The benefits of including children of all abilities in public library storytimes is many and takes into account the different talents and skills of all children. Having library programs such as storytimes that support families of children with special needs contributes to the principle of inclusion and helps to build and foster community relationships. Inclusion creates a welcoming place for all children and families, celebrates diverse abilities and  allows children with disabilities to be accepted and valued as individuals (Feinberg et al, 2013). When children with special needs take part in society fully and are integrated into library storytimes appropriately, in a way that meets their needs, this encourages well-rounded individuals who have a real opportunity to succeed and do well in school, work and life.

The following website and blog posts will lead you through some of the different exceptionalities that exist and the ways the public libraries can respond to the needs of each group specifically with regards to storytime programs. The umbrella of disabilities includes elements of either physical, developmental, cognitive, sensory, mental, and emotional or a combination of some or all of these conditions (Feinberg, S et al, 2013). The above mentioned exceptionalities will be discussed on this blog  in relation to how to prepare and conduct storytimes and they include: children who are deaf or blind, have visual and hearing impairments, those with physical disabilities, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD and children who have low rates of literacy in relation to speech and language delays.

It is important to note and keep in mind while viewing this blog that there is oftentimes overlap between exceptionalities and there may even be children with multiple disabilities. It is also important to note that while storytimes are for all children, inclusive storytime does not mean storytimes that are only for children with disabilities. Regardless of the wide range of abilities among children, storytime programs strive to provide all children the same access to literature and reading opportunities. Storytimes aim to support literacy and language development and promote the love of reading while ensuring inclusion and respect for diversity.

Storytimes for Children with Hearing and Visual Impairments

By Mariam Ugas

Brenda S. Schick and Elaine Gale said that “[s]torytelling is an excellent way for children to develop language since it provides a meaningful context for language and increases opportunities for interaction” and despite the fact that they were talking about preschool deaf and hard of hearing children, I think this statement is applicable to anyone involved with children. This includes parents, caregivers, teachers, and (drum rolls please)…librarians! But not just any librarian, but those working within public organizations and are required to provide services that accommodate and welcome children of all abilities and literacies.

For the most part, public libraries represent democratic spaces that provide resources and access to their information users. This is especially emphasized in the programs and services run by these public institutions. When planning a program for children with special needs, a librarian should find ways to accommodate those needs. Here, my focus is on storytime programs for children with hearing and visual impairments, who require special equipment, and assistance that might not be readily available in a public library.

In many situations it is budget constraints that restrict librarians from providing the best service possible to these children. However in Running Summer Library Reading Programs Carole D. Fiore suggests some simple and inexpensive ways that a librarian can accommodate children with special needs (and here I am specifically looking at those with hearing and visual impairments) without stressing about whether they can meet the budget or not.

 Running a Program for Children with Hearing Impairments:

  1. “People with hearing impairments need varying forms of assistance-from assistive listening devices to sign-language interpreters or speech readers” (37).
    • When providing services for those with hearing impairments, it is important to accommodate their needs, as much as possible. Assistance can come in many forms, and some like the “assistive listening devices” would go a long way to establishing your branch with accessible resources for those hearing impairments.
  2. “…you and other library staff should learn some basic signs so that you will be able to speak with patrons who use this method of communication” (37).
    • I know that this sounds like a huge feat but most of us communicate with our bodies unconsciously anyways. While learning a new language can be difficult, some hand gestures are universal and thus the concept of learning “signs” no longer seems farfetched. A good example is Lindsey Krabbenhoft’s, and Dana Horrocks’ YouTube video below that demonstrates a simple song using sign language:
  1. “If you are using a sign language interpreter, make certain that the interpreter is right next to the program presenter; in that way, the children will be able to see both the presenter and the interpreter at once.” (38).
    • If the organization’s budget allows for it, hiring a “sign-language interpreter” for your program demonstrates the willingness of your organization to accommodate and make those with hearing impairments feel more welcome. Notifying your patrons ahead of time about this service also imparts the feeling of inclusiveness on behalf of the organization and allows the program coordinator or librarian to prepare ahead of time.
  2. “Try to present your programs in an area that does not adjoin a high traffic/high noise area. Make sure the program area you use has sound deadening baffles such as carpeting; this will help reduce the noise” (38).
    • Fiore makes a valid point here, as she notes that outside noises filtering into your program actually detract attention away from it for those with hearing impairments.        soundproofing-floors
  3. “Sight is extremely important to children with hearing impairments. Make sure that children are seated so that they can see the entire area where your program will take place” (38).
    • Seating arrangements become significantly more important when a child has a hearing impairment. If a program requires the group to sit in a circle, the librarian or program coordinator might consider a different arrangement when a child depends so heavily on their sight in order to engage better with the program.
  4. “Whether telling a story or reading from a book, the presenter should face the children at all times and speak distinctly. Body language and facial expressions are important clues that help listeners interpret what you are saying” (38).
    • I appreciate the fact that Fiore uses the term “listeners” here because despite their hearing impairments, children with this particular disability do and still “listen”. Those with hearing impairments have varying levels of hearing loss and thus can not be lumped together indiscriminately. Also people “listen” just as much with their eyes as they do with their ears, although they might not be aware of it.                                                                                                                                       sign language story LARP_Body_Language
  5. “Keep your eye on your audience. If you see that they do not understand what you are saying, try saying it another way” (38)
    • If you are running a program for children with hearing impairments, it is imperative that the one running the program is constantly focused on the children. A child should not feel as if they are being ignored or feel left behind, as this goes against the concept of inclusivity. Also providing constant eye contact with your young audience members will go a long way to making them feel part of the program.
  6. “With this prop, the children can see you speak, see the interpreter signing, and see the characters on your flannel-board apron all at the same time” (38).
    • The “flannel-board apron” is a cheap and great way to keep your attention on your audience, and unlike the original flannel board, allows you to have continuous eye-contact with your audience.                                                                 Flannel ApronFlannel Board
  7. “If you are showing films and videos in your programs, use captioned materials. Make certain that the reading level of the captions is appropriate for the audience” (39).
    • Captions are a great way to make your audience feel more included, as even “sounds” (like “hoofbeats”) also appear in the subtitles.
  8. “People often assume that children who are deaf are also very quiet. On the contrary, children with hearing impairments do not realize that they are noisy; they often bang on a table or make other loud sounds to get other people’s attention.” (39).
    • I believe, that what we should take away from this statement is that our assumptions can actually cloud our judgments and views of others. Children with hearing impairments are also children, and thus will try to grab our attentions in a similar fashion. It is how we respond as adults that matters, and our assumptions can not be part of that response.

