Teach Through Books: CDB by William Steig

Teach Through Books: CDB by William Steig

Age level: Early Elementary, Upper Elementary

Description: When I was eight years old, I discovered CDB! by William Steig. Now, twenty-plus years later, I return to it frequently with my students. Each page has a rudimentary illustration along with a set of letters. The student has to read the letters and refer to the picture to figure out what the letters are really “saying.” For example, on the cover the title (CDB!) is shown with a boy showing a girl a bee flying near a flower. The student is able to decipher that CDB really says “See the bee!”

Skills & Modifications: The difficulty level of these letter puzzles varies throughout the book. The biggest modification I make is that, before introducing the book to a student, I will put a post-it note to mark pages I believe the student can decipher independently. This is a great way to get the student engaged with the material and motivated enough to try more difficult puzzles without exhausting his/her frustration tolerance.

  • Critical Thinking – For many students with autism, it is difficult to look at an object and “see” it as something else. The idea of looking at a text and finding a hidden meaning can be difficult to understand for these students. However, the book provides lots of support to reach this goal and can serve as an important segue into similar activities that are more necessary to day-to-day life, such as understanding metaphors or reading between the lines. When teaching with this book, I frequently use phrases such as “What’s the hidden meaning?” or “It says “CDB”, but what is it really saying?” I can then use this language later when teaching other concepts as a cue about subtext, double-meanings, etc.
  • Humor – Because humor frequently involves some of the skills listed above (such as reading between the lines or double meanings), this book can be very beneficial for students with autism.  Here, the humor is not so difficult to understand. This is one of those rare tools that allows for shared laughter and understanding with our students with autism.
  • Peer Play – Perhaps one of the best things about this book is that there are few prerequisite skills for being able to participate with it. If your student is able to read letters and has some picture comprehension, he or she is likely to be able to engage with this book, which makes it a great tool for working with siblings or peers of varied ages. This is a book that I have frequently brought out as a common activity for a student and his/her sibling. I have found that kids typically have their “a-ha moment” when they understand the phrasing at about the same time, and when they don’t they are eager to explain it to their peer. In a couple of instances, a student and his/her sibling were able to converse about the picture to try to figure out the puzzle together.

Pros: It is easy for students to grasp the concept and provides a lot of practice with the concept throughout the book. It also focuses on picture comprehension at a higher level along with word play.

Cons: The difficulty of the puzzles ranges widely throughout the book. While it was not designed for students with special needs, I would love if it had been organized somewhat my level of difficulty.

Cost: $7.99 Should I buy this? I absolutely recommend this book. It’s highly motivating for a broad range of students. It should also be noted that there is a second book called CDC? by William Steig.

ABLLS: coming soon

VB-MAPP: coming soon

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