Instead of a New Years resolution at the start of every year, I choose one word to focus on. This year I chose “anchor.” In 2022, I need a new idea of home, stability, and grounding. In 2021, my word was “resilience.” So many of us build resiliency out of necessity. We all experienced trauma throughout the pandemic, and continue to experience it today.
Libraries are cornerstones of our communities. We play a fundamental role in learning and development. How do we take care of ourselves and our patrons? In 2020, our county (Kane County outside of Chicago, Illinois) identified trauma-informed care as a strategic priority and made plans to implement systemic changes to improve the outcomes for our community.
It was wonderful to be a part of this project. Several stakeholders–including three librarians (Elizabeth Forkan, Billie Moffett, Director of Studio 270; Teen Services, and myself)– became certified as trainers through ACE Interface, a curriculum that focuses on Adverse Childhood Experiences (for more information on ACE, see the CDC website ). As librarians, we wanted to contribute something else. But we aren’t child psychologists, administrators, or experts in this field.
Well, what are children’s librarians experts in? Books. Research. Play. What emerged was a new collection called Resiliency Kits developed by Elizabeth Forkan in her position as Family Engagement Librarian and myself. What are they? Themed kits that contain books for both adults and children, hands-on activities, and information to help families navigate traumatic experiences and to build skills for healing. Using the 7 C’s model developed by pediatrician Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, the primary goal of these kits is to help children and families develop resiliency skills.
This project was large-scale, and required significant research. We talked to local therapists in mental health centers, and used sources such as Sesame Street Workshop, NPR Toolkit, National Association of School Psychologists, and National Child Traumatic Stress Network, to name a few. We started with five themes, and the collection expanded from there. We chose: grief and loss, divorce, addiction, emotions (general), and bullying.
Examples of kit contents are: sensory objects (fidgets, liquid timers), mindfulness cards, puppets, journals, and games. For instance, one kit has a veterinarian set in which a child can listen to a dog’s heart using a stethoscope and put on band aids. Based on research of the 7 Cs, when kids feel competent in a skill and they can give back to others (including animals!), they build resilience. Another kit has a puppet with suggestions for open-ended questions, because children often feel more comfortable talking about feelings to a puppet than an adult. The grief and loss kit has a sheet where kids can draw a picture of their deceased loved one.
There is a lot to consider as we move forward with this collection. We haven’t made a kit on coronavirus or illness, for example. In terms of scope, we have been broad. For example, we don’t have a separate kit for “loss of a pet” or “loss of a grandparent” or “loss of a sibling.” It’s all just one kit– grief and loss. We chose this method because we wanted the focus to be on the universal experience of building resilience during times of grief and loss, not a specific person or subject.
Moving forward, we would love your ideas! How has your library helped your community work through the trauma of 2020-the present?
All images courtesy of guest blogger.
(Post edited: 6/19/23)
Today’s guest contributor is Katie Clausen (she/her). Katie is the Early Literacy Services Manager at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, IL. Her specialties include discovery-based play, picture book analysis, and storytime best practices.
Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.