A connection made through literature and laughter
For four years, teacher Amy Jewell and her Life Skills students at Lincoln Southwest High School have made a weekly trip to the school’s library for 45 of the best minutes of their week. That’s when her students read a book with librarian Michelle Schnell.
“They can’t wait to head to the library to read,” Jewell said. “Wednesday morning is definitely one of the highlights of our week.”
Schnell feels the same way.
“I get to laugh and smile a lot. I get to read great children's literature, which I love, and spend time with these amazing kids who love books and reading,” she said. “I get to build relationships with kids who I otherwise would not get to spend time with during the normal course of my days.”
The Life Skills course is for students who are significantly below grade level due to their disability. At the middle school and high school levels, students focus mainly on life and job skills, as well as communication skills and functional academics.
On a recent Wednesday, Jewell read two books to the students: “Kitten’s First Full Moon,” by Kevin Henkes, and “The Hiccupotamus,” by Aaron Zenz. As she read the books aloud, two of the students were able to follow along and participate thanks to iPads equipped with an app, Proloquo2Go. Each week, Schnell tells Jewell in advance which books she’s going to read, allowing her to load key words from the stories into the app. Pictures of the words appear as buttons on their iPad screens. They tap the corresponding button whenever Schnell reads one of the words.
A third student communicated in similar fashion but used a Step-by-Step device, which also is preprogrammed with key words and one large button he pushed whenever one of the words was read. The device then repeated the word aloud.
“For various reasons, students may be unable to verbally communicate to someone what they need or what they think about something,” Jewell said. “Using a communication device like these provides students with an opportunity to share ideas with individuals who might not otherwise understand them.”
That’s the impressive technology behind this weekly activity. But it’s the heart behind this activity that is more impressive.
As Schnell read “Kitten’s First Full Moon,” one of the students, Riley, kept cracking jokes and bringing up one of his favorite movies, “Toy Story 4.” Schnell laughed every time.
“You make my life, Riley.”
Published: September 19, 2019, Updated: September 19, 2019