Friday, February 1, 2013

"Point To Happy" (Autism); "Knees" (Dyslexia); and "The Princess and the Peanut" (Allergies)

Communication is a major reason for reading any book to a child. When we read together we foster closeness, language acquisition, and values. Sometimes special circumstances require specialized books to help alleviate fears, overcome obstacles and enlighten the unaware. 

When a child has difficulties communicating his needs or feelings, books like Point To Happy, by Miriam Smith and Afton Fraser (Workman Publishing, 2011) can help.

With simple text and clear, large photographs, “Point To Happy” is intended to aid kids on the autism spectrum in expressing themselves and detecting the feelings of others. The attached pointer wand helps a child focus as he selects the appropriate pictures when the text is read. Photos illustrate emotions, objects and everyday activities. There is also a blank page for adding pictures of family and friends.

The grandmother, mother and aunt of an autistic child created “Point To Happy”. It is cleanly presented and well thought out. The book is oversized and sturdy for repeated use.

Though it is intended for autistic spectrum children, any toddler will benefit from the decoding and motor tasks fostered by this book. It offers kids practice in recognizing colors and parts of the body. Young children also need to study facial expressions and body language in order to empathize with others, and this book is a great way to reinforce those lessons.  

School-age children sometimes struggle with learning differences. Offering encouragement to dyslexic children is Vanita Oelschlager’s book, Knees: The Mixed-Up World of a Boy With Dyslexia (Vanita Books, 2012).

The main character Louis finds school frustrating, explaining that, “things get mixed up between my eyes and my brain.” Sometimes he feels bad. With patient teachers, loving parents and a few good friends, Louis perseveres. His dad tells Louis, “We’re all good at something. You just have to find it.”

“Knees” clearly explains what dyslexia is like for a fourth-grader. The simple text is written in rhyming couplets that keep the story flowing. Energetic pen and ink illustrations by Joe Rossi are a friendly invitation to read this book over and again, and perhaps even color the pages.

This is a nice book to offer some comfort and understanding to a child who has been diagnosed with dyslexia. Informative and entertaining, it is a great choice as a read-aloud for teachers who want to help other students better understand the challenges faced by a fellow classmate.

Children who suffer from allergies might want to read about their circumstance, too. The Princess and the Peanut: A Royal Allergic Fairy Tale, by Sue Ganz-Schmitt (Wild Indigo Publishing, 2011) helps kids ages 4-9 learn about food allergies through a story that borrows elements from the classic fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.”

A young prince yearns for a real princess to be his wife, so he searches around the world but doesn’t find a girl who is quite right. In the middle of a storm, a dirty, wet young girl knocks at the gate and claims to be a real princess.

Instead of placing a pea under twenty mattresses, this book puts a peanut there. The sensitive princess breaks out in hives and must receive an Epinephrine injection and be looked after carefully for a few days.

When the princess, feeling sad, asks, “Why me?” the doctor magnanimously replies, “Ahh, but princesses are extraordinary, and extraordinary people have great sensitivities.”

The cute story with amusing illustrations isn’t just entertaining, it provides accurate information about what really happens when someone has a severe allergic reaction. “The Princess and the Peanut” helps take some of the scary out of such a situation.  

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