Reading with Down’s Syndrome

I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to interview Jilly Smithson, an incredible women who has been teaching for sixteen years as well as having worked or volunteered with people with disabilities since she was eighteen. She is now the proud mother of two children, Emily and Tom with Down’s Syndrome. You may have read her inspiring and heartfelt story in the Guardian recently (I chose to adopt two babies with Down’s Syndrome as a single mother).  It’s a story which summons the feelings of awe, disbelief, respect and admiration all rolled into one. I’ve always felt that with the right approach reading can benefit everyone and for me Jilly is the ideal person to give advice on the ways in which reading can add to the life of any child with Down’s Syndrome so I asked her a few questions to try and get a better insight into the reading time she has with her children.

At what age did you start reading to your children?

From babies – it has always been part of their bedtime routine and there have always been books around the house for them to look at when they want.

What has been the greatest challenge for you as a mum trying to support your children to read?

Emily has a visual impairment so it has been hard to get her interested in the written word. She has enlarged texts from the visual impairment team but still prefers to listen to stories read by others.

What are their favourite books and why?

Emily likes touchy feely books and stories with rhyming. She especially likes the Blue Kangaroo series of books at the moment.

Tom likes books that have actions or things that he can do as he reads, eg. lift the flap book, press the sound button.

In what ways has reading added value to your lives as a family?

It is something we do altogether as a special time before bed. It was one way in which I helped Emily to bond with Tom when he first came home.

What have you found to be the best way to keep them interested in reading?

Lots of different books that do different things – sound books, touchy feely books, lift the flap books, books with DVDs. Visits to the library, book bus etc. To be honest they’ve always been interested in books.

What do you think your children enjoy most about reading?

The individual time they get with me! Books are also an activity they can do independently so it is something that they can do for themselves.

What’s the funniest memory you’ve had so far of reading with your children?

We read The Gruffalo touch book. Tom was very young, about 10 months old. Both children explored the different textures etc then when we came to the wart on the end of his nose, it was a sticky spot on the page, Tom’s face after he touched it was a picture!

Having taught and worked with people with many types of disabilities over the years and now a mum of two children with Down’s Syndrome, what advice would you give to other parents with children with Down’s syndrome with regards to helping them to read?

Just read little and often, have books always available and remember that children with Down’s Syndrome find learning to read phonetically very difficult. We use a lot of symbols around the house – they have a picture and the word so that the children are being exposed to the written word all the time.

What would be the best message about life a children’s book could teach your children?

That it is ok to be different. The books by Todd Parr are perfect for this. They cover difficult topics in a simple way for young children and have wonderfully bright illustrations.

A huge thank you to Jilly for your input which clearly demonstrates that reading with children is not just about what’s in the book, it’s also about bonding, interacting and sharing time. Reading remains pleasurable when you remove any expectations of what levels you think should be attained or what you are told should be attained. Learning to read is a very individual journey for every child and this is no different for children with Down’s Syndrome. It is more about helping children to find the ways in which reading can add to their lives to give them that purpose and desire to read.

Resource links recommended by Jilly:

Down’s Syndrome Education International (DSE) – See and Learn Language and Reading.

Down’s Syndrome Education International (DSE) – A Reading and Language Intervention for Children with Down Syndrome.

Books mentioned by Jilly:


CLICK TO BUY My First Gruffalo: Touch-and-Feel book by Julia Donaldson (author) & Axel Scheffler (illustrator); Published: MacMillan Children’s Books.

 


Blue Kangaroo series by Emma Chichester Clark (author/illustrator); Published: Andersen Press.
CLICK TO BUY I Love You, Blue Kangaroo!

 

Books by Todd Parr; Published: Little, Brown Young Readers such as:


CLICK TO BUY It’s Okay to be Different

 


CLICK TO BUY It’s Okay To Make Mistakes

 

 


CLICK TO BUY The Feelings Book

 

 

Note: some names in this blog have been changed.

NOTE: Books for Children Blog is a participant in the Amazon EU Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising programme designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to  Amazon.co.uk

London Storytelling Events for May Half Term

Fun 1

Looking for ideas to keep the kids out of trouble this May half term? I thought I’d sneak in an extra blog this week to pull together some suggestions of exciting storytelling events (in no particular order) for those of you in and around London.

Paper Performances: Museum of London, Docklands

Monday 25th May 2015 – a free drop in session to design your own paper theatre to bring your stories to life.

Blown Away by Rob Biddulph: Discover Children’s Story Centre, Stratford

Saturday 30th May 2015 – An author, illustrator and book signing event from the winner of the Waterstones 2015 Children’s Book Prize.

Fulham Palace Fun Day: Fulham Palace SW6

Wednesday 29th May 2015 – Family drama, storytelling and dress up sessions.

A World of Stories: Horniman Museum & Gardens, Forest Hill, SE23

Every Sunday now until 31st May 2015 – interactive story session inspired by their exhibitions. Age 5+

Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs: Southbank Centre, SE1

Wednesday 27th May and Thursday 28th May 2015 – An adaptation of the award winning book by Giles Andreae and Russell Ayto.

Sam’s Pet Temper: Paddington Library, Westminster

Thursday 28th May 2015 – Canadian author, Sangeeta Bhadra tells the story of Sam’s Pet Temper followed by a craft session for 3-10 year olds.

Adventures in Wonderland: The Vaults, Waterloo

Permanent venue – step into Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland and experience it for yourself! Ages 5+

The One Dollar Horse, Shaping Stories: The National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

Saturday 23rd May 2015 – Meet Lauren St John, children’s author of The One Dollar Horse and create your own horse-inspired tales.

The Alice Look: V & A Museum of Childhood, E2

From now until 1 November 2015 – an exhibition of rare editions to inspired fashions showing how Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland has changed, adapted and influenced many trends throughout the world.

Greenwich Book Festival: University of Greenwich, SE10

Friday 22nd May – Sunday 24th May 2015 – Many events, workshops and activities from designing your own book cover with artist Alexandra Antenopolou, meeting the award-winning children’s illustrator Axel Scheffler or Steven Butler with Dennis the Menace to a puppet adaptation of Polly Dunbar’s book Flyaway Kate. Plus so much more so follow the link above!

The Paper Dolls: Little Angel Theatre, N1

From now until Sunday 28th June 2015 – a performance based on the book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb and the Paper Dolls Crafty Day on Friday 29th May.

Roald Dahl’s The Twits: Royal Court Theatre, Sloane Square

From now until Sunday 31st May 2015 – Theatrical performance of The Twits followed by a free storytelling workshop for 8-11 year olds.

There’s some great events there so let me know how you get on.