Thursday, January 2, 2014

Sensory Storytime – Any Storytime – is about Connecting

This has become my mantra. Connecting positively with patrons brings libraries into their hearts, and when we touch hearts, we succeed. This is especially true for families with children who are not typical. No other group has shown as much gratitude to me for connecting with them as sensory storytime patrons.  

Connecting with Barbara Klipper, Veronica (Schwartz) Defazio, Renee Grassi, Holly Jin and a host of others online has also been the answer for me in acquiring the models and courage I needed to offer a sensory storytime program at the Plainfield Public Library.  Perhaps some of the following sensory storytime practices that I use will suit your program.

SIGN whenever it’s easy and clear – for example, hello and friends – because visuals help children comprehend, and it’s beautiful, like a dance. (Italics = a word that I sign) 

SING! It holds children’s attention better than simple speech. Here’s my Hello song to the tune, “Goodnight Ladies:” Hello, friends, hello, friends, hello, friends, it's time to say hello.

 My children also love this theme song from the 1980s educational TV program, “3-2-1! Contact"

3-2-1! Contact is secret; is the moment when everything happens!
Contact is the answer; is the reason that everything happens!
Contact! Let's make contact!

FREE PLAY at stations at the start or finish connects families to each other with items, such as:
o   bean bins with hidden objects
o   un-sand box (shredded paper) with hidden objects
o   paper, crayons and Herve Tullet books for drawing inspiration
o   dress-up magnetic dolls
o   squishies (to avoid a disaster, put your squishie into a second balloon like this).

  
SEGUE SONGS This bridges activities and help hold children’s attention. For example, I ask and sign Please help me and sing, “Now it’s time to pick up the toys” to the tune, "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush:"

Now it’s time to pick up the toys, pick up the toys, pick up the toys,
Now it’s time to pick up the toys & put them all away. – Thank you!

                                                          Then...

“Everybody Sit Down” (Tune: Shortnin’ Bread)
Everybody sit down, sit down, everybody sit down on the floor.
Not on the ceiling, not on the door! Everybody sit down on the floor.

GETTING TO KNOW EACH OTHER When we learn each other’s names, we are socializing. When we socialize, we’re building relationships, and relationships are what living and learning and libraries are all about. I use this opportunity to cultivate patience and “Taking Turns” with a Boardmaker symbol and sign language to convey that everyone will get a turn.

1.      Find a friend, like my “Pajaro,” a balancing toy bird, to introduce to each child who is sitting quietly, because “Pajaro likes quiet and is shy.” Balance the bird on each willing child’s finger. They love it. It creates trust. I am forever grateful to the Special Education parent who recommended this effective device.
2.      Pass a glittery microphone to any willing child and ask: “What is your name?”
3.      Use a sensory ball as a welcome ball to develop name recognition, relationships, and eye-hand coordination. Roll the sensory ball to each child, ask the child to roll it back, singing this song to the tune of “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat:”

Roll, roll, roll the ball,
Roll the ball to SUSAN!
Susan, Susan, Susan, Susan,
Roll it back to me – YIPPEE!

Storytime Segue Song Example: I sing and sign Laurie Berkman’s “These are My Glasses:”

These are my glasses, this is my book
I put on my glasses and open up my book
And I read, read, read, and I look, look, look,
I put down my glasses and [clap hands shut] close up my book.

PEEK-A-STORYTIME-BAG I put various story-related items in a black velvet drawstring bag to peak children’s interest in the upcoming story and say:

I wonder what our story is about today?
Hmm, maybe there are some clues in this bag - let’s peek (or feel) what’s inside and guess.

WEIGHTED LAP PADS help children sit still and focus during read-alouds.

MILESTONE MOMENT & PARACHUTE GOODBYE It’s hard to be a parent. It’s hard to be a kid. Let’s face it – it’s hard to be human. So, I take a moment to honor achievements large and small, (for example, a child crossing a growth threshold or having a birthday or doing well with something that’s hard) with a cheer:
Raise your arms up high, stretch them to the sky,
You are growing every day, changing in most every way,
We give a CLAP and shout, HOORAY! ‘Cause we are celebrating you today!



Sue Parsons, Children's Librarian
Plainfield Public Library