In the current changing landscape for families and libraries affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, librarians are suddenly tasked with providing resources and activities in a digital environment. Providing robust programs for marginalized or underserved populations is especially a challenge, and we wanted to provide resources for librarians that may assist in addressing the needs of these populations.
What we offer here is a sample of resources, but we understand that it is not an exhaustive list and that there are other underserved populations beyond the ones included here. While many of these resources are directed at teachers, we very much feel that all librarians are educators and will benefit from these strategies.
To begin with, there is an upsetting amount of misinformation being spread about the origins of the virus, and much of that misinformation is rooted in racism. We encourage librarians to disrupt that racism and address it, whether in blog posts, online programs, or storytimes. A good place to start is with Teaching Tolerance’s proposed strategies.
In addition, librarians creating materials online need to consider their accessibility, especially for children with print disabilities. Reading Rockets provides a useful guide for ensuring the accessibility of any visual and textual materials, such as providing closed captioning for videos or descriptive texts that accompany pictures, among others.
Children with print disabilities or ASD will benefit greatly from hearing stories read aloud to them. Many authors and illustrators have begun to post live storytellings and activities that will engage children. An ever-growing compendium of these read-alouds can be found here.
Colorín Colorado provides many tips, best practices, and resources for reaching out to English Language Learners and immigrants. We feel these strategies could also be useful with refugee populations and Spanish-speaking households.
We encourage librarians to seek out age-appropriate information about COVID-19. Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training (ASERT ) has created a Coronavirus Social Story, which provides a visual guide for individuals with autism. It shares illustrated information in a variety of languages on how to stay healthy and protected from the virus.
We want to acknowledge that there are populations that may not be served because of lack of access to WiFi or technology; local outreach and community service providers may be stepping up in that area. We encourage children’s librarians to contact local services, ascertain what resources and programs are being provided, and offer assistance to these service organizations.
Joe Prince is the co-chair of ALSC’s Library Services for Underserved Children and Their Caregivers. He and his husband haven’t seen anyone but each other for weeks, and their marriage remains largely intact.
Emily Aguiló-Pérez is the incoming co-chair of ALSC’s Library Services for Underserved Children and Their Caregivers. Zoom social gatherings are keeping her entertained during this social distancing era.
Emily and Joe would like to thank FaceTime for reuniting them and making this collaboration possible.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competency: Commitment to Client Group.