Book Review: Think & Play the Social Scouts Way: Firefighter Leo to the Rescue!

Book by Heather Marenda-Miller and Amy Wilhelm

Reviewed by Amanda Dunyak

 

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Los Angeles speech language pathologists, Heather Marenda-Miller and Amy Wilhelm bring us a new idea for story-telling with our littles. Seeing first-hand how increased social time is impacting children’s speech and social development, Wilhelm and Marenda-Miller created therapy groups named “Social Scouts” where they teach children how to play, helping them to use their words to communicate ideas with others, and helping to enhance their social skills while inspiring creativity and imagination (from the official press release).

Hoping to bring these techniques to a wider audience, Wilhelm and Marenda-Miller have published this book, the first in a ten-book series, for children ages 3-7, to be read interactively with any adult in their life, fostering speech and imagination with thematic play and language.

I read this book with my charges, 4-year-old twin boys and a 7-year-old girl. While the older of the three children was less interested, she still found her way over to the couch when I began reading and by the end of the story, she was participating just as actively as her little brothers. The twins were drawn to the story immediately; they love firefighters! With large pages and vibrant illustrations, it didn’t take the boys long to be zoned into the story.

With who, what, and where questions, each page gives the children something to think about and a chance to use their imagination. Questions such as “who is a firefighter,” “what does a firefighter wear,” and “where does a firefighter work,” children can call upon their knowledge of firefighters to answer the questions that the book poses, as well as using the pictures for prompts. Adults who are reading to the children can use these same pictures to prompt additional questions that the book may not ask outright. In addition to promoting creative thinking, “Firefighter Leo” also helps to expand a child’s vocabulary, introducing unfamiliar words such as the various parts of a firefighter’s uniform, places in the community, and additional things that a firefighter might be responsible for, aside from extinguishing fires. The story also teaches children sequencing, telling the reader what Firefighter Leo needs to do before and after certain events, and using words like first, then, and last to describe the steps Leo needs to take when he plays firefighter.

Each page gives the reader countless opportunities to start a conversation and there are endless answers that the children can provide. You can read the book all at once or take it slowly, making a whole week worth of lessons out of it. You can even take a trip to your local firehouse to see the pages brought to reality! The end of the book offers sequence cards and a page of instructions for the adults to set up games and activities with children. This is a book we will be returning to quite frequently, for sure. My charges love books and they love to read (we are currently reading the Harry Potter series), and the more they can interact with a book, they more attached to it they become, and are likely to keep returning to it, until they can eventually read it by heart! I see Firefighter Leo to the Rescue quickly becoming one of those books.

I highly recommend this book for children ages 3-5. I think for children ages 6-7, it’s a judgement call. I don’t think that my 7-year-old would have really been interested had I not been reading it (and having fun with it) to her brothers, but that’s not to say that every child her age would have the same reaction. If you have children of multiple ages within that age range, I can almost bet that this book will be a hit!  I will definitely be on alert for the next book in the series!

You can buy the book here, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.