 Running a Program for Children with Visual Impairmentsvisual loss

  1. “Make certain that the child who is visually impaired is sitting close enough or at an angle that makes it possible to see the program more easily” (35).
    • Being able to understand that not everyone with a visual impairment has the same level of visual loss and taking that into consideration when running your program will significantly increase the inclusivity of your program.
  2. “If you are using handouts in your summer program, you can enlarge them on a photocopier so that the print size is equivalent to large print” (35).
    • Accommodating those visual impairments means considering the every aspect of the program. In the planning stages, flyers, posters or other handouts that advertise your program should be decipherable enough so that people actually find out about your program. large print
  3. “Games and puzzles also can be enlarged for children with limited sight, or they can be produced by a well-equipped print shop in a raised format for children whose sight is even more limited” (35).
    • This might seem a little pricey, but just as with the assistive technology for those with hearing impairments, enlarging your games for the children’s pleasure will go a long way to making them feel welcome and included despite their visual loss. Plus you can re-use them too.
  4. “When using picture books or adapting them for use in your programs, pay particular attention to the illustrations. Pictures should be large, clear, and with good definition; avoid books that have busy backgrounds or lots of intricate detail” (35).
    • Researching the materials needed to run a program for those with visual impairments should include a critical look at the materials that they will interact with. The Leeds Library Information Services demonstrates what type of picture books can be used for children with visual impairments:
  1. “Run through your story ahead of time with someone who is not looking at the visuals; make certain they understand your story” (36).
    • Storytelling is a great and traditional way to run a storytime program. With that being said, children with the visual impairments will pay particular attention to the oral aspects of the story so practicing this way ahead of time is a good way to prepare.
  2. “It is especially important that children with visual impairments know where you are and what you are doing during a program” (36).
    • A visual disability is one where the individual is most likely already feeling isolated. Thus it is imperative that the program coordinator or librarian is always within the vicinity of the child during these moments so that they do not feel even more isolated.

Carole D. Fiore has many other suggestions on how to run programs for those with special needs but I wanted to pay particular attention to those with hearing and visual disabilities. However, the best suggestion and advice that I took away from her book was that “[a] child with a disability is, first and foremost, a child” (34).kids

Despite the simplicity of this statement, many of us tend to forget this, when confronted by a child with a disability. Instead we focus in on the disability itself and the child second, when it should be the other way around. By placing the child first, and their disability second, the child is no longer confined or defined by their disability, which should be the emphasis when planning and running inclusive programming.



Fiore, C. D. (1998). Running Summer Library Reading Programs: A How-To-Do-It Manual.New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.

Schick, B. S. (. S., & Gale, E. (1995). Preschool deaf and hard of hearing students’ interactions during ASL and English storytelling. American Annals of the Deaf, 140(4), 363-370.

Krabbenhoft, Lindsey and Dana, Horrocks. [Jbrary]. (2013, December 23). This Little Light of Mine (with Sign Language): Storytime Song [Video file].

Leeds Library and Information Service. [LeedsLibrary]. (2012, June 12). ‘Make A Noise In Libraries Fortnight.’ Resources for children who are visually impaired. [Video file].

Inclusive Storytimes for children with ADD/ADHD (Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder)

By Dheeshana Lokuliyana

When serving children with ADHD in public libraries, it is important for librarians to be knowledgeable about the diagnostic criteria of the disability. ADD/ADHD is a common behavioural disorder present among many young children. The main characteristics of ADD/ADHD involve inability to stay focused, impulse control and excessive activity. Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD) slightly differ regards to the hyperactivity component. ADD children have a difficulties paying attention while ADHD children have difficulty paying attention and show symptoms of hyperactivity. Boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD than girls and they are more likely to be hyperactive than girls. Common symptoms of ADHD children involve difficulty paying attention, becoming easily distracted, fidgeting, excessive talking, wandering around, touching others, interrupting others and asking off task questions. These children might also have an altered sense of time and poor social skills.  (Akin & O’Toole, 2000, p. 70) Regardless of these behavioural issues, ADHD children can be perceived as normal children just like every other child.

In order to develop inclusive storytime programs that could effectively involve ADHD children, librarians can contact  school administrators and teachers from  nearby private schools that are specifically designed for children with ADHD and other learning disabilities to gain recommendations on how service to these children can be enhanced. Librarians can also contact local schools, health associations and health care professionals specialized in ADHD in order to obtain more information on the issue.  (Alkin & O’Toole, 2000, p.70).

Here are some other sources that will guide you learn more about ADHD in children:

CADDAC – Centre of ADD/ADHD Advocacy, Canada:

Best Practices for Inclusive Storytimes when serving ADHD children

Children with ADHD often tend to display several behavioural problems during a storytime program.  Children might fidget, talk too much, touch others, wander around, or ask off task question which can be distracting to the librarian and other children participating in the program. These children have difficulty staying in one place and concentrating on one thing for a long period of time. Therefore, it is important for librarians to take in to consideration of the basic characteristics of the ADHD child and adapt storytime programs accordingly in a way that it can be enjoyed by children of all abilities. The following strategies are useful for librarians to follow when planning and conducting a storytime program:

  • arrange for children with ADHD to sit in front of the audience
  • choose books that include rhythm and repetition
  • use larger books, puppets and physical props
  • use books that have built in invitation for movement such as bouncing or twirling
  • invite children to clap hands, and stomp feet
  • ask children to repeat phrases from rhythmic books
  • librarians can sing, dance and invite children to join
  • ask children to engage in finger play
  • let children move around during the program
  • librarians can act out parts of the story and ask children to engage in role play
  • provide cozy furniture arrangement/arrange furniture to create boundaries to prevent children from roaming around
  • talk to parents about the child and provide recommendations (Akin & O’Toole, 2000, p. 73-74)

Also behavioural management is an effective method to increase children’s attention. (Reid & Johnson, 2012, p. 154).  Using reinforcement during a storytime can increase the child’s enjoyment and encourage consistent engagement. The librarian can simply praise the child for something he or she has done on following instructions during the program. Or else, simply communicating with the child during the program can maintain the child’s interest in the activity.

These strategies can be helpful in maintaining children’s attention during storytime programs.  Children will be more likely to enjoy the programs and learn when there is a lot of interactive activities. These activities allows the ADHD child to use up their energy into proper behaviour instead of engaging in distractive behaviour. Active movement and participation during the program can increase children’s focus and will eventually limit distractions.

Here are several Inclusive Storytime Programs that can be beneficial for ADHD children:

Library Lions Storytime for Children with Special Needs at Adelaide Hills Library, Australia


This program is 30 minutes in duration and is designed for children with special needs who have different learning disabilities between the ages of 0 to 5 years. The program includes a variety of songs, stories, puppets, music and Makoton keyword singing. The program is offered once a week during the school term at the Coventry Library, Stirling, Australia.

More information on this program can be found at In this blog post, Jo Keiding, Children’s Program Coordinator at Adelaide Hills Library Service outlines the program and its goals in details.

Toddler Storytime and Stay & Play (for ages 1 – 3)/Preschool Storytime and Stay & Play (for ages 3 -5) at Almaden Branch Library, of the San Jose Public Library, California, United States

These storytime programs involve stories, music, and movement activities. After the program, children and parents are invited to stay and become familiar with the program service and meet other patrons and also engage in a play session.

The following video represent a storytime program session offered at the Almaden Branch Library. This video is one of the online learning modules offered for library staff at the San Jose Public Library. This video represents how storytime can be created to include children with all abilities.

