Sensory Storytime: Begin with ALSC!

If you want to begin developing a Sensory Storytime program at your library, start here at the ALSC Blog.  In fact, that's where I started.  When I first started developing Sensory Storytime at the Deerfield Public Library, I began with researching what models already existed at other libraries around the county.  At the time, there weren't that many other librarians who had been leading special needs storytimes and writing about their experiences in library literature.  Thankfully, I managed to connect myself with two pioneers in our field. 

The first blog post I remember reading was Tricia Bohanon Twarogowski's Programming for Children with Special Needs.  She put together an amazingly comprehensive programming model and wrote about her experiences in a five-part blog series.  Tricia later shared her experiences developing programming for older children in Going Beyond Sensory Storytime: Sensory School-age Programming.  Then, there was Barbara Klipper.  Her Sensory Storytime post is just a snippet of the wealth of information she has to share on the topic.  In fact, she has also authored a professional publication that is being published in the Spring of 2014 called Programming for Children and Teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders. She has even led an informative webinar on this topic, called Sensory Storytime: Preschool Programming That Makes Sense for Kids with Autism.  The webinar itself was recorded, archived, and is available through the ALA Store for viewing. Both of these women have been incredible inspirations and mentors to me.  I have learned--and continue to learn--so much from the great work that they do, and am so grateful for all they have taught me about how libraries can make a difference in the lives of children with special needs.

What I love about the ALSC Blog is that there are so many contributors.  Librarians from all over, from different libraries, different backgrounds, and different experiences blog and share their contributions to librarianship with the rest of us.  I have found Ashley Waring's Sensory Storytime: A (brief) how-to guide post to be extremely useful.  One of the more early posts contributed on the ALSC Blog about this topic was Kiera Parrott's Storytimes for Autistic Children.  It's amazing to see how different the statistics are about autism in comparison to even 2008, but so much of her tips and strategies are still applicable today.

I was honored to be included in the ALSC Blogger community in 2011.  It's truly a privilege to be able to share information with the ALSC community each month about special needs related topics, but also to be able to learn from our colleagues across the country work to improve the lives of children each day.  Since I began blogging for ALSC, I've written about selecting books for special needs storytimes, using music with children with special needs, and have even recommended books for Sensory Storytimes.  More recently, I blogged about my latest partnership with the National Lekotek Center collaborating on a new model of Sensory Storytime.  For more information and links to other posts I've written over at the ALSC blog, click here

I am so happy to say that there is a wealth of information out there in "library land" about Sensory Storytime--much more than there was even a few short years ago....and this is just the ALSC Blog.  This doesn't even include all the articles that have been written in Children and Libraries, American Libraries, and YALSA publications.  It's a great time to begin developing a new program like Sensory Storytime not only because of the abundance of information that is out there, but the amount of support that exists from other librarians. What I love most about our profession is that we aren't afraid to share and help each other grow.

As we said today during our SNAILS meeting, don't be afraid to be fearless.  Just go out there and do it.  And when you start, you don't need to look any further than the ALSC blog and the ALSC community to motivate, educate, and inspire you.

Renee Grassi
Head of Children's Services
Glencoe Public Library