What is the ultimate goal of your library’s summer reading program? Is it to increase statistics of the amount of participants or the number of minutes read? Or is to make an impact on the lives of children? This was a question that was discussed at the last SNAILS meeting, a group that meets on a quarterly basis to talk about expanding services to youth with special needs. We all know that Children’s Departments across the country are buzzing this time of year, gearing up for the summer season–and rightly so! It’s that time of year when we have the opportunity to encourage and reward reading in all of its forms through our annual summer reading programs. It’s also that time of year when we have the chance to do a lot of outreach, advocating for the value of the public library to nonusers and new families. What about families with children of special needs? How are they being included or excluded from our annual summer reading programs?
Your library may be one of the libraries that has decided to move away from the traditional “reading” program. Maybe you have developed a summer program that is more experiential in nature. Perhaps your library even encourages participants to set their own goal for completing the program. It’s true–libraries are buildings that house books, but through our summer reading programs, we have an opportunity to do so much more than that.
With only a few more weeks left before summer reading begins, take some time to rethink your library’s program. Reflect and ask yourself these questions:
- What is our ultimate goal for library summer reading programs?
- What benefits do summer reading clubs provide for families of children with special needs?
- What barriers (physical? perceived?) exist that prevent children with special needs from participating in summer reading clubs?
- What are some strategies to make our summer reading clubs accessible from the start (ie. universal design)?
- What are some examples of accommodations that can we make as we go along?
- What are some methods for inviting families of children with special needs to participate in our programs? (Remember, it’s all about marketing!)
Do you have the answers? Share your ideas below! For further reading, check out this thought-provoking article entitled Summer Reading Club: Inviting Accessibility by Children’s Librarian Tess Prendergast. You can find Tess on Twitter here, where she advocates for early literacy, inclusion, and the role of public libraries in supporting families.