Why Your Child with Special Needs Should Be In Storytime and How to Make it a Success

Library programming has changed A LOT in the past decade.  A LOT.  We have gone from traditional story time reading with a paste together craft to interactive story times filled with music, movement, open-ended arts and crafts that encourage individual thought and creativity.  We have gone from book groups with preformed questions lead by the librarian to programs that tie literature into hands-on, thought provoking activities that engage the inner thinker in each kiddo.  We are no longer a community of “shushers” telling patrons to read quietly, but rather we are encouraging conversation and engagement with other children and parents at the library.

The best part of this change in thinking and direction is that it means programming now fits ALL abilities and needs instead of just the needs of children who can sit still and quietly for a story hour.  Still, the fear and misconceptions are out there, especially among our parents who have children with special needs.  I have extended the invite to Storytime for Littles (our baby/toddler story time) as well as Exploratorium (our school-age, STEAM-based programming) just to catch that hesitation followed by a hasty “Well, my child has autism, so I’m not sure they would sit for it,” or “My child has ADHD and I would hate for them to get too wound up.”

I know that response.  That hesitation.  I had it when my child was young.  I have a son who is autistic.  He also has severe ADHD and a sensory processing disorder.  Taking him into settings where I had no control over smells, sounds, and tactile experiences was nerve-wracking.  It could trigger a meltdown and the judging eyes of other mothers falling on us or upset children who felt we disrupted them.  From personal experience I can say, he needed those experiences.  Can I say every experience was a success for us?  No.  What I can say is that every experience gave him a frame of reference for adapting to different social settings (we run at the playground, we walk in the museum). It gave him exposure to new activities and topics, even if it was short-lived on a rough day (seeing new animals at the zoo to talk about versus the pets at home and animals in our neighborhood).  The opportunity to practice social skills at different programs was a major driving reason behind many outings.  Playing with new friends and meeting new people was not always easy, but he did learn how to greet people without being prompted and practice manners with people other than family which helped as he went off to school where I wasn’t there to guide his social interactions. All of this lead to a huge opportunity that is good for any child: the opportunity to gain pride and confidence in himself in any setting.

 

So what are some tips and tricks to enjoying story time if your child has special needs?

  • Talk to your child about it ahead of time, regardless of their age.  If they are too young to understand, you are providing them with new words to build a frame of reference for what story time and the library are.  If they are old enough, talking to them about what to expect at the program or what behavior you expect from them helps them feel more prepared going into the situation and sets them up for success.
  • Once in story time, let your child explore within reason.  Obviously we encourage them to stay with you and do the activities, be it listening to stories or dancing and moving to song, but we are used to “wanderers” who walk around the room, come up and point to the pictures in the books we are reading to the group, help with the felt board stories, and the list goes on.  They are still getting a lot out of being in the room, hearing the story and taking in the setting.
  • If you want your child to practice sitting during times we have the group sitting to listen to a story but they are struggling to stay still, ask us for a fidget!  We have an arsenal of fidgets and weighted toys that will help satisfy your child’s sensory output needs and use their energy while they are still sitting with the group.  And trust me, though at first glance they may seem distracted, they are actually more mentally engaged than they would be otherwise, absorbing every detail.
  • If it is a rough day and your child is overwhelmed, feel free to step out of the room.  Parents frequently are in and out during story time, and this is nothing that disrupts the program.  Feel free to come back in once your child feels ready to rejoin the fun and give it another go!
  • If it is really overwhelming adjusting to a story time or program, start small.  Sit in the program for as long as your child will tolerate.  Maybe it is 5 minutes, maybe it is 15.  Once they show signs that they are done, leave story time.  You can either take a break and come back in after a few minutes when they are ready to give it another go or just come back the next week and try again.  Slowly overtime as your child adjusts, the time they will be able to stay in the program will grow. Do this as many times or for as long as necessary!  The library staff understands completely and supports you 100%!  Often there is a concern that we will be disrupted or find that coming and going rude but the truth is we WANT you to do this if it helps your child.  We want you and your child in our program even if it is only for a part of it, even on a rough day!  And truth be told, parents and children come and go frequently during programs for lots of reasons so you are not alone!
  • If the program has different centers to explore, don’t make your child do every one if he or she doesn’t want to.  Let them guide their experience!  If they want to make three straw rockets instead of going to the area where they actually launch them and measure them, that is okay with us provided the supplies are there.  It is an opportunity to interact with different children who come to that station and use social skills!
  • Let the library staff in the room know if you need help!  Tell us how we can support you!  Whether it is asking us to hand you a cherished object that soothes your child while you are holding them to calm them down, whether it is giving you and your child a special sign if storytime is about to get loud because loud noises upset them and it gives you time to cover their ears, or even if it is helping provide a transition between activities so they aren’t upset when you need them to move to a new center or go home, we are there to support you as well as your child!

Miss Marta

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Fake or Real?

