Blogger Library Service to Underserved Children and Their Caregivers committee

Sensory Storytime on a Shoestring

What does it take to do a sensory storytime? Not a whole lot! Our award season for our committee’s annual ALSC/Candlewick Press “Light the Way” Grant is closing, and we typically see many hyped-up proposals for sensory storytime programs. This is not to say that we don’t take such proposals seriously, because we do, but we think that people feel like they need a ton of money and resources to pull off a successful sensory storytime when in fact all you need is a little bit of planning and a wee bit of money.

After all, a sensory storytime should aim to be inclusive. To that end, if you’re using a visual schedule, a varied format that incorporates multimodal sensory integration, and repetition, then you are probably appealing to children with varying sensory processing abilities and thus, already doing a sensory storytime, just not in name. Don’t wait for the big grant to start your sensory storytime in your library community, go ahead already and do it!

Ms. Sarah Holtkamp, children’s librarian at the Albany Park branch library in Chicago conducting an inclusive storytime with sensory elements.

If you’re curious about what this looks like, refer to this guest ALSC blogger who lays out nicely the “how to” of sensory storytimes. Manipulatives like sensory beads, Thera-Bands, fidgets, kinetic sand, etc. are great to have in sensory storytime as an added supplement but they typically don’t cost much and the presence or absence of them alone won’t make or break your storytime. We think the incorporation of the elements as mentioned earlier plus some staff training to develop one’s soft skills in dealing with children with different abilities is probably the best approach.

photo courtesy of Chicago Public Library
Sensory manipulatives

If you need more ideas, there are plenty of places to look for inspiration. Our committee likes the ALSC Libraries sensory storytime Pinterest page for ideas. In the end, you should always be seeking to make your library storytimes inclusive of ALL groups. Resources are essential; however, they shouldn’t impede making sure that that you’re serving the library’s entire populous, especially those with sensory processing disorders. They need you, and you have the resources available right now, and the primary resource is YOU!


(Photos courtesy Jason Driver/Chicago Public Library)


Jason Driver is the Early Literacy Specialist for the Chicago Public Library. He loves cooking, storytelling, chess and telling “Dad jokes” among other things. He is the current co-chair of the Library Service to the Underserved Children and their Caregivers Committee.

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