“If parents are reading the “Talking Tales” series for fun, then my hope is that they are able to enjoy the books with their children over and over again. If parents are reading these books to help with speech, the main thing I hope they take away from the experience is incredible memories of time with their children.” -Erica Graham
What do you do when you can’t find the book you’re looking for? Write it, of course! Meet the person who’s written a whole series of books that help kids and parents when you—
Erica Graham is an award-winning children’s author. Graham graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with her Master of Science Degree in Speech Language Pathology. She also holds her Certificate of Clinical Competence with the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.
As a mother, Graham understands the difficulty parents have finding time to work on speech with their children. In her pursuit to create a fun easy way for therapists, children, and their parents to enhance speech development while promoting literacy, she has written a series of exciting children’s books. Each book focuses on a core sound used in the English language.
Outside of writing and working as a Speech Language Pathologist, Graham enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband and daughters, volunteering with the youth group at church, and a good cup of tea.
Let’s get started!
You’ve got a marvelous background with your Master of Science Degree in Speech Language Pathology, a Certificate of Clinical Competence with the American Speech-Language Hearing Association, plus you promote literacy. At what point did you find yourself thinking, “I want to write children’s books about this?”
There are many studies that show incorporating books into therapy sessions can have a positive impact on a child’s ability to learn a skill. Plus, reading has multiple other positive impacts on a child’s development. I have spent hours online and in bookstores trying to find fun books that will help with a specific goal I am working on with a child, but in many cases I come up empty-handed.
Since obtaining my license, I have been approached by multiple parents whose children do not yet qualify for speech services but they are looking for ways to stimulate speech development with their children. I have always had a love for writing and wanted to combine my writing with my passion to find a way to give parents, therapist, and children a fun way to encourage speech development.
For your books that star animals—Cricket’s Guitar, Puppy’s Bubble, and Catch That Chinchilla—which came first, the sound you wanted to focus on, or the animal? Or did they unfold together?
Each story has been different. With Catch that Chinchilla and Cricket’s Guitar, the sound came first, then the animal, and then the storyline.
Puppy’s Bubble was inspired by my daughters one day while we were playing with sidewalk chalk outside. We were drawing different animals on the driveway and my youngest daughter asked me to draw her favorite animal, a dog. When I had finished, I was suddenly inspired by the drawing and the bucket of bubbles that we had been playing with earlier. I planned to write a book that targeted early sounds to encourage babbling and first words, but had not yet thought of a storyline, but THIS was it-the concept to “Puppy’s Bubble” was born.
What do you hope parents will do when they have your books? For example, do you have any reading-out-loud tips or recommendations for frequency of routine?
If parents are reading the “Talking Tales” series for fun, then my hope is that they are able to enjoy the books with their children over and over again. If parents are reading these books to help with speech, the main thing I hope that they take away from the experience is incredible memories of time with their children.
Some tips for making the most out of these books include, reading slowly while emphasizing the targeted sounds within the book. This will help their child develop an understanding of how a sound is properly produced. Parents should encourage their child to talk about the story or repeat common phrases while they read or in future readings. This will allow their child to practice saying the targeted sound and compare it with the modeled sound they have heard from their parent.
The most important thing is to keep these readings fun, so if a child does not say a sound correctly, repeat the phrase back to them in a reinforcing way to give them another example of the sound. So if the child says “thicky thrawberry thucker,” the parent can repeat the phrase saying something such as “you are right, sticky strawberry sucker”. And emphasize the proper “s” sound. This is an indirect way of targeting a sound versus telling the child “no it is Sticky Strawberry Sucker.”
By addressing speech problem in an indirect way, it will be less frustrating. Use personal judgment for when you feel it should be addressed directly and always consult a speech-language pathologist if you have real concerns for your child’s speech development.
Your “Write a Character” idea is superb. Is there any one character that gets the most requests? Do you have a secret favorite character you like to write letters from?
My animal characters are the most popular and the most exciting to write from. Being a recent release, Chinchilla is still awaiting mail, while Cricket and Puppy are fan favorites.
You clearly have a gift for writing children’s books. Do you ever see yourself branching out into other genres?
I have recently been considering branching out into another genre, but as of now, I am focused on completing my “Talking Tales” series.
When you started publishing your books, what would you say surprised you the most—good or bad?
The marketing aspect has been far more complicated than expected. As an author, I depend heavily on reviews and recommendations from my readers. Though it is complicated, I have enjoyed every minute of it and am grateful for how much closer I have grown to my readers through this process.
What are you planning to launch next?
I have two more books in the “Talking Tales” series that are in the early editing stages. There will be more information to come as the books are closer to release.
Now for some just-for-fun challenge questions…
What type of book do you reach for to lose yourself in? Any favorite titles/authors?
While I enjoy multiple genres, I love to get lost in a good fantasy novel. Some recent favorites are The Unicorn Hunter, by Del Henderson, Howl’s Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones, and Heirs of Power, by Kay MacLeod.
What’s your favorite non-writing, non-reading activity?
I love rock-climbing, but have not tackled many walls since having kids. Currently, I enjoy crafting and Pinterest projects.
When you get a story idea, do you scribble it on any scrap of paper or napkin you can find, or do you have a special notebook or online tool where you keep all the inspiration?
I do have a special notebook that I try to keep with me; mainly because I am notorious for loosing scraps of paper. However, I will use whatever I can find when an idea comes to me. Even in that means writing an idea on my arm or leg with a pen if that is all I have available.
If you could go back in time before you started your author career, what advice would you give yourself?
Do not lose focus on the real reason you began to write: to reach families and to have fun. It is not about the sales and numbers. When it becomes about that, you have lost your goal for writing.
Here’s where to find and follow Erica, and purchase her books!