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  • GLMA

Libraries Are for Everyone

by Maile Steimer

Exceptional Children’s Week is held each year in March, and this year’s theme was “Power in Our Differences” (GaCEC). This event is a great opportunity to set some goals to improve our partnerships with the special needs programs in our schools. Is our space physically accessible for students with wheelchairs? Do we intentionally plan our budget to purchase books on lower reading levels, large print books and audiobooks for students with reading and visual disabilities? Do we have inclusive programming that accommodates the needs of the different exceptionalities? Do we engage in conversation and collaboration with our special education teachers to better meet the specific needs of their students? If you are looking for programming ideas to promote disability awareness, take a look at this awesome website which has lessons to help students learn what it is like to live with a disability. The website also highlights celebrities with different disabilities. You could use this website to teach a structured lesson, or you could set up centers for exploratory learning.

One easy way to provide special needs students with opportunities to interact with other students in our library space is by having the special needs students help with daily routines that serve as job skills training, an important part of most IEPs. Our severe / profound and moderately intellectually disabled classes collect books from the classrooms on a daily basis. They bring the books back to the library and, with adult assistance, sort the books by genre and scan the books in. These helpers stamp our due date slips and create simple bookmarks with stickers. They count our Book Fair flyers and paperclip handouts for us. Having our special needs students visible in the media center allows other students to see these kids making a contribution to our school. The “power in our differences” strengthens the common connections among students, and in doing so, we grow empathy among our students and our staff. The enduring essence of a school media program is, and always has been, that “libraries are for everyone.”

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