Recently, Joey and I have been reading the picture book, I Need a Hug by Aarron Blaby. In this silly story, a porcupine is looking for a hug, and the other animals he runs into – a rabbit, a mouse, and a bear, all run from him screaming. After all, he is a porcupine. Who wants to hug him?
At the end of the story, the porcupine finds the animals running back to him and gets his hopes up, only to find that the animals are being chased by a snake that wants a kiss. Luckily, the porcupine and the snake unite in a friendly cuddle.
This book has been perfect to read with Joey right now because while it is silly and simple, it also lets us work on some of the developmental and academic skills we are focusing on.
Academically, it is a great book to practicing sequencing because there is a clear order. The problem is that the porcupine wants a hug, and he meets three different animals who refuse to give him one. In the end, the problem is solved by the snake, who is also feeling rejected.
The simple, repeated plot also lets us focus on some early literacy skills, using both the AAC device and word cards. On each page we can repeat the phrase “I need a hug” when the porcupine asks a friend, along with “No, no, no, said the …” (insert animals in sequence). “I need a hug” is a phrase that Joey can make on his device, so this lets us model it and then encourage him to read the phrase with us on his own.
To encourage Joey’s pre literacy skills as well, I’ve given Joey laminated word cards with velcro on the back. He can help us build the sentences to match our repeated phrases by selecting each word card and putting it in order. This encourages Joey to attend to the letters within the words so that he can discriminate between each word he will select. We can give him the words “I, A, Hug, Need, No, and Said and let him select each one in order to build a sentence. Joey does well with this, and it’s been great to see him begin to attend to the letters within the word to recognize the difference between Need and No.
Of course, the book also lets us be silly and just act out the story. We can make the big emotions for the characters, and have the stuffed porcupine chase after the stuffed bear, moose, and rabbit. Joey grins during this play, and makes the animals say things like “Ouch” and “No, no, no”. This gives me a chance to see Joey exploring and expanding the play scheme presented in the book, and for him to use his sense of humor “ouch!” while acting out the story. I love seeing Joey’s personality come through when we find just the right book!