Librarians can implement these strategies when preparing inclusive storytimes for children of all abilities.  These approaches will invite children with variety of learning disabilities to enjoy and feel welcomed in to the program. It is important for librarians to understand the different needs of children with disability and to adapt storytime programs to ensure best service is provided for all children.

San Jose Public Library offers several other online training modules for library staff. Please visit the following link for more information on inclusive storytimes and other literacy services training provided for library staff:


Akin, L., & O’Toole, E. (2000). The Order of the Public Library and the Disorder of Attention Deficit. Public Library Quarterly, 18(3/4), 69-80. Retrieved from

Reid, R. & Johnson, J. (2012) Teacher’s Guide to ADHD. Guilford Press: New York

Storytimes for Children with Physical Disabilities

By Laura Apelian

Clara, eager to participate in her first library storytime, enters the programming room with her mother. The pillows laid out in a circle are already half full with excited children waiting for the librarian. Unable to sit on one of the pillows, Clara sits outside of the circle towering over the other children in her wheelchair. As storytime begins, Clara is unable to participate in the clapping and jumping that the other children engage in during the welcome song. When craft time rolls around, Clara discovers she cannot reach the paint on the table. She tries to find some books to read, but her wheelchair will not fit past toys and craft supplies. Clara hopes next week will be better for her.

Clearly, this storytime environment is not ideal for a child like Clara. While Clara’s story was created for the purposes of this blog, the challenges children with physical disabilities face are real and can be terribly frustrating. The following video shows exactly what life is like for a child with a disability; it is an inspirational story of a girl named Phoebe who deals with cerebral palsy and the challenges that come with it:

As Phoebe says, “You might meet me or someone like me with a physical disability. Don’t treat us like a baby or ignore us. Talk to me.” It’s a simple request, really. What’s important to remember about children like Phoebe or our fictional Clara is not their physical limitations, but their abilities and potential. As librarians who will work with children of all abilities, we need to provide adaptations for children with special needs, including those with limited physical abilities, in order to ensure inclusive participation. Otherwise, children like Clara from our story risk facing isolation in library programs.

Disability is often a social issue. Attitudes and environmental barriers often result in disability when various barriers hinder a child’s ability to fully participate in activities. UNICEF strives to achieve the acceptance of all children as members of society deserving of respect and inclusion. Check out the following video that illustrates how a shift towards inclusion positively impacts children with disabilities:

While UNICEF works to promote changes in attitude, there are also laws in place to attempt to ensure accessible physical environments for all. These laws aim for equal opportunity. The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) has set standards for mandatory accessibility. The AODA was established in 2005 and set a goal to make Ontario accessible by 2025. What does this mean for libraries? It means we must provide accessible customer service, with the understanding that people with disabilities have different needs. Libraries must work towards finding the best way to ensure everyone has equitable access to the services we provide. For more information, check out this link.

We must strive to make sure we are aware of the varying needs of children with disabilities and to ensure we adapt our storytime services to ensure inclusion for all children, including those with physical disabilities. Physical disabilities affect the skeletal/muscular system. Children with physical disabilities do not have conventional use of their bodies – these might be children with missing limbs or digits, or children whose gross or fine motor skills are affected.

Gross motor skills require the use of large muscle groups. Children with these impairments will often have paralysis of the legs, spinal abnormalities, high or low muscle tone, or central nervous system injuries. These disabilities can have a significant impact on how children walk, jump, and play, and some children may require the use of prosthesis in the form of an electronic limb, wheelchair, crutches etc. Storytime must be able to adapt to the varying needs of children with impairment in gross motor skills. Movement is an important and engaging aspect of storytimes, but we need to be flexible and creative to ensure everyone in the group can participate. For example, we need to be prepared to substitute blowing or another action in place of clapping or stomping feet. Each storytime must adapt to the specific needs of the group in question (Feinberg et al. 2014).

On the other hand, fine motor skills involve issues with small muscle groups. Children with these types of impairments often have difficulty grasping objects, holding instruments, copying lines or circles etc. These challenges are common in children with intellectual disabilities and those with autism spectrum disorders, as well as disabilities such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and low muscle tone. During craft time or any other interactive or individual play, we can consider the needs of children with impaired fine motor skills by making things easier to grasp. We can attach beads or spools to puzzle pieces, use large pencils and coloring tools, or consider stamps and foam cut outs during painting activities (Feinberg et al. 2014).

Items that are easy to grasp ensure those with impaired fine motor skills have the opportunity to engage in play.

Strategies that facilitate inclusion

While it may not always be possible for children with physical disabilities to participate in an activity to the same degree as other children, partial participation is completely reasonable as long as meaningful participation is encouraged (Sheldon 1996). We can make it a goal for storytime to ensure children are encouraged to participate in a variety of activities regardless of disability severity. Activities can be adapted to allow at least some degree of participation, as long as all children are gaining enjoyment from the activity.
When planning for a storytime, it is a good idea to start by planning activities that are planned for all children. As the planning process develops, special adaptations can be made for children with limited physical abilities but should try to include all children whenever possible (Sheldon 1996). When integrating children with physical disabilities, we want to create a welcoming environment; we want to be sure the space looks like all children belong there. Remember Clara from the beginning of this post? A child in a wheelchair, like Clara, should be able to get from one activity to the next without encountering obstacles. Clara also would have felt awkward sitting higher than everyone else in her wheelchair while all other children are sitting on pillows. An inclusive environment would try to make sure all children are at an equal level to enable everyone to participate and encourage children to engage with each other.

We can take advantage of environmental structuring to arrange a physical setting that promotes everyone’s engagement in the program. We can use materials that are interesting and relevant to children’s daily lives. These materials should be appropriate for a wide range of abilities and skills, and encourage social play in order to integrate all children (Cavallaro et al. 1993). Participation in these kinds of integrative activities provide opportunities for social interaction, friendship development, physical and mental health, and much, much more (Solish et al. 2010)

Strategies for social integration that have been developed for preschool settings will often work in a storytime setting as well. Social integration, whether in the classroom or during storytime, encourages full participation in any given setting (Cavallaro et al. 1993). Remember that it is okay to use your resources! Don’t be afraid to ask a child’s parent or caregiver about what kind of activities work best. We strive to provide the best possible storytime experience for each child, and it is acceptable and often appreciated when librarians establish a dialogue with caregivers. We can also build on situational opportunities by interacting with all children. We can take strengths, weaknesses, and interests of a group and develop activities that best fit their needs (Cavallaro et al. 1993).

Modified activities for physical disabilities

Adapted from Sheldon (1996)

Suggestions for circle time

  • Have parents and children sit in chairs during circle time and throughout storytime. This helps ensure integration of wheelchairs by making a disabled child “less different” and allowing for similar eye level among all children.
  • Include different forms of communication aside from verbal language.
    • Example: use a song board for all children to select songs they want to sing (include pictures). All children, even those with limited physical abilities, can use this board to choose a song.
  • Choose songs and activities that allow children to interact with each other.
    • Example: “If you’re happy and you know it, hug a friend!”
  • Seat children with disabilities next to peers to provide plenty of opportunity for interaction.
“If you’re happy and you know it, hug a friend!”

