The Mill Valley Public Library was honored to receive a 2019 ACL mini grant, and used it to create a Sensory Storytime for preschool-aged children with autism and other developmental needs.
Patrons with special needs are an underserved population in the Marin County community. We know of no other library in Marin County that currently offers a sensory storytime.
My concept was to offer a small-group setting that would differ from the Library’s existing storytimes by including a visual schedule, to show images of each storytime element in the order in which we did them. By introducing fidget toys, a parachute, and a greater number of interactive elements I encourage children of different abilities and needs to participate more actively. I created six weekly storytime kits with themes such as Shapes, Bugs, and Bath Time, and used the grant money to purchase books, fidget toys, and other storytime supplies. I also prepared storytime outlines to send to registered families, so the children could know what to expect each week.
In May 2019 the Library launched the first six-week session, limiting sign-ups to 12 children. We held the program on Tuesday afternoons, and attendance varied between three and seven children, plus their caregivers. It was gratifying to see these families enjoying storytime, some of whom were new to the Mill Valley Library. The feedback from caregivers was overwhelmingly positive, including:
*I liked the “Pace of activities, visual schedule, different behaviors were well tolerated, nice to get schedule ahead of time, fidget toys were great.”
*I appreciated “The flexibility and the large room. That you gave us info in advance each week to prepare our kiddos. That you expected they would not be successful 100% of the time and removed that expectation from parents/caregivers.”
The Mill Valley Library will hold Sensory Storytime again in October 2019 and plan to have sessions several times a year. Based on caregiver feedback, I will improve the signage to make the room easier to find, and may create a Social Story for our website that shows families what to expect.
We are excited to offer this program again and grateful to ACL for helping to purchase materials to kick off the program.
Lauren Snell, Mill Valley Public Library