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In today’s episode, Benita shares her favorite strategies and resources for comprehensive emergent literacy.

You’ll walk away with some great ideas and new resources to add to your toolbox. 💪

As we wrap up this month’s series, we want to remind you that you, as an SLP, already have a lot of these tools and knowledge in place, and now you have a framework for implementing them for students who use AAC. You’re doing an amazing job and we hope that this information will help. It certainly has helped us and the purpose of this series is to help you do what you’re doing, but to do it even better!  So we encourage you to just keep doing what you’re doing, and you are going to do amazing things to help support your students who use AAC to learn to read and write.

Keep it up, SLP! 💛

Comprehensive Emergent Literacy Framework

Shared Reading

Shared Writing

Alphabet and Phonological Awareness

Independent Writing

Self-directed Reading

Favorite Strategies and Resources

Story Grammar Marker
Braidy Doll
Tarheel Reader
Epic Books – FREE with an educator email
OverDrive – FREE with a local library card
Novel Effect – Sound Effects for the book and help with engagement
Literacy Through Unity – FREE resources on the AAC
Saltillo – FREE Calendar support
Tell Me curriculum – Elementary population
UNC Center for Literacy  – Training
Vooks – Engaging Video Books
Comprehensive Literacy for All: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities to Read and Write
– Speechie Side Up
– @speechiesideup on Instagram
– Core Calendar Club Facebook group

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Marisha: Hello there and welcome to the SLP Now Podcast, where we share practical therapy tips and ideas for busy speech-language pathologists. Grab your favorite beverage and sit back as we dive into this week's episode.

Marisha: This month we are talking all things AAC and literacy with Venita Litvack. So, head to episode 102 to get a getting started face, and if you've already been listening to the episodes, just join us to continue learning more about AAC, literacy, and comprehensive emergent literacy.

Marisha: We've got one more question. What are your go-to resources when you're implementing these strategies and just incorporating AAC and literacy in your sessions?

Venita L.: This is probably my favorite question because there's so many great resources out there and I don't know that everybody knows that they're available. And you kind of wonder, "Where are these resources?", but they're so disseminated. So I'd like to summarize them all here.

Venita L.: In terms of AAC and literacy, or just literacy in general, Tar Heel Reader is an amazing resource. It was developed by the University of North Carolina's Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, and what you can do on Tar Heel Reader is you can create your own books or you can look for books and you can look for books based on keywords. So if let's say you're doing a core word of the week or the month or the day, then you can look up books that have that core word in it. So that's a really great resource that you can use online, you can pull up on a projector or SMART Board and implement it within a group setting. And then Epic Books, which I'm sure you probably mentioned. I know that's a hot one in our field, but Epic Books is great and you can access it for free if you have an educator's email or a school email. And then OverDrive is also great. You can access thousands, tens of thousands of books that are available at your local library for free, you just have to put in your library card information.

Venita L.: And then this one's not as well known, but I've spoken about it in other trainings that I've done, it's called the Novel Effect app. And the reason I like that one is because it provides sound effects for popular books and they're building their library all the time. So if you're reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear, it's crazy. It knows when you are onto the next page without you even clicking anything on the app, just based on your reading of the book. So if you say, "Brown bear, brown bear, what do you see?", and then you pause, it'll play music just for that page and sound effects just for that page. So I think that's a really great way to get especially younger kids engaged in the reading.

Venita L.: And then PRC or the Prentke Romich Company, the creators of LAMP Words For Life and Unity and other AAC language systems and devices, has a resource called Literacy Through Unity on the AAC Language Lab, which is a phenomenal program that's online that you can go to and they have free resources on the AAC Language Lab, and they also have a paid subscription, but it's very little for the year. I want to say it's like 20 bucks for the year, maybe even less, but they have a Literacy Through Unity program that, actually, Karen Erickson helped develop. So if you have a student who uses Unity or LAMP, then I would check that out.

Venita L.: And then Saltillo, if you have a student who uses a NovaChat or the TouchChat app, they have these calendar supports. So for the month of January, they give you a book and then the words that you can target with that book and some other literacy-based suggestions for that month. So I love that resource and it's free.

Venita L.: The TELL ME curriculum, I just wanted to mention it here. I, in full disclosure, don't have a lot of experience with that book just because I think it's primarily geared towards the preschool population and that's not a population that I work with, that I support at this time. I would love to learn more about it, but in my department, we kind of provide resources and trainings to the areas that you work in. So at some point, I'm looking forward to diving into that curriculum a little bit more, but I just don't know a lot about it. But if you work with that population or the elementary population, then I would really encourage you to look into that curriculum.