Suggestions for craft time

  • Provide a variety of areas and surfaces for painting and colouring activities.
    • Example: placing crafts on the floor may not be accessible for those with a physical disability. Instead, place crafts on more accessible surfaces such as windows, short walls etc.
  • Adapt craft utensils such as paint brushes and crayons by attaching velcro or yarn to fasten to a child’s hand or wrist.
  • Assign a buddy system for each child to encourage meaningful participation.
Use a buddy system to encourage meaningful participation.

Suggestions for sensory play

  • Arrange some of the items in a messy tray on the floor or use a table that is wheelchair accessible.
  • Have items accessible with a tray that can be placed on wheelchairs for exploration.
  • Encourage interaction with sensory items by touching items with feet or rubbing items on arms or legs.

Suggestions for book exploration

  • Arrange shelves at different levels to ensure everyone has access to materials.
  • Have an option for children to listen to the stories on headphones or tapes.
  • Provide a book stand for children who are unable to hold books.
  • Encourage the use of textured books and musical books.
Textured books with thick pages and tabs make pages easy to turn and provide sensory stimulation for those with fine motor challenges.

These are just a few suggestions for potential adaptations during storytime. Each group of children will have specific needs that we need to incorporate into library storytimes. We need to focus on children’s abilities rather than physical limitations and work with them and their parents to develop a positive storytime experience for all children. In doing so, we do our best to prevent children like Clara from feeling isolated and out of place in library programs. Instead, we strive to create an inclusive environment for everyone.


Cavallaro, C., Haney, M., & Cabello, B. (1993). Developmentally Appropriate Strategies for Promoting Full Participation in Early Childhood Settings. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 13, 293-307.

Crawford, S., Stafford, K., Phillips, S., Scott, K., & Tucker, P. (2014). Strategies for Inclusion in Play among Children with Physical Disabilities in Childcare Centers: An Integrative Review. Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 34(4), 404-423.

Feinberg, S., Jordan, B. A., Deerr, K., Langa, M. A., & Banks, C. S. (2014). Including families of children with special needs: A how-to-do-it manual for librarians. Chicago: Neal-Schuman, an imprint of the American Library Association.

Sheldon, K. (1996). “Can I play too?” Adapting common classroom activities for young children with limited motor abilities. Early Childhood Education Journal, 24, 115-120.

Solish, A., Perry, A., & Minnes, P. (2010). Participation of Children with and without Disabilities in Social, Recreational and Leisure Activities. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 23, 226-236.

Storytimes for Children with Speech and Language Delays

By: Jenany Arulanantham


Children who struggle with their speech and language development need early literacy and language experiences to enhance their skill development (Prendergast & Lazar, 2010). Children need extra support to develop communication skills that most children learn without difficulty. To improve their skill development, it is important to develop positive associations with books and positive attitude towards them as learners (Prendergast & Lazer, 2010). Language development is the process of which allow children to understand how to communicate using language which consists of socially shared rules (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). The first three years of a child’s life involves acquiring speech and language skills. If the child reaches the age of five and has not acquired these skills, the learning opportunity of learning the language becomes difficult and causes the delay in speech and language development (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). This blog post will provide information about language and learning categories that are important for speech and language delay children, effective storytime practices and images and videos about storytime.

 The American SpeechLanguageHearing Association (ASHA) is a resourceful website which provides thorough information about speech and language disorders and interventions that can be used to enhance a child’s speech and language development.

An example of a child speech disorder is(American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015):

Childhood Apraxia of Speech: This is a motor speech disorder which children have problems saying sounds, syllables and words(American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015). The brain has problems coordinating the movement of body parts (tongue, lip and jaw) necessary for speech. The child knows what he or she wants to say however the difficulty of coordination of muscle movements does not allow the child to say those words.

Signs of a very young child:

  • First words are late and may miss sounds
  • Does not babble as an infant
  • Has difficulty prouncing difficult words by replacing or deleting with simplified words
  • Has difficulty eating

An older child:

  • Difficult to understand; stresses the wrong syllable of a word and sounds choppy
  • Understands the language better than talking
  • Has difficult longer words and phrases clearly than simple ones
  • Inconsistent errors that are not due to immaturity

 Other Problems:

  • Delayed development in language
  • Has difficulties in motor movement and coordination
  • Hypersensitive (over sensitive) or Hyposensitive (under sensitive) in their mouths. For example they might not like brushing their teeth or may not be able to identify the object in their mouth.
  • Difficulties with learning to read, spell and write

Children with CAS require intensive treatment of about three to five times per week for more success (American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015). It takes time and commitment to treat children with CAS. The improvement is shown when children are treated individually compared to a group. The intervention focuses on improving the coordination, planning and sequencing of muscle movements for speech production (American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015). Using the different types of senses such as feedback from tactile and visual cues and auditory feedback strengthens the child’s ability to repeat syllables, sentences and improve sequencing and muscle coordination for speech(American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015).

Language Based Learning Disabilities are problems in accordance to a child’s age with reading, spelling, and/or writing (American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015).

Dyslexia: Is the learning problem of reading. A child with dyslexia has difficulty with written or printed words (American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015). A child diagnosed with dyslexia as part of a language learning disability has trouble with both spoken and written words. These difficulties include:

  • Expressing ideas, which are vague and difficult to understand. Child replaces vocabulary with filler words such as “um” and takes time to remember a word
  • Understand questions and following directions
  • Remembering number sequences
  • Learning the alphabets, songs and rhymes
  • Mixes up order of letters and numbers
  • Memorization

Language based learning disability are diagnosed with a team of a speech-language pathologist (SLP), parents and caregivers, and educational professionals (American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015). The SLP is able to evaluate the difficulty a child is experiencing by speaking, listening, reading and writing skills identified by their teacher’s and parents.

For Preschool Students the SLP may do the following:

  • May ask parents about literacy experiences at home whether books and other reading materials are available and used at home
  • Observe the child during class activities
  • Assess the child’s ability of verbal and written skills
  • Check if the child recognizes letters, numbers and signs

For Older students the SLP may do the following:

  • Observe whether the child can read and understand information
  • Evaluate the child’s phonological awareness ; ability to hear sounds
  • Evaluate the child’s memory and have them repeat words, numbers
  • The ability of the child to break word in to syllables

The aim for speech and language treatment for children with reading problems is to target different aspects of reading and writing that the child is missing (American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015). The SLP must coordinate with the child in order to have a better understanding of the specific problem the child is having. The first intervention would be using spoken language where the child can give a verbal summary about a story rather then a written summary(American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015). Articulation needs is important for a child to understand while practicing saying the words to improve pronunciation(American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association, 2015). As for the SLP will collaborate with teachers to plan strategies to improve a child’s developmental skills with speech and language.