Photo credit: snopes.com

 

Librarians have long been champions of critical thinking and using primary, or original sources when doing research and fact-finding.  With the rise of internet research over the last several years, however, there has been much speculation as to whether libraries and librarians by default are becoming irrelevant.  I believe that, just because information can be found on-line, doesn’t make that information true! As one of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, once said:

 

So, when you’re not sure about some “facts” that you’ve found; ask a librarian!  We are here to sift through sources that “look” and “sound” real, but might actually be fake. We’ll help you “find the right answer”.

 

Miss Teresa

For Reading Out Loud!

I’m willing to bet you can list many reasons to read out loud to your young child. It is a great way to prepare your child for that exciting day he or she begins to read.

Unfortunately, when children begin to read, many people stop reading out loud to their child. Reading time becomes only the time a child reads out loud to the parent before disappearing completely once the child is reading on their own.

I personally hate to see those reading aloud sessions disappear. Older children benefit from those special reading adventures just as much as their younger siblings. Below are just a few reasons I hope people will continue reading to their child.

  1. Children understand so much more than what they are capable reading. Words and plots of early reader books are by necessity too easy for children who have been used to hearing more complex stories even from their picture books.
  2. Children can continue to improve their vocabulary. The more words children know, the easier it is to read those words. It is also easier for a child to learn a word when read in context of a story. This also applies to the structure of language. Children who hear complex sentences and words will be able to incorporate that in their reading and speaking which will help them later in school.
  3. Reading aloud will help your child keep an interest in reading. Learning to read can be hard. If your child is struggling it is helpful to them to know that once they figure it out there are more exciting things out there to read.
  4. It gives you, as a parent, the opportunity to discuss with your child important life lessons that come forward in stories.
  5. It helps to keep that close bond you have already formed with reading to your child. Not only does it give you some quiet time with your child, it also gives you both a reference point. When you both see something happen in real life you can both say “ That’s just like in the book!” Or perhaps you feel like a favorite character in a book, you can say “I’m just like Alice in Wonderland” and your child will automatically know what you’re talking about.

 

So if your child is willing, keep on reading! I cannot think of a better way to share a book.

Miss Christina

Exploratorium Junior is back!

Starting this month Exploratorium Junior will happen the last Monday of the month at 6 p.m. Each Exploratorium Junior will have hands on activity for the kids to enjoy and this month they will be able to take the activity home with them.

Parents are required to stay with their children during the program.

Siblings are welcome.

Miss Sarah

New This Fall!

September is such a strange month in Libraryland.  It goes from the hustle and bustle of summer reading to an eerie sort of calm.  Programming still goes on, the preschoolers and baby/toddler set still keep us busy, but it is just a different energy.  It is a bittersweet time, to be honest.

 

The great thing about September? NEW PROGRAMS!!!  That’s right!  We have new stuff kicking into gear that should bring a smile to every kiddo’s (and parent’s) face.  Let me take a minute to share with you our amazing Fall lineup.  From new programs, revived programs, and extended programs, we have something for all ages!

Check out what we have in store!

Story Time for Littles

This program is not new, by any means!  In fact, it is one of our most popular programs.  That is way starting in September, Story Time for Littles will be offered each month!  We are so happy to announce this program will now run September through November, take a break off during the month of December, then will be back from January through May.  Join us each Monday morning at either our 9:30 or 10:45 session!  It is a great time to share stories, songs, rhymes, art, and play with your little one.  It is geared at ages birth to 36 months, but as always, siblings are welcome!  If Monday mornings aren’t your thing, don’t forget we offer an evening session twice a month!  Check out the details here.

 

Spotlight

Come explore what’s new, trending, or just plain exciting at Spotlight On…!  The theme is never the same.  This program offers hands-on opportunities to take a deeper, fun approach to popular trending topics like spies, Pokemon, cartooning and comics, robotics, and more.  Program topics will be announced each month and we LOVE suggestions, so if there is a topic, game, or trend sweeping your school that you want to learn more about, let us know!  This program will take place on the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 and will be replacing Lego Lab.  September’s theme is Spy School where we will take a look at some really cool spy hacks and skills that every kid should know just in time for the latest installment of Stuart Gibb’s Spy School series

 

Exploratorium Junior 

It’s BA-AAACK!  By popular demand, we are bringing back Exploratorium Junior.  This program has all the hands-on fun of our regular school-aged Exploratorium but with little bodies and brains in mind!  Preschool and toddler kiddos will have the chance to explore STEAM-based experiments and activities with their grown-up while hearing some great stories to learn even more about the topic of the night!  This program will be offered the fourth Monday of the month at 6 p.m. starting in September and will be replacing Family Story Time.  Straw Rockets is the first topic and should be loads of fun!

Come join us for these and our regular programs such as Creativity Lab, Exploratorium, Preschool Story Time, and more!

Miss Marta