Tuesday, December 29, 2009

San José library hosts Inclusive Story Times

From School Library Journal:

Starting in January, the library will introduce “Inclusive Story Times,” which uses unique strategies to engage children of varying abilities and learning styles.

The idea for “Inclusive Story Times” started as an experiment by two San José branch librarians who, over the course of a year, conducted story times specifically aimed at children with autism and other disabilities.

“We found that parents/caregivers at these story times were more comfortable in a setting where they felt understood by the other families and in turn could relax and enjoy the experience with their children,” says Ila Langner, a youth services librarian who has a child with autism.

In Santa Clara County, of which San José represents 54 percent of the population, at least 13,000 children up to the age of five are identified as having learning disabilities or special needs. Studies have shown that early intervention with children with autism is highly effective.

Although library story times and similar experiences in child care settings are intended for all children, there are a number of adjustments that can be made to make them more inclusive and beneficial for children with autism and other disabilities. These include: using pictorial schedules to help children with the many transitions involved in a story time; using books that help match words with pictures so children have a more active role in the reading; and using carpet squares to create a more defined space for children who find it difficult to establish boundaries.

These adaptations have also proven effective with helping English language learners master early literacy skills, the library says, something that’s particularly relevant in San José, where 6,338 kindergarten students were classified as English learners (EL) in 2007-2008; some 63 percent of the county’s EL kindergarten population.

This program, a collaboration between the library and the Inclusion Collaborative of Santa Clara County, will build on the library’s early literacy programs by providing specific story times for families of children between the ages of 0 to 8 with autism and other disabilities, modifying all story times so that they are more inclusive of every child, including adaptation of early literacy resources currently provided to early educators in 245 local child care sites.

The program is supported in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian and through a collaboration between the San José Public Library, Inclusion Collaborative and Santa Clara County Office of Education.

Children of all backgrounds and abilities are encouraged to participate. For more details, visit the “Story Times” section of the Kids pages at www.sjlibrary.org.

The San José Public Library system is the largest public library system between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the West Coast, serving a culturally diverse population of approximately 1,007,000 in the nation’s 10th largest city.