Venita L.: And then any of the resources from UNC's Center for Literacy and Disability Studies is phenomenal. They have trainings on there and modules, so check that out. Now we have this resource, and I'll just say the name one more time, because I think it's worth noting. A lot of the information I spoke about today is from this book, and it's just a really helpful book. I will forewarn you though, that it is like a textbook, which I wasn't really expecting because it has this beautiful cover. It's very dense and it is bringing me back to grad school days, but you know what? It is just so amazing, and every page is like a mic drop, so I really encourage you to check it out. It's called, again, Comprehensive Literacy for All: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities to Read and Write by Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver.

Marisha: Oh, I love books like that, where there's just so many mic drops and knowledge bombs. It can be hard to find those types of answers, so when you find a resource that really breaks it down, you just kind of hone in on that.

Venita L.: Mm-hmm (affirmative), definitely.

Marisha: And those were so many amazing resources. I'll definitely, if you're listening and you had a hard time keeping up with all the amazing ideas, I'll list and link to everything that I can at, so you can start checking those out.

Marisha: Is it okay if I add one more that came up for me too?

Venita L.: Sure.

Marisha: I just discovered this, maybe a few months ago, it's called Vooks, so V-O-O-K-S. They make animated videos for a lot of popular books, so I think it could be a great activity for that independent or self-directed reading time because it really draws students in. And then I think they even animate the words in some or all of them, so it's just a great way to draw attention to the literacy piece, but it supports the students in reading that too, and just keeping them engaged. The students I've used it with have loved it, so I really like that one too.

Venita L.: I love that. I've heard about that resource. I haven't actually had the opportunity to look at it, but I think it is a great idea for that self-directed reading, so thank you for sharing that.

Marisha: And then, I also just want to emphasize, 'cause I feel like one of the biggest barriers is getting access to books, because you feel like some SLPs aren't able to go to the library or they don't want to use library books in therapy because things happen. And so, I just think the resources that you mentioned to get books for free, like Epic and OverDrive are so incredibly helpful because you don't even have to go anywhere. You have instant access to these digital books for free. So I don't think that budget or time to drive and get physical books should be a barrier here.

Marisha: And if those options don't work, YouTube has books as well. They have lovely grandmothers who record themselves reading books, and definitely check out the video first, but there's lots of ways to make this happen. And I feel like after listening to this episode, you are equipped with so many strategies to use literacy in therapy. And so, I feel like that's just the last step to start practicing and working on implementing this.

Venita L.: Yeah, absolutely.

Marisha: Venita, is there anything that you would add or that you just really wanted to emphasize?

Venita L.: No, I think that you, as an SLP, already have a lot of these tools and knowledge in place, and now you have a framework for implementing them for students who use AAC. So you're doing an amazing job and I hope that this information will help. It certainly has helped me as I'm reading through that book because it was just really nice to see like, okay, we're doing the right thing, but this is how we can do it even better. So I encourage you to just keep doing what you're doing, and you are going to do amazing things to help support your students who use AAC to learn to read and write.

Marisha: I love ending on that note. Thank you so much for sharing your time and wisdom with us. And if people want to find out more about you, where are the best places for them to connect?

Venita L.: Good question. I tend to hang out on Instagram @speechiesideup, and then my website is also And if you want to come join us on that Facebook group called the Core Calendar Club, we would love to have you. We do ask two questions in the beginning and one includes taking a quiz. The reason that we have you take the quiz is because we're gathering data that we are hopefully going to present at a conference in the near future, and we also want to see if the group is helping you from the start to finish. So you'll take a quiz at the beginning and you'll take a quiz at the end, but it's a fun quiz. It has maybe 5 to 10 questions, and then you find out if you're more like Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, or Beyonce, so we make it fun for you.

Marisha: Oh, I love that. Definitely something fun to check out. Okay, that's a wrap. Thank you so much, Venita. You are amazing and such an inspiration, and I definitely appreciated all of the information that you shared, and thank you to the listeners for tuning in.

Venita L.: Thank you so much for having me, Marisha. When you asked it was such an honor and I think you are so inspiring too. And again, I love that we were able to combine both of our passions into this episode today.

Marisha: Yeah, this was definitely a highlight, so thank you.

Venita L.: Thank you.

Marisha: Thanks for listening to the SLP Now podcast. This podcast is part of a course offered for continuing education through SpeechTherapyPD. So yes, you can earn ASHA CEUs for listening to this podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please share with your SLP friends and don't forget to subscribe to the podcast to get the latest episodes sent directly to you. See you next time.



Hi there! I'm Marisha. I am a school-based SLP who is all about working smarter, not harder. I created the SLP Now Membership and love sharing tips and tricks to help you save time so you can focus on what matters most--your students AND yourself.

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