Many librarians that I have talked to are reluctant to start a sensory story time. Familiar refrains that I’ve heard go something like this: I don’t know the first thing about children with special abilities; I don’t have specialized training; I don’t want to do the wrong thing and upset a child who already has special needs; I didn’t go to library school to do sensory storytimes; don’t I need a really big grant in order to secure materials for something like this?
Much has been written about how to begin a sensory storytime. We won’t cover that here. There’s plenty of stuff out there for you research, plus we’ve included some references below. However, you should know that you’re probably already equipped to do a sensory storytime right now! Joshua Farnum, the play, and active learning specialist at Chicago Public Library has started a string of successful sensory storytimes across the city and is expanding to more branches. Joshua states, “sensory storytime is a storytime that works for you. It’s a lot like traditional storytime, but it puts a particular emphasis on repetition, interactive activities, and sensory play. The best way to discover what sensory storytime is all about is to experience it yourself.” Indeed, a sensory storytime is, after all, just a storytime, with the special touch being the care you take to have things like a schedule, and manipulates (just to name a couple). With a very basic understanding of the abilities that your patrons exhibit, you will go a long way to making your storytime one in which a child or children with developmental differences can thrive in.
If you’ve ever wondered what people of special abilities need to feel comfortable? Then just ask! There are plenty of parent groups, cohorts, and organizations who host fairs for children and families who have developmental differences. Most parents would be happy to talk to you about their kids and what works or doesn’t work for them. If you have play manipulatives, already in your library, then you probably have a some essential items for some children with special abilities. You may not have gone to library school to be a sensory storytime librarian, but let’s face it, children with special abilities are on the rise in this country. Many parents of these children don’t feel comfortable in the library because of negative experiences with insensitive staff and or fear of being ostracized by other parents. By starting a sensory storytime for this group, you fulfill a need and help to serve an already underserved population. Sensory storytimes also foster literacy, engage the senses, and it’s a ton of fun!
Remember it’s for everyone!
Storytime for the Spectrum
Libraries and Autism
ALSC Sensory Storytime Pinterest Board
Sensory Storytime: A (brief) How-To Guide