For more information please visit:

There are Six main language and learning categories that are important to understand when creating story times for children with speech and language delays (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014):

1) Oral Language

Oral language is the basis of early literacy, later literacy and actual reading (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). This encompasses listening, speaking, and communicating skills. The National Institute for Literacy describes these fundamental skills as (Ghoting & Martin-Diaz, 2013):

Listening Skills: Understanding what other people are saying, hearing the smaller sounds of the spoken language, following instructions and listening to stories (Ghoting & Martin-Diaz, 2013).

Speaking Skills: Understanding what the word means and making connections, putting words in the right order (noun comes before an adjective), understanding syntax; plurals and verbs and producing sounds(Ghoting & Martin-Diaz, 2013).

Communication Skills: asking questions to obtain information, engaging with adults and classmates by using language, understanding the rules of grammar, and understanding social rules of conversation such as taking turns and listening when someone is speaking(Ghoting & Martin-Diaz, 2013).

Language development of a child begins as the baby listens to the sounds of the mother’s voice inside their womb. Children crying and babbling are rhythm of sounds that are made through the language they hear (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). When they hear sentence structure and grammar, they learn the conventions of a conversation by turn taking. Young children are not only learning through verbal language, but also through nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions and motions (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Since toddler’s brains are still developing and the language at that age is developing at a rapid rate, they need at lease five to twelve seconds to respond (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Language development does not end with learning just the vocabulary; children must learn the rules and the structure of the language, grammar and sounds (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014).

There are number of ways to speak to young children that need support in their language and development. These are the three methods (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014):

Dialogic Reading: Engaging children in conversation around the pictures of a book. This method allows children to respond to the person reading with them in a few words rather than having them repeat what you say (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). This becomes a conversation starter with the child telling the story and the adult listening and questioning the child (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). During this process it is important for the adult is to follow the child’s lead to developing vocabulary, speaking or narrative skills to build on what they say (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). This can be done by asking the child questions such as “What is happening in this part of the story?” “How do you feel about the character?”

The Picture Book Walk: This method requires sharing of books that encourages language development. This encourages preschool children to discuss about a book before reading it together with an adult (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). This book serves an introduction to children, which helps the adult to understand what the child already knows. This is not a read aloud method but it is a way to talk through the book with a child and help the child predict what may take place in the story (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014).

Shared Reading: This method uses interactive techniques in sharing books for children and adults. Children are able to hear the literature, repetition and other features, which engages the reader with the book(Ghoting & Martin-Diaz, 2013).

Effective Storytime Practices for Promoting Oral Language Speech and Language Development (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014):

  • When communicating with enfants use a  high-pitched voice, speak slower, use clear language with repetition
  • Use a wide variety of vocabulary when speaking to children
  • Share language in a variety forms through storytelling, puppets, fingerplays, visual aids and props
  • Ask open-ended questions to enrich and extended conversatinos with children
  • Demonstrated the three types of reading mentioned above to children
  • Share books in many ways
  • Act as advocators by providing information to parents/caregivers explaining the importance of developing oral language skills and.

2) Vocabulary

 Vocabulary is an important predictor of children’s reading comprehension (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Knowing the meaning of words occurs when the child hears the words in differ situations that relates to feelings, concepts and ideas. (Ghoting & Martin-Diaz, 2013). Vocabulary helps children to express themselves. Reading books expose children to words that are not used in everyday vocabulary. The more words the child learns to read the easier it is for them to recognize and understand the word for them to sound out (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). For babies babbling is the first step in vocabulary development and through conversing, observing and interacting with adults and engaging in many experiences which expands their word knowledge (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014).

Effective StoryTime Practices Promoting Vocabulary Development (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014):

  • Explain unfamiliar words before reading a book
  • Use facial expressions and gestures to explain the meaning of word
  • When introducing new words be clear and use language that is appreciate and understandable by the child
  • Children learn through repetition, make sure to repeat unfamiliar words and phrases
  • Point to the picture while reading each word and  introduce new words, concepts and ideas by using props
  • Encourage parents to speak to children in the language they are most comfortable with and read books many times for children to grasp the concept and understand the definition of less familiar words
  • Encourage parents/caregivers the importance of vocabulary to enhance speech development
 3) Phonological Awareness

 According to Ghoting and Klatt (2014) Phonological Awareness is defined as the ability to hear and play with smaller sounds in words, which involves listening skills and related to speech sounds. The purpose of phonological awareness is for a child to notice the sound patterns of words (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). This helps children to realize the difference between the text of the written language and the sounds of the spoken language. Phonological awareness involves hearing a variety of sounds such as animals and environment, producing sounds, identify sounds through parts of words and recognizing a rhyme(Ghosting & Klatt, 2014). Children are able to hear individual sounds or phonemes in the following process: the beginning of a word, end of the word and then concluding in the middle of the word (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Babies are exposed to the sounds of words as they are read nursery rhymes, singing songs and hearing outdoor sounds.

Effective StoryTime Practices Promoting Phonological Awareness (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014):

  •  Point out sounds and rhyming words to children
  • Read predictable rhyming books and recite poems and repeat them as children can join along during storytime
  • Do finger puppets that play with sounds
  • Allow children to fill in rhyming as your presenting a song
  • Encourage children to make their own rhymes
  • Have children to clap, stomp their feet or use rhythmic materials that will help children understand the syllables of a word during a song or rhyme
  • Play word games to draw attention to the sound
  • Encourage parents/caregivers about the importance of phonological awareness and provide examples to enhance their child’s learning skills
4) Print Awareness and Conventions of Print

 The underlying principle of print awareness is that print has meaning. Print awareness focuses on how print is used and that print is everywhere from knowing how to handle a book and following words on a page (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Children learn about print as they recognize from the words they speak and hear. In this process children learn the difference between print and illustrations in a book (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). These skills include learning that a book has a cover page with a title, difference between the author and illustrator’s names, and there is a structure in how to read books according to the language children are comfortable reading (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Reading to children on a regular basis and pointing to words for print recognition can promote print awareness and conventions of print.

 Effective StoryTime Practices Promoting Print Awareness and Conventions of Print (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014):

  • Show children parts of a book; title page, front and back cover, authors names
  • Use verbal and non-verbal cues to engage children’s attention with books with pictures
  • Point out labels, words, signs
  • Offer writing activities after storytime for children to be alert about the new words they have learned
  • Encourage parents/caregivers to write down unfamiliar words and use diagrams to explain the meaning of the words
 5) Letter Knowledge

 Letter knowledge focuses on the child’s understanding the principles and recognizing and naming the uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Children should be able to understand words are made up of letters that represents the sounds and can be grouped together to form written and spoken words (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Learning about letters can be meaningful for a child by teaching them letters that are important to them such as the letters in their name. It is important for children to understand that the same letters can look different, however they represent sounds (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Exploring the visual features of writing is important at this stage which includes the shapes, curves and forms of the letters.

 Effective Storytime Practices Promoting Letter Knowledge (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014).

