Storytime has always been a cherished memory and early exposure for families who engage with libraries. Sometimes though, families who have children who are distracted easily or have different needs do not feel comfortable attending. Sensory Storytime fills that gap and provides a service for community members.
“I’ve been on a mission to promote sensory storytime,” said Maria Cotto from the Pawtucket Public Library. “I learned about it first at an OLIS continuing education program where I saw a Librarian from the Brooklyn Public Library explain how to implement a sensory story time.
Sensory Storytime is an interactive, educational storytime for children preschool age to 8 years old with autism and/or sensory challenges, but all children are welcome. It involves books, picture schedule, songs, movement, felt board and therapeutic play that incorporate the five senses.
Maria started the program at her library after learning about it five years ago.
With her personal experience of raising a child with autism, she saw knew that she wanted to offer this at her library. Once she started creating it, she found that other librarians wanted to join in.
Barbara Wells, from the Greenville Public Library is part of the Support Group. She has been hosting Sensory Storytime for about a year and a half.
“I started with one program,” said Wells. “It took some time to learn about it and get it initially started, gathering the materials and planning the stories. But once it got started, we got a good response.”
Wells has also engaged with community partners and promoting the Sensory Storytime with The Autism Project and the Rhode Island Consortium for Autism Research and Treatment.
“Engaging with our community partners has been great,” said Wells. “They are putting the word out and bringing the people to our library.”
That’s the biggest reward that they’ve both found- the community's positive response.
“We are able to connect families to the library,” says Cotto. “We let them know that they don’t have to be alone and that they are part of the community. Parents may feel that their children are too disruptive for the library, but we want to make the library a welcoming place for them.”
“As families continue to attend the sensory story time children begin to feel welcome and make friends,” she said. “The best part is seeing these families visiting the library besides attending the story time. They feel comfortable and a part of the library community, while connecting with other families. I’ve met some families who didn't’ go out because they didn’t know where to bring their child and now they know that the library is a place they can be a part of.”
The Sensory Support Group connects the libraries in RI who are offering this service. Currently, about five libraries are involved.
“We had our first meeting there was so much excitement,” said Cotto. “We were sharing our experiences and getting ideas of what we can do next.”
Anyone is welcome to learn more about Sensory Storytime. Check out the Rhode Island Facebook Group or email firstname.lastname@example.org