When speech pathologist Linda Reinert created a handout for parents 25 years ago designed to help children with difficulty speaking, she probably never imagined the long-lasting impact it would have.
But when Reinert found out several years ago from a former colleague working in Mound that her decades-old handout was still circulating, Reinert knew what she had to do.
Put it into book form.
So Reinert, with the help of her niece, Emily Lynch, did just that. The book, called Talking Is Hard For Me: Encouraging Communication in Children with Speech-Language Difficulties, was published this month by the publisher Woodbine House. The book is authored by Reinert and illustrated by Lynch.
“It’s kind of been 25 years in the making,” Reinert said. “The material was tested over time. The presentation (of the handout) wasn’t in a pretty package, but to me, it seemed like the information must be good, or otherwise people wouldn’t still be using it.”
Reinert said she freshened up the material in her original handout — which was just three pages — expanding on much of that content and adding new content as well. Much of the book is told from a child’s perspective — as if giving a voice to children who have difficulty speaking — and offering parents, grandparents and other caregivers advice on how they can help those children.
“Moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas and daycare providers really want to help children that have trouble talking,” Reinert said “They feel like they can’t because they’re not trained. I want to say, ‘Yes you can. You absolutely can help your child, and here’s how.”
The book, which includes more than a dozen full-color paintings by Lynch, is designed to look like a children’s book, but truly offers tips and advice for parents and caregivers.
“I wanted it to be presented as a children’s book, because families get a lot of handouts and recommendations to read books and news articles,” Reinert said. “To me, that can be overwhelming for a family. This is a little more disarming.”
Reinert added that providing advice as if coming directly from the child often times might be more well received from parents and caregivers than if it was another book told from a professional’s point of view.
“I’ve found that over the last 25 years of working with families that nobody wants to be told what to do,” she said. “This offers you ideas and lets you pick and choose and decide if it makes sense for you.”
Reinert said the aspect that makes her book unique — that’s it’s told from a child’s perspective and illustrated like a children’s book — was also one of the bigger hurdles to overcome when having it published.
“That was really the publisher’s only concern” she said, adding that she wrote an introduction to clear up any possible confusion. “They said they loved the idea that it was a manual disguised as a children’s book, but people might get confused.”
Reinert said she sent the book idea to three publishers, with Woodbine House ultimately accepting. Reinert and Lynch had only about a month to prepare the book and the illustrations once they found out the book was accepted. Both said the quick turnaround was the biggest challenge, especially for Lynch, who often had to create many paintings for each scene before ultimately getting it just the way she wanted it, and in manner that matched the text created by Reinert. All the illustrations are acrylic paintings which were scanned into the computer.
“Linda’s schedule is really busy, and I was teaching,” said Lynch, who worked last year as a K-12 art teacher in Winsted. “Any amount of downtime, I was painting. I was up all night. It sounds daunting, but it was actually really fun.”
Reinert has more than 25 years of experience as a speech language pathologist working with children from birth to 5 years old. She has worked in homes, schools and medical clinics.
Lynch, a Watertown native who now lives and keeps a studio in Delano, is a painter who first received her degree in math from Luther College in 2006. She later decided to pursue her more creative side by returning to school at the University of Minnesota, where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2012.
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]