  •  Provide an alphabet worksheet or carpet for storytime area
  • Recite the alphabet song and play letter games
  • Introduce alphabet picture books at the beginning of story time
  • Use props for children to recognize the beginning letter of the objects
  • Write down children’s names for letter recognition of their names
  • Play matching games with cards or objects
  • Provide information and storytime activities sheets to parents/caregivers to develop letter knowledge at home.
  • Provide information to parents and caregivers about the importance of letter knowledge and concepts of shapes
6) Backgound Knowledge

 As storytime presenters it is important for children to acquire a wide range of knowledge before they enter school and this is by providing effective ways for parents to help their child learn a variety of things (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). There are three forms of background knowledge:

Content knowledge: It’s what children want to know about the biological, cultural, physical and social aspects of the world. Young children learn about the world by touch objects, and listening to them (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). By listening to parent’s children increase their content knowledge in information. Also sharing factual books to children helps enhance the child’s knowledge about the world (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014).

Conceptual Thinking: This concept allows children to develop abstract thinking and reasoning (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). This occurs through adults asking questions about a story of which the author does not state a particular state or emotion (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Reasoning and abstract thinking help with comprehension.

Book and Story Knowledge: It is important for children to be exposed to different types of books and understand the structure and different purposes through storybooks, poetry and information books (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014). Through this children will have an understanding of the different writing styles and types of books contributes to print conventions (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014).

Effective Storytime Practices Promoting Background Knowledge (Ghoting & Klatt, 2014).

  •  Expose children to variety of books; storybook, informational, poetry
  • Ask open-ended questions to know whether the child understands the concept of the story
  • During storytime allow children to contribute by telling parts of the story to have an understanding of the story structure
  • Choose books that children will enjoy reading
  • Encourage children to participate
  • Introduce factual books which allows children to connect to their life

For more information I recommend the book STEP into Storytime by Saroj Nadkarni Ghoting and Kathy Fling Klatt to all current and future storytime tellers.

Retrieved from

The following video is a sample storytime program for Toddlers to enhance speech and language skills.

Challenges faced by Community attending Storytime

  • Low literacy levels produce social and economical and cultural exclusions (Rankin & Brock, 2012)
  • Newcomers with disabilities or families with disabled children (Prendergast, 2013)
  • As communities increase in Canada the prevalence of people with disabilities rise (Prendergast, 2013)
  • Non-mainstream families who follow characteristics of lower income, immigrant status, Aboriginal background face barriers to access and not well represented in early literacy opportunities by communities (Prendergast, 2013).
  • Economic challenges affects libraries; the UK library sector is facing library closures and severe cuts (Rankin & Brock, 2012)
  • Families with children with special needs would not attend library storytime sessions because they my be considered poor (Toronto Public Library, 2010)
  • Library staff may lack knowledge and sensitivity when choosing library materials, and fear of families and library staff judging them (Toronto Public Library, 2010)

 Future Interventions

Reading to babies and young children is the most effective way to have them involved in the process of enhancing their language development. Librarians are great resources who are able to access a variety of books at the local library and children’s centres. Through this they are able to provide knowledge and practices through storytimes for parents/caregivers to help enhance and develop speech and language skills for children of all abilities (Rankin & Brock, 2009). In order to guide children, parents and caregivers must be committed to encourage and support the child in an way.

Retrieved from:

For more information about speech and language delays please take a look at the following recommended sources provided below.

Retrieved from:


American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2015). Child speech and language. Retrieved from

American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2015). Childhood Apraxia of Speech Retrieved from

American. Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2015). Language-based learning disabilities. Retrieved from

Ghoting. S.N., & Martin-Diaz, P. (2013). Chapter 1: Early literacy research. Storytimes for everyone!: Developing Young Children’s Language and Literacy. (pp. 3-28) Chicago: American Library Association.

Ghoting, S.N., & Klatt, K.F (2014). Chapter 8: Language and literacy development. STEP into storytime: Using StoryTime Effective Practice to strengthen the development of newborns to five-year-olds. (pp. 65-86). Chicago: American Library Association.

Planning Library Programs for Children with Special Needs. (2011). Toronto Public Library. Retrieved from

Prendergast, T., & Lazar, R. (2010). Language fun storytime: Serving children with speech and language delays. In B. Diament-Cohen (Ed.), Children’s Services: Partnerships for Success. (pp. 17-23). Chicago: American Library Association.

Prendergast, T. (2013). Growing readers: A critical analysis of early literacy content for parents on Canadian public library websites. Journal of Library Administration, 53, 234-254. doi: 10.1080/01930826.2013.865389

Rankin, C., & Brock, A. (2009). Chapter 1: Take them to the library- Setting the scene. Delivering the best start: A guide to early years libraries. London: Facet.

Rankin, C., & Brock, A. (2012). Chapter 1: An overview of current, provision, future trends and challenges. Library services for children and young people: Challenges and opportunities in the digital age, (pp. 3-28). London: Facet.

Storytimes for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

By Erica Polachok-Cook

When it comes to serving children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in public libraries it is important for information professionals to be educated and informed about these children. When librarians serve children who have ASD and they are prepared for what to expect and how to handle the encounter, not only will this promote inclusive services to everyone who uses the public library but it will also improve the lives of those with ASD. Inclusive storytime programs allow children with ASD to access the variety of services and resources of the library and this will help enrich their lives. There are so many resources and tools available to librarians for providing inclusive storytimes to children with ASD and the aim of this blog entry is to narrow down the best, most comprehensive resources for the reader.

Overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder

When it comes to serving children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in public libraries it is important for information professionals to be educated and informed about these children. When librarians serve children who have ASD and they are prepared for what to expect and how to handle the encounter, not only will this promote inclusive services to everyone who uses the public library but it will also improve the lives of those with ASD. Inclusive storytime programs allow children with ASD to access the variety of services and resources of the library and this will help enrich their lives. There are so many resources and tools available to librarians for providing inclusive storytimes to children with ASD and the aim of this blog entry is to narrow down the best, most comprehensive resources for the reader.

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurologically based condition with symptoms ranging from moderate to severe. The symptoms of ASD include aspects related to communication, language, behaviour and socialization. Some individuals with autism are either non-verbal, very limited in their vocabulary and speaking skills, demonstrate echo laic speech in that they repeat words that have been said to them, have difficulty following directions as well as being able to use and understand words (Feinberg et al, 2014, pg. 157). With regards to behaviour, those with ASD show behaviours including ritual-like routines, repetitive motions with their hands, rocking, random vocalizations and lack of eye contact to name a few. (Feinberg et al, 2014, pg. 158). In terms of social interaction, those with ASD they may exhibit strange actions that others do not understand causing social issues as others may be offended by their aggression, silence or lack of eye contact. Children with ASD have some degree of sensory processing disorder. Sensory processing issues include oversensitivity to tactile stimuli such as getting their hands dirty, overreaction to pain or noises, sensory seeking such as wanting to put things in their mouth and wanting to touch everything, sensory avoidance such as a dislike for crowds, loud sounds, bright lights or being touched, and inability to follow instructions (Klipper 2015, Pg. 5). It is clear that there are a number of symptoms with regards to this disorder and not every child with ASD will have the same ones.

