In the midst of Summer Reading, programming is on most of our minds. With Summer Reading comes the challenge of creating accessible programming for children of all abilities. One of the best ways to create these programs is to adapt a program you’ve already successfully presented! Most programs can be accessible with the addition of a few multisensory components.
It is important to keep in mind the limitations you will be working with. Some children may not be able to see while others may not be able to grab, and still others may not be able to sit still. Accommodating to every child’s ability is the best way to guarantee everyone has a great time at your program.
Important components of successful programming include exploring and being hands on in a variety of ways such as:
- Fine motor activities such as finger plays or pounding clay
- Gross motor skills where children follow directions or songs such as the Hokey Pokey
- Talking about and exploring with their senses: how something looks, feels, sounds, tastes or smells (when appropriate)
In case you’re still stumped, here are some ideas of programs to try out:
Touch It Up! The use of a memory box can make any storytime accessible. A memory box is a box filled with one or more symbols from the story that you’re sharing. For example, a story about a dog and his ball could be supplemented by a memory box with a realistic figure of a dog and a toy ball. Ideally, each child gets a box for the duration of the storytime. This box enables them to experience the story in a self paced manner and gives them concrete experiences with the objects in the story. Be sure to give everyone ample time to explore the object when it comes up in the story.
Go Green! For those wishing to include more accessible science programs at their libraries, learning about plants is easily taught through the use of a memory game. All you need is examples of the plant parts for each student: stems, leaves, seeds, roots, flowers. You can even have the students collect these, if possible, or grow them in your library in a multi-week program. Tape the examples from each plant to a board and allow the children to experience it using their senses. If you have access to multiple types of plants, allow the children to pass them around and compare their similarities and differences.
Count Me In! One math activity that is great for all ages and easily customizable involves cutting out shapes of different sizes and colors from foam. Once you have this basic in your program collection, the possibilities are endless! You can have the children count the sides, feel the difference between small and big or group like shapes together. To incorporate a larger group, have the children compare their shapes by size or by finding someone who has the same one. For older children, challenging them to create something out of their shapes provides a wonderful challenge.
Accessible programming is easy to provide if you remember to be flexible and incorporate multisensory components in your activities. Everyone will be sure to have fun!
Jordan Boaz is the Children’s Librarian for the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library, a branch of New York Public Library. She regularly plans innovative, inclusive programming and outreach for children with disabilities. Jordan is experienced with story times, summer reading programs and reader advisory. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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