Children's book about stuttering illustrates the importance of communicative relationships

Lisa Wilder
November 25, 2020

Jordan Scott is an award winning, world-renowned Canadian poet who has stuttered his whole life. His first book of poetry published in 2006, Silt, won the Dorothy Livesay Poetry Prize. His second body of work, Blert in 2008, directly addresses the experience of stuttering and language. He is also the author of Night & Ox, among other works. In 2018 he was the recipient of the Latner Writers' Trust Poetry Prize. Currently Jordan lives lives on Vancouver Island with his family where he is an english instructor at Fraser International College. His latest work is an illustrated book aimed at young readers, I Talk Like a River.

I Talk Like a River is a day in the life of a boy who experiences a "bad speech day" at school, when he is required to speak in front of the class, and his different way of speaking is accentuated — All they hear is how I don't talk like them. After school, his father picks him up and they go for a walk along a river. His father shares insight about his speech that helps him accept himself.

In his poetry and other writings, Jordan examines the phenomena of stuttering in terms of what it means with regards to identity, communication and language. In this simple yet profound story, he describes a boy's experience of stuttering -- ...word-sounds stuck in my mouth...the C is a crow that sticks in the back of my throat... the M in moon dusts my lips with a magic that makes me only mumble... The fact that his mouth isn't working means that the words so easily mastered by others are inaccessible to him.

In the end, the connection he has made with his father and the natural world lets him realize that his speech, although not like that of other kids, is not necessarily at odds with nature -- in fact, it is his nature. The story is about a healing process for a child who stutters that does not have to do with speech therapy, but with the rich, communicative human relationships that helps those who are different find their place in the world.

Purchase I Talk Like a River here.

Below is an interview with Jordan Scott.

Last updated: January 3, 2022