Here is an amazing training video put together by the award winging library-wide program called “Libraries and Autism: We’re Connected” developed by the Scotch Plains )NJ) Public Library and the Fanwood (NJ) Memorial Library. The video outlines how to best meet the needs of children with ASD in the library setting.

In addition, I also highly recommend the following book by Barbara Klipper for additional information on this topic as this blog post on ASD and storytime has been inspired by this amazing and comprehensive book.


The Importance of Providing Storytime Programs for Children with ASD

It is important to keep in mind that one of the main purposes of providing storytimes to children with ASD is to help connect the families of those with the disorder together and with public libraries. The other purpose is helping to better inform staff and patrons alike about ASD and the ways staff can help these particular families and children. When staff understand and respond appropriately to the unique needs of these families then storytime programs become more accessible and inclusive. Incorporating the appropriate responses to children with ASD based on the cognitive and developmental level of each child will allow them to take part in storytime programs in a way that is both relevant to the child and engaging (Feinberg et al, 2014, Pg. 26). It is essential to offer storytimes for this particular group of children and youth because they need all the support, encouragement and exposure to early literacy and language they can get in order to help develop and improve their communication, reading and writing skills.

Children with ASD are at a significant disadvantage with regards to their levels of literacy that they need exposure to literature and various forms of literacy, media and text in order to help develop their reading and language skills. The exposure to regular storytimes helps to develop their ability to recognize, understand and use words for school and later in life. Due to the fact that children with ASD have limited verbal and language skills, taking part in storytime programs will also help improve their language and social skills as they interact with other children. The library should be offering specialized and modified storytime programs for this demographic if the principles and ethics of intellectual freedom and the right to information are to be upheld. With a growing population that is becoming more and more diverse every year, providing inclusive storytimes for young people with Autism Spectrum Disorder is the first initiative to offering inclusive services for children of all abilities.


When developing services and storytime programs for children and youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder it is also important to keep in mind that you should not provide an over-stimulating environment. There is an abundant supply of resources and information available on line to assist librarians, educators and parents on how to best assist children with ASD on a daily basis. For librarians in particular I recommend the following website for advice, resources, links and print out on how to best serve patrons with ASD in the library. It is the same website where the previous video can be found as well.

The Building Blocks of Inclusive Storytimes For Children with ASD: Spreading Awareness and Use of Visual Supports

Preparing staff through training and information memos about storytime programs for children with ASD is an important element to consider as this will help give staff the tools they needs to help promote inclusion, give them the confidence to help the families and children with ASD as they are able to anticipate and respond to the behavioural attributes of this condition. Some parents and other children may not know how to respond to children with ASD so staff training can help spread awareness so that storytime programs are more successful. This can take form in the use of storybooks that feature characters with exceptionalities to help others understand, accept differences and empathise (Feinberg et al, 2014, Pg. 93). When children of all abilities are able to interact with each other then this creates and fosters a safe and supportive environment based on acceptance. Here is a helpful link about training staff on ASD:

Preparing children with ASD for the storytime program is just as important as the storytime itself. Children need to become familiar with the library setting and there are several strategies to help them with this. Take a look at the Autism Resource Centre of the following website to become more familiar with this concept.

Some of the strategies to help children with ASD become more familiar with the library is through the use of visual supports including social stories, visual schedules and first-then boards. Since those with ASD are visual learners, these will help ease the transition into new library storytime programs and give the children background information before they arrive. When children with ASD feel safe and secure and know what to expect from the library as well as the library staff then this will lead to more successful outcomes in storytime programs. Social stories can be used to help prepare children with ASD about the library and storytime and what they can anticipate before they arrive. A social story is a visual support method that includes pictures of social situations that a child with ASD can anticipate to take part in after viewing (Klipper, 2014. Pg. 14). Creating your own social story link for parents to access through your public library website or sending it directly to parent through email highlighting the main settings of the library and its storytime process will help prepare the child tremendously. Those with ASD like routine and need visuals to help them understand certain situations they are taking part in during the storytime.

A visual schedule will show the child through simple pictures and words what the sequence of events will be during the storytime. More information on creating visual schedules can be found in the Visual Supported section of the Georgetown University’s Centre for Early Childhood Mental Health Consultations here:

(Source: “Visual Schedule”

A first-then board with simple pictures can tell the individual with ASD what activity they should be taking part in First-Then which activity they will be doing later.


Please see the following links for more information on visual supports that help children and youth with ASD during storytimes. There are so many so I have chosen my top three picks.

1) information/Documents/A_S_visual_supports.pdf



Planning and Preparing Considerations for Storytimes with Children with ASD

Behavioural Issues:

When planning and preparing storytime programs for children and youth with ASD, it is important to note that those with autism usually have behavioural issues related to any sort of transitional period with regards to changing from one activity to another. This often results in tantrums or upsets due to the change from the routine. It is advisable to have some back up plans to assist you when transitioning from story to activity in your program. This can take form in the use of the first-then board so children with ASD have a visual indicator of what to expect after the transition to the next activity.

Separated Storytimes for Children with ASD:

With suggestions and input from parents and teachers, libraries that offer storytime programs for children with ASD usually decide to separate the programs from the regular population in the beginning. According to Kippler, one option is to start younger and lower functioning children in segregated programs and move them into more inclusive programs afterwards (2014, 24). This ensures that parents and children can feel more comfortable until they both become more familiar with the library setting and staff and allows the library staff to cater to the specific needs of those children.

Special Considerations for Children with ASD:

Depending on the level of cognitive, social and verbal skill of the child with ASD different kinds of storytime programs may be more suitable than others. For instance, inclusive book discussions may be more ideal for those with better social, verbal, writing and reading skills (Klipper, 2014, Pg. 8). Additionally, even if a child is nonverbal, with the use of assistive technology they may be able to take part in the program very effectively. It is ideal that the age range of storytime participants remains small as children with ASD often enjoy others the same age as themselves. Keep in mind that children and youth with ASD like repetition and routine so organizing and offering your storytime on a regular day and time is beneficial and encourages them to attend more regularly.

Here are some key “Best Practices” to keep in mind when developing storytime programs for children with ASD:

  • Limit enrollment from eight to ten children (fewer sensory distractions)
  • Have teen or adult assistants
  • Use visual supports such as a social story or visual schedule
  • Manage transitions (signal with chime sound or blow bubbles)
  • Control the environment (ensure a safe space, hide program/craft supplies, avoid fluorescent lighting)
  • Accommodate food restrictions and therapies
  • Support sensory diets and supply fidgets (items to play with)
  • Incorporate the three R’s: routine, repetition and redundancy

(Source: Klipper 2014, Pg. 13)

Adapted Storytime and Sensory Storytime Books and Materials for Children with ASD:

In this section I will be discussing the kinds of storytimes you can conduct and what kinds of materials you will need to prepare for the kind you choose. There are two kinds of storytimes that librarians can prepare including adapted storytime and sensory storytime. According to Klipper, adapted storytimes include the use of books you would normally use for storytimes, finger plays, flannel board stories, and movement activities. What is adapted is the group size, use of visual supports, designated seating, simpler crafts and other environmental controls (2014, Pg. 23). On the other hand, a sensory storytime includes more specific elements tailored to children with ASD with a focus on more sensory related activities. The elements of adapted storytimes are still present the only difference is the use of, weighted blankets, lighting, sound such as music and singing are included as well as movement (Feinberg et al., 2014, Pg. 161). Some of these components incorporated into the storytime program are also similar to the therapies used by doctors or special education programs at schools.

