MONDAY Q&A: Children's book addresses speech issue in a fun way
Elizabeth Redhead Kriston, an Indiana resident, has just published her first children’s book, “Pants on Ants,” which targets skills related to early speech development, language and literacy, while keeping kids interested with fun stories. She works as a home-based therapist, doing mostly play therapy with young children. She recently sat down with Gazette staffer Ellen Matis to talk about her book, and what’s in the future for her writing career.
Question: Your first book was just published, and aims to help kids with speech defects. How does it do that?
Answer: This particular book, at the top you’ll see “initial consonant deletion.” Often times when children are learning to speak they will do very predictable things to change the way they sound until they’re able to say them the correct way. One of the things they do is leave off the initial consonant. So, in the word “pants,” if a child has this particular speech problem, they’ll say “ants.” So we’re contrasting what they meant to say versus what they actually said. And it also uses illustrations to help them hear and see it.
Question: How did you get into the language pathology field?
Answer: I actually came to IUP many years ago to major in teaching of the hearing impaired, and when I came to the college I was convinced by a professor who I just happened to meet to go into speech pathology. I didn’t know what it was, so I took an introductory course, and I fell in love with it. I knew that it was exactly what I wanted to do. So I pursued it, got my bachelor’s and my master’s at IUP, and started working in pediatrics. I work (with children) birth to 3, and I’ve been doing that for 14 years.
Question: What does home-based therapy entail?
Answer: Well, you go into the house, meet the family, meet the child, and basically sit on the floor and do play therapy. I’ve always incorporated literacy, books, in to my therapy. I use the books that they have in the home. I love books that rhyme, use repetition — most children who have speech and language delays are at risk to have literacy delays, so I really build literacy into the program to help ensure that they’ll do well when they get to school with their literacy and their speech. I really felt there was a need for a specialized book that would target literacy and speech skills, and just be a fun story.
Question: When was that moment when you realized you wanted to write children’s books?
Answer: When I started working with the kids. There are therapy materials already available that use a similar type of therapy, but they’re not appropriate for smaller children, they’re flashcard, board game type things. So for small children, you need to have something that is kind of going to engage them and I was always looking for that “one” book that I could use with the younger kids. … I couldn’t find one, so I decided to write one. And I wrote many.
Question: So you’ve written many, despite this being the first book published. Do you have plans to publish all of them?
Answer: Yes. Dynamic Resources is going to publish, I’ve already signed a contract to sign the second book. I’ve written probably five total and we’re looking at all of them and seeing if they all can be published. If it becomes a product that people are interested in, then the publisher is definitely going to be interested and do a series. I’m really excited.
Question: Is the book available for sale yet?
Answer: We’ve already sold a bunch through pre-sales. People are super excited about it — I’ve sold a bunch. We’ve had mock-ups and people just saw the pictures and saw what the books were going to be, and we’ve just sold dozens already, so I’m really excited about that. Without even having the book people are jumping all over it. The fact that there’s flashcards in it really helps, people love to use flashcards, therapists love them, preschool teachers love them, parents love them, so we incorporated some flashcards in there to kind of support the target words in the book.
Question: What do you think your biggest inspiration to keep doing this is?
Answer: Kids. I just love kids, I mean, I have two kids of my own. And having had the mock-up of this book and taking it out with me to the homes that I go into and reading it to the little 2-year-olds that I work with, they love it. They just absolutely adore it, and that’s just been so amazing, just to see their response to the pictures, to the story. But I just love working with little kids, I love writing now, it’s so much fun, and I think it’s going to work. I think it’s going to help kids learn how to talk better and how to read, it’s just a fun story.
Question: Do you think eventually this will become something that you’ll do full time?
Answer: I would love to just write. I think I’ll always do some home-based therapy just to keep in touch with what’s happening in the home, and I don’t know that I want to do that full time — you know, I’ve been doing it a long time and sitting on the floor is kind of hard when you get older. I’ve written all types of books, I’ve written regular children’s books, books that target the topic of adoption that are children’s books, I’ve written a memoir, I’ve written essays — I like writing.
Question: When is the second book expected to be published?
Answer: We’re working on it now. This first book took some time because it was the first time getting together with an illustrator and all that, I’m hoping by the end of the year the second one will come out.
Readers may purchase Kriston's book "Pants on Ants" locally at Musser Forests Garden Center and online at dynamic-resources.org.
Elizabeth Kriston, at a glance...
Job: Early intervention speech-language pathologist
Where I grew up: Cleveland Heights, Ohio
Family: Husband, Jim; two children, Madeline and Makena
Favorite food: Pasta
Last book I read: “The Kitchen House,” by Kathleen Grissom
Pet peeve: Littering
Life goal: To raise my children to be kind, generous, resilient, grateful, independent individuals.
Something most people don’t know: I collect antique tin toys.
NEXT WEEK: The Q&A takes a hiatus for the Memorial Day holiday.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you know someone who would be a great subject for the Monday Q&A? If so, please call Jason Levan at (724) 465-5555, ext. 270.