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I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott

Are you looking to add more books that represent the disability experience to your classroom library? The Schneider Family Book Award from the American Library Association is a great place to start when looking for new titles.

The 2021 winner in the Younger Children category is I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott. This book is an own-voices story of a boy who stutters. We follow the boy through his day as he faces obstacles at home and at school. When his father notices that the boy needs some time free of talking, he takes him to the river, where the boy notices how the water travels in fits and starts, just like his speech. This comparison gives the boy the courage he needs to celebrate his speech and the way his words sound.

In addition to the beautiful story, Scott has also written an author’s note that gives more context to his story. Students will find lots to unpack and think about as they read.

When I shared this book with my third graders this week, it launched a broad conversation about disability and differences. Some students shared their own experiences with speech therapy. Others shared the takeaway that we should celebrate all ways of speaking.

When sharing this book in classrooms, it might make sense to pair it with other stories (fiction and nonfiction) of protagonists who have speech disorders. Here are a few suggestions:

  • This article about Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman shares her journey as a student with speech and auditory processing issues.
  • When Oliver Speaks is another own-voices picture book that celebrates the persistence and resilience of a boy who stutters.
  • Coming Soon: Brayden Harrington, a 13-year-old boy who spoke about his experiences stuttering at the 2020 Democratic Convention and the 2021 Inauguration, will release a picture book chronicling his story on August 10th from HarperCollins.

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