Literacy Series: Bring Back Picture Books! Strategies for a Successful Story Time in SPED

If you have been following me on here or on my Instagram account, I’m sure you know how much I love creating and adapting materials to help my students access REAL books.

I remember my first year in a self-contained classroom years ago. I tried to do a read aloud of Pete the Cat at the beginning of the year and it was a disaster. It took me months to get up the nerve to try reading to my students again, and WHAT a disservice I was doing them! It wasn’t their fault the story time went so poorly, it was mine. I wasn’t prepared for their needs, and it showed BIG TIME.

Thankfully, since that first year, I have learned a few tricks on how I can adapt books and set-up lessons that really engage my students and help them access all kinds of books through story time experiences.

Now it’s time for me to share what I’ve learned with YOU, so that hopefully you’ll be encourage to spend more time giving your students the gifts of daily read alouds. You’ll be surprised at how much they LOVE to hear you read.

Why are read alouds SO important?

This video says a ton about this subject, but the bottom line is your students need to hear YOU reading to them. Youtube read alouds are dandy in a pinch, but they need to touch the cover, turn the pages, and access the book in real life.

I remember reading in an article once that a child needs to hear over 1,000 books read aloud before he/she starts kindergarten. One. Thousand. Books. How many of your students fall behind and are well beyond kindergarten?

With the constant testing and benchmarking going on, students need to be exposed to books just because they are GOOD BOOKS! Not because they are at their “reading level” or because they will take a test on it later in the week. Think about some of the readers you use during your guided reading groups…

I get it, leveled readers are a necessary evil. But that doesn’t mean we cut out the good stuff! Not only do read alouds improve fluency, expand vocabulary knowledge, and help comprehension, but read alouds involve your students and they bring the FUN back into reading. By providing your students with daily read alouds of all sorts, you are giving them a lifelong love of books! I bet you can remember which teachers in elementary school gave you their time and read aloud to you. I know I can. The bottom line: read alouds create relationships between you and your students. Relationships that you need to development on day one.

More reasons!

As a parent to two little ones now, I have a whole different outlook on the importance of read alouds beyond educational purposes. This year, I read The Read Aloud Handbook and Reading Magic, and both books just furthered my knowledge and understanding of how powerful books can become in a child’s life! I read this article after I had my first son and the reasons spoke to me. “Kids” can mean your own children or your students (who are also your children!).

Reading is time spent with your kids.

Read alouds ignite conversations and communication.

Read alouds cover a ton of social skills and emotional health issues in a sensitive manner.

Books can honor the individuality of your kids.

Read alouds open up whole new worlds for our kids.


Throughout this story time series, I will be quoting a few books that I have learned from. I’ll link them below. I also wrote a blog post about 10 books that every SPED teacher needs, click here to read the post.


The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

Reading Magic by Mem Fox

How Do I Teach This Kid to Read by Kimberly Henry

Here’s the link to all of my favorite PD books on Amazon.

I’m here to help!

Read alouds in the special  education setting is something I am super passionate about. If you are stuck on how to start having a story time in your classroom, please reach out!


Disclosure: Some of the links included in the post are affiliate links. this means that if you click on a product link, I may receive compensation. Compensation through the affiliate links comes at no additional cost to you. All products listed are items I have purchased and use personally.

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