ALA Midwinter 2015

Diversity: Special Needs at #alamw15

Lately, I’ve been investigating and thinking about ways we serve young people with special needs, and how it ties in with the heightened focus on diversity.

At yesterday’s “Diversity Matters: Stepping It Up With Action!,” publishers and librarians engaged in a fascinating dialogue about practical ways we can include all voices. We should: hire more diverse staff; reach out to authors from underrepresented backgrounds; do targeted outreach; and develop partnerships with community organizations. But, as many audience members pointed out, our efforts should not only address race, culture, and sexual orientation, but should also include people with special needs.

Here are a few highlights of special needs resources found/represented at #alamw15:

*Remarkable Books about Young People with Special Needs: Stories to Foster Understanding by Alison M. G. Follos (Huron Street Press, 2013)

*Children with Disabilities in the Library – an ALSC online professional development course.

*Schneider Family Book Award, which “honor an author or illustrator for a book that embodies an artistic expression of the disability experience for child and adolescent audiences.”

  • 2015 YA Winner: Girls Like Us by Gail Giles (Candlewick)
  • 2015 Middle School Winner: Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Feiwel and Friends)
  • 2015 Children’s Book Winner: A Boy and a Jaguar by Alan Rabinowitz; Illustrated by Catia Chien (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

*El Deafo by Cece Bell (Abrams) won a 2015 Newbery Award Honor.

*Sharon Draper, author of Out of My Mind (Atheneum) is the 2015 Margaret A. Edwards Award recipient.

*The Association for Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA), a division of ALA which provides support and services for libraries and librarians serving special needs communities.

*AccessAbility Academy training module (ASCLA): “Positive Interactions: Making the Library a Welcoming and Empowering Place for People with Disabilities”

* @DisabilityInLit (Twitter feed) – Disability in KidLit, which focuses on the portrayal of disabled characters in MG/YA novels.

*Brooklyn Public Library offers the Child’s Room for Children (and Teens) with Special Needs, which features a universal design space and inclusive programming: a universal Makerspace, gaming, garden club, Legos, and story hours.

*Weplay – #alamw15 was the first time this vendor came to an ALA conference. Their focus is “physical movement and cognitive development equipment.” They offer a free 94-page Sensory Storytime handbook, developed especially for libraries.

Do you have more resources to share? Please post in the comments field.


  1. Wendy Stephens

    For cross-cultural perspectives, the International Board on Books for Young People generates a biennial list of Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities with a documentation center at the Toronto Public Library for research purposes. Find links to off versions of thosbooklists towards the bottom of this page

    1. Karen Choy

      This is an extremely helpful resource. I am especially interested in what the international publishing world is producing. Thank you, Wendy!

  2. Kristel

    How can we access Weplay’s Sensory Storytime handbook for libraries? Is there a link to an e-version?

    1. Anna

      Hello Kristel,
      You can email me for details on the manual –
      Thank you

  3. Karen Choy

    Hi Kristel, Good question. I picked up a bound manual at the booth, but perhaps there’s an electronic version. Their contact email for more information: Anna.GWP@Weplay.Com.TW .

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