Blogger Renee Grassi

Rethinking Summer Library Programs….in November

Summer 2017 may be over, but Summer 2018 planning has only just begun…we know it to be true!  Our Summer Library Programs may be just 10 weeks out of the year, but program planning is perennial.  We design our summer library programs to be engaging and impactful, and we care deeply that the kids in our communities have a positive experience.  But let’s face it–it takes time to do that effectively. So, earlier this month, 60 passionate Youth Librarians in Wisconsin got a jump-start on rethinking their summer library programs.  And it was at their annual YS workshop where I had the pleasure of facilitating a lively discussion about accessibility and inclusion for youth with disabilities in summer library programs.

Before redesigning your library’s summer program, it’s important to consider the big picture at the very beginning of planning.  What is your overall goal in providing this summer library program experience?  If your library wants to be as inclusive as possible, every decision in the planning stage must be made with inclusion in mind.  That’s why our discussion focused on benefits and barriers.

The format was simple. I posed two questions, and each small group discussed answers with each other. Then, each small group shared their thoughts with the rest of the room.  Here’s what we came up with:

What are some benefits of intentionally including children with disabilities in summer library programs?

  • Positions the library as a model of inclusion in the community
  • Encourages a relationship with reading for kids of all abilities
  • Reflects the differences and diversity in our library communities
  • Increases empathy in other children and adults without disabilities
  • Supports relationship building between children with disabilities, their families, and library staff
  • Provides children with disabilities an opportunity to practice life skills in the library
  • Introduces the library as a lifelong resource to children and families
  • Increases confidence and comfort level in a public space by children with disabilities and their families
  • Allows children with disabilities to be visible and participatory members of their community

What are some barriers for children with disabilities in summer library programs?

  • Transportation or access to the library
  • Busy schedules with multiple therapy or medical appointments
  • Physical space is not accessible or ADA compliant
  • Judgment, attitudes, or lack of knowledge of other patrons at the library
  • Lack of training and knowledge of library staff
  • Too many verbal or communication expectations required in participation of the program
  • Library policies or procedures
  • Does not read at grade level
  • Previous negative experience at the library
  • Lacks a positive experience with reading
  • Problematic incentives (ex. allergies or insensitivities)
  • Lack of awareness of library services
  • Not enough appropriate library materials in desired formats
  • Format of the program
    • Too complex or rigid
    • Grade/age restrictions
    • Too many rules
    • Graphics and visuals
    • Language used (ex. How does a librarian vs. a parent define reading?)
    • Requires reading; not activity or learning focused

What are your thoughts about benefits and barriers to our summer library programs? Share your ideas below in the comments.

Are you looking for tips to make your program more inclusive and accessible to children with disabilities? Check out Jordan Boaz’s ALSC blog post 10 Ways to Make Your Summer Reading Program Inclusive. For further reading, check out this thought-provoking article entitled Summer Reading Club: Inviting Accessibility by Children’s Librarian Tess Prendergast.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *