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BEST Books for Speech Therapy: 4th and 5th Grade

What are the BEST books for speech therapy to use with your upper elementary students? In this blog post, I’m sharing my favorite speech therapy book ideas for 4th and 5th graders. You don’t have to just use books in speech therapy with younger students. They’re wonderful to use with 4th and 5th grade as well!

There are a lot of benefits to using books in speech therapy. I’ll explain exactly how you can use books to work on speech therapy goals.

And don’t forget to grab your FREE “Book Boost” pages. These handy reference sheets will make your SLP life way easier during your therapy sessions!

The BEST books to use in speech therapy with 4th and 5th graders

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How to Use Books in Speech Therapy

There are several ways that you can use books in speech therapy. There are, however, some strategies that are more effective than others, and I’m going to share them with you today!

First, I’ll explain a little bit about dialogic reading.

Next, I’ll share some effective intervention strategies for vocabulary development.

After that, I’ll share some ideas for making the book “come to life” for your students. It’s so important to actually have fun in therapy!

These strategies are important because we want therapy to be meaningful and effective. Unfortunately, most SLPs have huge caseloads and limited time to see students. That means that we need to make sure the little time spent with our students packs a big punch.

Dialogic Reading

In this section, I’m going to explain dialogic reading. It’s okay if this is a new term! The great news is that you’re likely using many of these strategies already. You can effectively use books in speech therapy with a strategic plan and evidence-based strategies. One such strategy is dialogic reading. A lot of the examples provided in this video may be more geared towards younger students. You can absolutely use dialogic reading as a strategy for upper elementary students, however.

Dialogic reading allows you and your student to have a conversation about the book you’re reading. It is not simply passive listening on the student’s part. Basically, it is a shared and structured language interaction. Research shows that shared book reading has a positive effect on word learning.

It allows you to teach new vocabulary, and relate experiences from the story to the student’s own life.

You can ask questions during dialogic reading, including completion, recall, open-ended, “wh” questions, and distancing.

Don’t forget- literal and inferential questions are super important to target in therapy.

If you are interested in learning more about how to effectively implement dialogic reading, then you might be interested in checking out this video.

You might be thinking…

These strategies are great… for picture books!

However, I can promise you will find these strategies useful for older students as well.

Also, graphic novels are wonderful for speech therapy!

They are engaging and provide pictures that can help struggling readers.

Vocabulary Strategies for SLPs

SLPs know that students of all ages benefit from explicit vocabulary instruction. It is important to literacy and language. Without word knowledge, comprehension would be very difficult. SLPs can offer unique support in this area.

It is important to remember that vocabulary commonly heard in conversation will not always match vocabulary encountered in text.

Books provide exposure to more complex vocabulary.

Some vocabulary intervention strategies SLPs may use could include

  • targeting tier 2 vocabulary words
  • helping students recognize if a word is unknown to them
  • providing multiple exposures to the vocabulary word
  • defining words using kid-friendly language
  • having student finish your sentence using the target vocabulary word
  • increasing vocabulary depth (how much does the child know about the word)
  • instruction in morphological awareness
  • semantic mapping (aka semantic feature analysis)
  • learning how to correctly pronounce the word (phonological representation)
  • learning how to spell the word (orthographic representation)
  • identifying what part of speech a word is (syntax)
  • relating the word to a student’s own experiences
  • making it fun and engaging!

Reference: A Review of Middle School Vocabulary Interventions: Five Research-Based Recommendations for Practice- Amy M. Elleman, Eric L. Oslund, Natalie M. Griffin, and Katie E. Myersa

Reference: Morphological Intervention for Students With Limited Vocabulary Knowledge: Short- and Long-Term Transfer Effects, Anna S. Gellert, Elisabeth Arnbak, Signe Wischmann, Carston Elbro

Reference: Morphology and Literacy: Getting Our Heads in the Game, by Laura Green

Reference: Beck, Isabel L. Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary Instruction. 2nd ed., The Guilford Press, 2013.

More Fun Ideas for Using Books in Speech Therapy

It’s fine to grab a book to use during your session, and it’s important to remember what specific targets you’re trying to teach. Above all, however, it’s important to have fun! Try pairing interactive and memorable activities with the books you read to bring some flair to your sessions!


One easy way to bring a book to life is through video. Here’s an example. After reading The Moon Over Star (Dianna Hutts Aston), you could show an actual video of Neil Armstrong landing on the moon.

