Contributed by Jill DeFarno, librarian at Builta Elementary School
Helping students and staff become future ready is an important role for school librarians. Because school librarians work with all the students in the building, we have the opportunity to share many activities that build future ready skills. However, future ready does not necessarily have the same meaning for all the learners in the school building. In our school we have four classrooms of self-contained students and for these students future ready is more about life skills. Therefore, as the librarian it is my job to make sure that all students are included in the library program in a way that best meets their needs. One of the shared foundations in the new AASL standards is Include.
In AASL’s infographic on Include, one of the bullet points under School Librarians Lead is “Showcase learner success and celebrate differences and similarities through learner-led projects, displays, and initiatives.” This year one of the initiatives that I help implement is Sensory Storytime with Pat Russow, the ELL teacher at Builta. At the end of last school year Pat and I were talking about different ways for her to work with the students in our self-contained classrooms. Due to the diversity within our self-contained classrooms, many students are identified as English language learners. In her role as the ELL teacher, Pat works with these students one-on-one and in the classroom. We were talking about how at times it can be a challenge to pull some of the students out and work one-on-one. These students need routine, and moving to another classroom can be difficult for them. As we talked, she thought it might be better to push into their classroom to work with the students.
I shared an idea that I had read about called Sensory Storytime. During Sensory Storytime, books are used to engage students by using their senses to interact with the story. Knowing these students already have sensory integration activities built into their daily instruction, we thought that this would be a natural fit. We talked with the teachers and they were on board with the idea. We decided that we would meet with each class once a week. The next task was to start looking for books and ideas. We went online and found blogs and websites with ideas to get us started. I also stopped at the public library and asked what ideas they used for sensory storytime. We found a couple of books to start us off and we jumped in. During storytime some of the activities are more sensory oriented and others are more interactive.
Since the middle of September we’ve done fourteen storytimes. Here are several that we’ve done so far, we read Snowmen at Night and used potato flakes to create snowmen. While we read Ten Little Fish the kids ate goldfish crackers as the fish disappeared. As the kids listened to The Napping House students made sounds using instruments we borrowed from the music teacher. After the first two weeks we weren’t sure how it was going. Students weren’t responding in ways we expected.
Each class has its own challenges. One class is nonverbal so it’s mostly the two of us doing the work. Another class is higher functioning and will say parts of the story with us. Despite these challenges we have found that we look forward to the storytime each week and so do the teachers and students. Students who would not sit down and listen or who would yell during the story seem to be more willing to sit with us. The past two weeks Pat has been testing so we put the program on hold. Everyone is asking when it will start again – Answer: next week! And we found out that Pat received a grant to purchase more materials for storytime. We placed the order at the end of January, and now with even more items to work with, it’s off to the stacks to find more books!