Families Who Speak a Native Language Other than English; Families Who Are English Language Learners
- Use online resources to mix in videos of songs and book read alouds in languages other than English.
- Learn how to say simple conversational phrases, such as hello and goodbye, in three or four languages that are common in your community and use them to welcome families.
- Invite caregivers to share songs and rhymes for children in their native languages with you and then, if they are comfortable and the words are library appropriate, at a later time with the group.
- Practice your pacing. Slow down the pace of your delivery when speaking, reading, singing, and transitioning between activities. Practice speaking with energy and enthusiasm without speaking too fast.
- Display signs with storytime routines translated into multiple languages, when available.
- Try to use common English words and avoid idioms (e.g., “beat around the bush,” “call it a day”).
- Be mindful that people have differing cultural views about eye contact with some avoiding eye contact as a sign of respect and some making eye contact to show respect.
Do you have a partner (staff member or volunteer) who is interested in presenting a bilingual storytime with you? Adilene Rogers, a seasoned presenter of Spanish and English storytimes, wrote a "Bilingual Storytime Presenter's Guide" for Jbrary with advice that that is applicable to presenters who speak other languages as well.
Families of Children with Differing Abilities or Cognitive Differences
- Allow children to choose their movement, such as standing while you read or sitting while others dance. Prepare the room so that there are places where children can do these movements without preventing others from seeing.
- Say your expectations out loud for the child and their caregiver.
- Understand that not all children show their attention with eye contact or verbal responses.
- Provide a visual agenda for the order of storytime activities.
- Offer adaptive seating such as sitting wedges, Educube chairs, or carpet squares.
- Convert an age-restricted storytime into an “All Ages” or “Family” storytime to welcome individuals whose developmental age is different from their physical age.
- Invest in sensory integration equipment and adaptive technology such as a tactile balance beam, sensory beanbags, weighted snakes and blankets, fidget toys, noise-dampening headphones, and a speech-generating device.
- Include a social time or play period at the end of the program, allowing children, caregivers, and staff to form meaningful connections.
- Market the storytime as an inclusive program – emphasizing that children can be themselves in the library and the library is a community (not a silent!) space.
- Remember, “Children with disabilities are more like other young children who do not have disabilities than they are different from them” (Prendergast, 2015, p. 188). Therefore, the range of activities you provide in storytime may already be welcoming to most children. However, it’s still important to critically consider your storytime practices and what barriers to involvement they might present to children with different abilities or cognitive differences.
- Slow down the pace of your delivery when speaking, reading, singing, and transitioning between activities. Practice speaking with energy and enthusiasm without speaking too fast.
- Take time to acknowledge each child, remembering that eye contact, smiles, and gestures are ways of showing welcome and encouragement.
- Plan for repetition that gives children multimodal or multisensory ways to interact with key ideas. For example, after reading a story, retell it with puppets or other props, have children act-out part of it, sing a song about a related idea, present a related and interactive app, and/or have children create a craft related to characters or objects from the story. Repetition can take place within one program and across multiple programs to reinforce learning.
- Create a routine so that children can know what to expect in terms of the order of activities. Display the routine with a visual schedule and refer to it as you transition.
- Talk to every child’s caregiver about what the child may need in order to get the most out of the program. You don’t need to know the child’s medical diagnosis and should not ask for it. Building a trusting relationship is the first step, and then you may discuss further strategies and adaptations to increase the child’s sense of belonging, participation, and learning during storytime.