Giant Tic Tac Toe

Practice using targeted vocabulary words with “starter” sentences. Even better, make those sentences part of a giant tic tac toe board. A few examples using the tier 2 vocabulary word “required” could be “The alien was required to show the astronaut his spaceship because…” Another sentence might be “We’re required to walk in the hallways since…”

Bean Bag Toss

Try pairing a bean bag toss with tier 2 vocabulary in sentence fill-in tasks. Your student could choose a tier 2 word from the story that would best finish your sentence. Alternatively, you could target a variety of language skills with a bean bag game (such as comprehension questions). One time, I was reading Turkey Trouble (Wendi Silvano) with my students. I created a GIANT laminated slice of pepperoni pizza and paired it with a bean bag. I wrote whatever targets I wanted to on the pepperoni pieces. In fact, it often changed depending on the group and the speech goals I was targeting. The kids had a blast throwing a bean bag onto the pizza! It was a fun- and easy- way to work on speech and language objectives.

Here’s a fun game idea to use in speech therapy while reading Turkey Trouble!

Fun Story Retell Ideas

Don’t just “retell” the story. Re-enact the story! This works great in a small group. For example, after reviewing the story elements, your students could choose a character and put on a quick play.

Another idea could be “walking” out the story. Put visuals or icons representing each story part and make “steps” on the floor that your students can walk to while they retell the story.

As you might have noticed from my earlier suggestion, movement is great for learning! Therefore, I also pair story retell with yoga.

My Favorite Books for Speech Therapy- 4th and 5th Graders

The books listed are not all a specific reading comprehension level. First, I wanted to ensure that the books chosen were motivating to this age group.

Next, I considered different variables. Some books are quick reads and could be used in a single session. Other books could be read across several sessions. This would make for easy therapy planning!

Finally, I made sure to still include books with pictures. You will see several graphic novel book options on this list. My students are very motivated by graphic novels. Illustrations are engaging for students. They provide opportunities to ask literal and inferential comprehension questions. Illustrations can also assist with comprehension and give students more confidence.

The Best Books for Upper Elementary Speech Therapy Students

  1. The Name Jar (by Yangsook Choi)
  2. Island of the Blue Dolphins (by Scott O’Dell)
  3. Goosebumps Books (R.L. Stine)
  4. Pig the Pug (Aaron Blabey)
  5. Thelma the Unicorn (Aaron Blabey)
  6. Twins: A Graphic Novel (Varian Johnson)
  7. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Judy Blume)
  8. Rumpelstiltskin (Paul O. Zelinsky)
  9. Turkey Trouble (Wendi Silvano)
  10. The Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon)
  11. I Survived Series (Lauren Tarshis)
  12. Dog Man book set (Dav Pilkey)
  13. She Was the First! The Trailblazing Life of Shirley Chisholm (Katheryn Russell-Brown)
  14. Captain Underpants (Dav Pilkey)
  15. Who Was…? Book Set
  16. Where Is the Great Barrier Reef? (Nico Medina)
  17. Who Would Win? Ultimate Reptile Rumble (Jerry Pallotta)
  18. Listening with My Heart (Gabi Garcia)
  19. Bubble Gum Brain (Julia Cook)
  20. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone– Illustrated Edition (J.K. Rowling)
  21. The Moon Over Star (Dianna Hutts Aston)

Story Champs: A Program for Story Grammar and Vocabulary

Sometimes, it’s nice to have ready-to-go game plans for therapy. One program SLPs could consider looking into is called Story Champs (by Language Dynamics Group). This is a research-based program. The stories are included, along with detailed lesson plans. It’s a super easy- and effective- way to target a variety of language objectives in speech therapy.

The Story Champs Kit is really perfect for SLPs. For one thing, you can use it in individual sessions or small groups. Additionally, there are 3 different levels provided- making it perfect for a caseload with varied needs. There are storytelling icons that can be used to help retell the story. I also liked to grab a few sticky notes in order to write transitional words and place them on the cards. I wrote reminders of transitional words to assist my students with the task of story retell.

More Speech Therapy Ideas for 4th and 5th Grade

I hope this blog post gave you several book ideas for speech therapy!

Working with 4th and 5th graders in speech therapy can be super rewarding. I know at times it can feel like upper elementary students have been in speech therapy for awhile, but that doesn’t mean that therapy can’t be fun, engaging, and effective!

As a matter of fact, this age group was one of my favorites to work with at the elementary level!

To dive deep into the world of upper elementary speech therapy, be sure to read about my favorite games and suggested speech therapy goals.

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