Full disclosure: I am not only a Children’s Librarian who advocates for inclusive programs and services for children with varying abilities, but I am also the parent of a child with a life-limiting genetic syndrome that causes significant developmental delays. I am motivated to a great extent by my daughter to ensure that libraries across the country have the tools and training needed to create and/or improve their offerings for people with disabilities. It is my goal to have her enjoy visiting the library as much as I did as a child.
Many libraries today are addressing the needs of children with special needs to ensure inclusion in story time programs and successful visits for materials and other resources. Sensory story times are the most popular offerings, but even a classic story time structure with simple modifications can be offered to include children with special needs. If you are just getting started with creating inclusive story times and need some basic information to get the ball rolling, there is a great webinar offered through Infopeople that was put together by staff from the Contra Costa County Library (CA) titled, Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The webinar is fully archived with access to the presentation materials including slides, handouts, and the Q & A Chat with the live participants. This webinar includes great information on creating inclusive programming for all ages as well as a segment focusing on Inclusive Story Time.
One of the resources suggested in the webinar to help you design appropriate content and develop a better understanding and awareness of the disabilities of children in your community is to connect with parents and professionals. Communication with parents can be twofold. It will provide insight into what parents feel are the needed adaptations and/or accommodations for their children to participate in a library story time, as well as create a channel for promoting your inclusive programming within the community. Parents of children with special needs seek each other out and build strong networks of their own. Getting the word out through these networks to promote your inclusive programs will help garner the participation and support you’ll need to make your program successful.
I have found many great resources for aiding youth librarians in educating themselves on getting started with programs and services to people with special needs. One of the common concerns among staff is having the knowledge and understanding for working with children with disabilities. I wasn’t prepared to be the mother to a child with significant health issues and developmental delays, but the more I worked with my daughter and cared for her, the more I have learned. This will be true of working with children with special needs in the library. You will learn more as you do more. You’ll be thrilled to see how happy parents and local professionals will be to help teach you what you need to know. Below is a list of several of the online resources I have recently found that can help you prepare for creating an inclusive environment for children of all abilities.
Info People Webinar (Archived from August 2013), Inclusive Library Programs for People with Intellectual Disabilities
Charlotte Mecklenburg County Library (Online Learning Archive)
Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies: Library Accessibility — What you need to know
SNAILS — Special Needs and Inclusive Library Services, a professional network of librarians in Illinois working towards increasing and improving inclusive services
Resources and Examples:
Brooklyn Public Library — The Child’s Place, Information on programs for children with and without disabilities. Also check out their pamphlet about “Universal Design”.
Skokie (IL) Public Library Resource List; a comprehensive list of print materials for adults and children
Center for Early Literacy Learning, resources for adapting activities during story time
Bethany Lafferty is the Assistant Branch Manager/Youth Services Department Head at Henderson Libraries — Green Valley Branch in Henderson, Nevada. She can be followed on Twitter with the handle @balaff1.
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