(Source: “Going Beyond Sensory Storytime: Sensory”.

Book Selection

When selecting books for you storytime it is important to keep in mind that children with ASD need structure in the form of repetition, routine and redundancy. Books that have rhymes, songs or lines that repeat throughout the story in a pattern are ideal. An example of a book to use is “This is the house that Jack Built” because it is a predictable story that can be even be used in a felt board story as it meets the criteria of the three R’s: repetition, routine and redundancy. The predictability is something children with autism enjoy and need in order to fell less anxious, more safe and comfortable. In addition, it may be beneficial to give parents a survey so you can be informed about the particular interests of their children as some children with ASD may be specifically interested in certain topics such as dinosaurs or tigers. If you incorporate books, themes or props that reflect their particular interests they may become more engaged in the storytime as the material is personally relevant to them.

Criteria for Book Selection for Children with ASD:

  • Quality of illustrations (preferably real photographs)
  • Quality of writing (Repetitive and simple with no idiomatic language)
  • Appropriate amount of text for developmental stage of children
  • Large and clear pictures for group sharing
  • Appeal of the book title (avoid slangs)
  • Books that teach social skills (Klipper 2014, Pg. 26).

Here is an amazing blog on selecting books for special needs storytimes:

Some books to choose for adapted storytimes for children with ASD include:

Bubbles, Bubbles By Kathy Appel

Go Away, Big Green Monster! By Ed Emberley

The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog by Mo Willems

You can always add a related sensory activity to the adapted storytime books you choose. For instance, a suggestion from Klipper for the book Go Away, Big Green Monster! is to have children throw beanbags at a large picture of a green monster (on poster or flannel board) and vary the distance or use of colour, number or weighted beanbags for variety and alternative challenges.

According to Klipper, it is also possible to adapt books by adapting large format picture books using icons with Boardmaker software (2014, Pg. 27). You can enlarge text, make it simpler, add icons, pictures and even use a projector to show the story to the children. More information on Boardmaker software can be found here:

Some books to choose for sensory storytimes for children with ASD include:

Dear Zoo By Rod Campbell, board book

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes by Eric Litwin

The Doorbell Rang By Pat Hutchins

Try to get multiple copies of the board books for children to hold and follow along during the actual storytime and books that match the theme of the sensory activity included. For instance, Klipper suggests for the book Dear Zoo that children look for small plastic animals in bins of rice or beans. There are three different bins and the child chooses a bin to look in to find an animal. Each bin either has lots of animals or very few so it can be easy or challenging depending on which bin they select.

For a complete list of recommended books for adapted and sensory storytimes please refer to the following links:

In addition, here is a website that offers many sensory-related activity ideas:

Criteria for Music Selection for Children with ASD:

  • Use of acoustic rather than electric instruments
  • Slow and well paced
  • Consistent volume
  • No high pitched sounds
  • Use of child singers

(Source: Klipper 2014, Pg 29)

Here is a sample song you can use:

Sensory-Enhanced Storytime Template for Children with ASD:

  •      Hello Song
  •      Welcome and Visual Schedule
  •      Book or Adapted Book and Flannel/ Manipulative
  •      Finger play/Nursery Rhyme
  •      Song
  •      Book or Adapted Book and Flannel/ Manipulative
  •      Finger play/Nursery Rhyme
  •      Scarf Song
  •      Bubbles and Song
  •      Parachute and Song
  •      Goodbye Song

(Source: Baldassari-Hackstaff, L., Kerber, S., Krovontka, R. A., & Olson, L. R. (2014, Jan).

IMAGE (Source:

I have also included a very helpful visual element in the form of a YouTube video to appeal to the more visual learners who may benefit more from sensory storytimes being demonstrated to them by an actual librarian in the flesh. The sensory storytime program in this video was developed by The Northwest Akron Branch Library staff and is truly inclusive as it offers educational, literacy and social opportunities for children of all ages of all abilities. They also invite the siblings, parents/caregivers and their typically developing peers to take part. According to the co-creator and manager Tricia Twarogowski: “We engage participants through the use of story, music and movement. Our program incorporates a schedule board, double visuals and sensory opportunities for participants as well as a half-hour of socialization time for the entire family’s enjoyment”.

It may also be beneficial to include a felt board story in your storytime for children with ASD to provide more visuals and additional sensory effects for the children. Here is a very useful website with products, including felt boards, for children with special needs.

Storytime Program Evaluation for Children with ASD

With regards to evaluating program effectiveness and success it is best to measure this on a scale of quality rather than quantity of participants. Success can be measured simply by seeing improvement in how children with ASD are interacting with library staff, their increased engagement in storytime, development of language and social skills, navigating the library, using library resources and seeing them transition into regular library programs. According to Baldassari-Hackstaff, children may also begin to make eye contact and their attention and participation increase as well (2014, Pg. 37). These are all great indicators of a successful storytime program and it is important to relish in the seemingly small successes as these are the babysteps towards more long term outcomes of success such as the development of reading and writing skills in children with ASD.


Establishing and Fostering Partnerships

And finally, on another note, partnering with other community organization and agencies that specialize in assisting families with children who have special needs as well as forming relationships with the local schools to help promote your storytime program is a very effective method. Some of the storytime program templates outlined in this blog were developed in part by professional associations that deal primarily with children and youth with ASD. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder may also belong to recent immigrant families as this disorder does not discriminate. These families are the most in need as they may be unaware of the services and programs available at the library so forming contacts with special agencies is vital. It would also be beneficial to provide parents of children with ASD some literature and resources on information about ASD and places they can go for assistance as this creates a supportive atmosphere for the families during and after your storytime program.

Recommended Blogs on Preparing Storytimes for Children with Special Needs:

Here are a series of extremely helpful blog entries created by a library service manager that provides tips for librarians providing storytimes for children with special needs and their families for the first time: and


Baldassari-Hackstaff, L., Kerber, S., Krovontka, R. A., & Olson, L. R. (2014, Jan). Sensory-enhanced storytime at Douglas county libraries: An inclusive program. Public Libraries, 53, 36-42. Retrieved from

Feinberg, S., Jordan, B. A., Deerr, K., Langa, M. A., & Banks, C. S. (2014). Including families of children with special needs: A how-to-do-it manual for librarians. Chicago: Neal-Schuman, an imprint of the American Library Association.

Klipper, Barbara. (2014). Programming for children and teens with autism spectrum disorder. Chicago: American Library Association.