I Talk Like a River

This beautiful book helps us understand what people may experience when they live with special needs. It helps children empathize and think about abilities that they may take for granted. The child in this book has a speech disorder and the author uses figurative language to help us understand what it's like to always feel like there are sounds and words stuck in your mouth. It also helps us develop respect for the courage and resilience of people living with special needs. This small window is enough to build empathy and discuss skills we can practice to ensure that all people in our community feel valued.
-Dena

Social Justice Activities:

  1. Evaluate how the child feels at home versus at school. How does he negotiate his identity in multiple spaces. How do others impact how he shows up at school? (Identity 5)

  2. Discuss assumptions that we make about people. Connect how those assumptions lead to biases. Analyze the main character to understand how he has multiple identities and is not a representative of one group. (Justice 11)

  3. Analyze the main character's feeling before school, during school and with his dad. If we were friends with this child, what qualities can we show to help him feel safe and valued? (Action 16)

Relevant Social Justice Standards:

Identity 5. Students will recognize traits of the dominant culture, their home culture and other cultures and understand how they negotiate their own identity in multiple spaces.

Justice 11. Students will recognize stereotypes and relate to people as individuals rather than representatives of groups.

Action 16. Students will express empathy when people are excluded or mistreated because of their identities and concern when they themselves experience bias.

Analyze the main character's feeling before school, during school and with his dad. If we were friends with this child, what qualities can we show to help him feel safe and valued?

Reading Strategies:

Character Analysis: Analyze the main character's actions and their reasons for those actions.

Figurative Language: Poetic elements and descriptive language throughout the book. Explore the author's choice to use the metaphor of a river as speech.

Author's Purpose: Read the note in the back and discuss the author's motivation for writing the book and how that motivation influenced the writer's craft.

Book Details:
  • Autobiographical Narrative, All Ages
  • Perspectives: Living with a speech disorder
  • Author's stated experience: Living with a speech disorder
  • Subject Integration: Art, Science

Book covers images are from publishers and in the public domain