isn’t a rhyming book, there are lots of animal and truck noises, which is awesome for language development and getting my son to try new sounds.
  2. Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy Shaw
    A classic rhyming book about a herd of sheep and a series of misadventures they have with their jeep.  It’s short and sweet, so it easily kept my son’s attention.
  3. Duck in the Truck by Jez AlboroughLike our other favorites this week, this story focuses on a duck driving a truck that gets stuck in the muck (love they rhyming in this one!).  While a bit longer than Sheep in a Jeep, the story is more predictable, which my son loves.  Even if he can’t say the exact words in a story, he still likes to make sounds when the cadence is predictable (e.g. he’ll make the “ee” sound for “see” and “me” in Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?).

After a week of reading these books on repeat, my son said “guck” (duck and/or truck) for the first time.  Whether or not it’s a result of our reading, I’ll never know.  Either way, I’m calling it a win!


Reads of the Week – June 4th

Here’s what we’re reading in the little toyhouse this week:

Monsters Eat Whiny Children by Bruce Eric Kaplan

Georgia has been SO whiny lately that I think I’m about to lose my mind.  Rather than read a parenting book that offers positive solutions to this problem, I grabbed this book at the library last week to scare the bejesus out of her instead (kidding….sort of). The kids in the book don’t actually get eaten, but they do get kidnapped by a monster which is pretty darn scary for a toddler. I asked Georgia while we were reading it if it was too scary or if she wanted me to stop, but she said no and proceeded to request it repeatedly for several days.  That said, now whenever I tell her she’s whining and ask her to stop, she says “The monster’s gonna come get me?”.  I’ll take my Mom of the Year award any time now.

Bedtime for Frances by Russell Hoban

I have fond memories of reading this book as a child so I was excited to read it with Georgia.  She really enjoyed it, but as a parent I was less than impressed.  I had somehow forgotten that  the book is all about the things that Frances does so she doesn’t have to go to sleep.  Georgia currently doesn’t do anything like that and I definitely don’t her to get any ideas. Not to mention the fact that Frances’s dad threatens a spanking to get her to finally go to bed.  Even though Georgia liked it, it’s probably best saved until she’s a little older.

Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown

Georgia picked this one out because she’s been really into tigers lately.  The story is about Mr. Tiger, who lives in a city of animals that seemingly act like humans – they wear fancy clothes, walk on two legs, etc.  One day Mr. Tiger decides that he’s fed up with being so proper so he starts getting back to his roots – walking on four legs, running around “naked”, etc.  Georgia probably got the biggest kick out of the part where he goes “nakey”, but the message is fun and straightforward – sometimes we all need to go a little wild, and that’s okay.

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Reads of the Week – May 12th

Here’s what we’re reading in the little toyhouse this week:

Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda by Margaret Atwood

I was surprised to see Margaret Atwood’s name in the children’s section at the library, so this one jumped out at me.  My husband read this with G before I did and he said it was hard to read.  I thought that was just plain silly (a children’s book hard to read?) until I read it myself – this book is alliteration to the extreme.  If you can get past the tongue-twisting rhythm, it is packed with fabulous vocabulary words, the story is sweet and the illustrations are engaging.  We might just be adding this one to our permanent collection!

Players In Pigtails by Shana Corey

The other day we drove by our town’s skate park and G said “When I grow up I want to be a boy so I can ride a skateboard!”  After explaining to her that girls can ride skateboards too, I started wondering where she might have gotten this idea that skateboards were a “boy” thing.  The only thing I can come up with is that, in her limited media exposure, she has only seen boys on skateboards.  Which means, at age 2, my daughter is already exposed to (and apparently buying into) gender stereotypes.  Ugh.

In an effort to teach G that girls can do anything, I turned to A Mighty Girl, one of my favorite sources for book recommendations for G.  Players in Pigtails, a book about the All American Girls Professional Baseball League, seemed to be a good start.  She loved the story and the illustrations, but her favorite part of the book is singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, which, incidentally, was written about a girl!

Finding Susie by Sandra Day O’Connor

I happened to spot “Sandra Day O’Connor” peeking out from the cover of a lovely blue picture book with a little dog on the cover and thought this might be worth a read, especially since G has a mild interest in the supreme court (thanks to Olivia Forms a Band). I wanted to love it, but I just didn’t.  Neither did G – she lost interest about 1/3 of the way through it.  The book follows little Sandra as she finds a series of wild animals on her family’s desert ranch and she tries to turn them into pets before, finally, she gets a dog.  There wasn’t anything particularly special about the story (other than the fact that it was based on O’Connor’s childhood) or the writing, and I think the story could have been told in about 1/2 the words that were used.  I still think O’Connor is a fabulous female role model, just maybe not the best children’s author.

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Reads of the Week – May 5th

Here’s what we’re reading in the little toyhouse this week:

The Goldfinch: A Novel by Donna Tartt

The Secret History is one of my all-time favorite novels and I’ve been waiting to pick this one up for a while. Happily, I found it sitting on a display shelf at the library this week – major score! Nothing is more painful than waiting for weeks on end for a library hold to become available.

I’ve heard from a few people that it was slow to start, but I’ve found myself drawn in by the rich language and detail used to tell the story thus far. I’m hoping for an early bedtime for the kiddos tonight so I can really get lost in it.

Charming Opal (Toot & Puddle) by Holly Hobbie

This is the first Toot & Puddle book I’ve read with G and it is truly charming.  The illustrations are beautiful and the story is incredibly sweet.  G has been obsessed with the tooth fairy lately (even though her first visit from said fairy is years away), so this one was a big hit.

When I first read the author’s name, I thought it an unfortunate coincidence, like being named Ronald McDonald or something.  After doing a web search to learn more about the Toot & Puddle series, I learned (via Wikipedia) that in fact Holly Hobbie created the character, originally unnamed, and sold the artwork to American Greetings in the late 1960s.  The character became popular and was eventually named “Holly Hobbie”.

In a Blue Room by Jim Averbeck

This bedtime gem feels like more of a meditation than a story. In reading it I found myself thinking how lovely it would be to have my mother bring me flowers, tea, a cozy blanket and a wind chime before tucking me into bed. G seems to enjoy the calming rhythm of the story and has requested it at bedtime most nights this past week.


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