Are We Inclusive?

I recently presented at the BCLA Youth Services Institute. One of the things I did was compile bunch of statements made by the parents interviewed for my dissertation study into a slide show, along with some random library and early literacy themed photos. Then I added a soundtrack. I have just posted it to Youtube if you are curious about what some parents of children with disabilities have to say about their experiences in public libraries.

Libraries Are For Everyone: An Epic Correction

I just really, really love this! Print & post!

Hafuboti

Yesterday Robbie McDuff commented on my original Libraries Are For Everyone post where he kindly requested that I make some Eastern Hemisphere globes on what I call the epicsigns (the one with the ten people holding globes). I have to ashamedly admit that I had thought of it when people started responding to my images, but then let the lazy side of me win. Robbie made me step back and realize that I really should take the time to correct the North American-centric globes.

Robbie: thank you so much  for gently calling me out on this!

So I rolled up my Photoshop sleeves and spent over five hours this morning creating more vantage points on the globe and then inserting them into the epic signs. I’ll share all of the updated previous-posted versions here, and then add a link from the originals over to this post. And from this…

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Selected Publications

Here are some of my articles and chapters, some co-authored.

de Freitas, F., & Prendergast, T. (2015). Using digital media. In C. Rankin & A. Brock (Eds.), Library services from birth to five: Delivering the best start (pp. 153-167). London, UK: Facet.

Diamant-Cohen, B., Estrovitz, C., & Prendergast, T. (2013). Repeat after me! Repetition and early literacy development. Children & Libraries, 11(2), 20-24.

Diamant-Cohen, B., Prendergast, T., Estrovitz, C., Banks, C., & van der Veen, K. (2012). We play here! Bringing the power of play into children’s libraries. Children & Libraries, 10(1), 3-9.

Prendergast, T. (2011). Beyond storytime: Children’s librarians collaborating in communities. Children & Libraries, 9(1), 20-26.

Prendergast, T. (2012). Brick by brick: LEGO-inspired programs in the library. Children & Libraries, 10(3), 20-23.

Prendergast, T. (2013). Growing readers: A critical analysis of early literacy content for parents on Canadian public library websites. Journal of Library Administration, 53(4), 234-254. doi:DOI: 10.1080/01930826.2013.865389

Prendergast, T. (2015a). Children and technology: What can research tell us? In A. Koester (Ed.), Young children, new media, and libraries: A guide for incorporating new media into library collections, services, and programs for families and children ages 0-5: Little Elit. Retrieved from https://littleelit.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/final-young-children-new-media-and-libraries-full-pdf.pdf.

Prendergast, T. (2015b). Inclusive early literacy. In C. Rankin & A. Brock (Eds.), Library services from birth to five: Delivering the best start (pp. 183-197). London, UK: Facet.

Prendergast, T. (2015c). The role of new media in inclusive early literacy programs and services. In A. Koester (Ed.), Young children, new media, and libraries: A guide for incorporationg new media into library collections, services and programs for families and children ages 0-5: Little eLit. Retrieved from https://littleelit.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/final-young-children-new-media-and-libraries-full-pdf.pdf.

Prendergast, T. (2016). Seeking early literacy for all: An investigation of children’s librarians and parents of young children with disabilities’ experiences at the public library. Library Trends, 65(1), 65-91.

Prendergast, T., & Lazar, R. (2010). Language Fun Storytime: Serving children with speech and language delays. In B. Diamant-Cohen (Ed.), Children’s services: Parterships for success (pp. 17-23). Chicago: American Library Association.

Teichert, L., & Prendergast, T. (2014). Questioning the universality of storybook reading: Examining diversity in family literacy practices. Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education/Revue canadienne des jeunes chercheures en education, 5(1), 1-9.

 

Nothing quite as exciting as the display of Hogwarts material at the Harry Potter Studio Tour in London, UK, but I hope you enjoy reading some of my work anyway! 

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I don’t think so: A Canadian reacts to the American election

This blog is ultimately about inclusion. Yes, I focus on inclusive early literacy but in light of the USA election results, I need to air a few thoughts about what this all means to me, as a human being, a Canadian, and a professional white woman who has worked my entire adult life to provide literacy resources directly to children and their families. If you know me in real life you know I am prone to foul-mouthed responses to things that upset me, things like misogyny, ableism, bigotry and general hatred being at the top of my list of profanity inducing issues. So fill in the asterisks as you see fit in the following: What the actual f***! It is 2016! What are these f***ers thinking electing this monster? What is wrong with you stupid a**h***s anyway! Oh my freaking…what? What?

I watched the election results with my sister and at the end of it all we hugged and cried and I walked home in the rain weeping and saying out loud to the night “How could they do that?” over and over again.

I’m not American, but I am North American. I arrived in Canada at age 5 and became a citizen at 16. Almost my entire adult life in Canada has been spent working with children and families, mostly in public libraries. I have developed and delivered many programs intended to increase the participation and inclusion of our most vulnerable community members, and I know we do good work. Here’s the thing though: A great deal of my drive and enthusiasm for children’s librarianship has come from my association with American librarians. I started attending library conferences in the USA early in my library career and quickly tuned in to the critical mass of excellence that thrives there. I give credit to countless US colleagues for expanding my abilities, for making me a better children’s librarian and a better advocate for getting library services to the children and families who need us most, i.e. immigrants, refugees, people with disabilities and members of other marginalized and underserved communities.

Today, I think my relationship with so many American librarians lulled me into a sense of security. There were so many fantastic librarians doing so much good work, for all the right and socially just reasons that this couldn’t possibly go wrong, right? To my mind, Americans were smart and strong and they gave an actual sh** about people, or at least enough of them did to keep Trump from winning, are you kidding me? Wrong. I admit I was wrong. And now things are wrong and not only slightly wrong but terribly wrong.

At this moment, I choose to speak truth to this utter wrongness and say I denounce Trump and his ilk. I denounce bigotry in all its insidious forms and I denounce complacency. I denounce the now common refrains: Calm down; Wait four years; and my personal favourite: Give him a chance! What the actual f***? Why should I give him a chance? He has had a lifetime of chances to prove he is not a bigoted jerk and I am supposed to wait until he’s installed in the freaking White House until he proves himself as anything but the bigoted, misogynist, ableist and ignorant cad he really is? As a Canadian librarian who has spent decades fostering young children on their paths to becoming critically literate citizens of the planet I denounce this nonsense for what it is: an unfathomably enormous backwards step for the entire human race, and a particularly hard and brutal shove backwards for what I thought was a shared, vibrant and just North American culture. Ouch, that hurts.

Besides being worried for very specific people who Trump’s agenda poses actual and immediate danger to, I am intellectually and morally distressed that the bigotry I always knew existed at a certain level isn’t actually on the down low, isn’t actually on the decline, isn’t actually socially unacceptable like I thought it was. No. This kind of crap is everywhere and while we’re at it we won’t be ignoring the fact that it is insidiously rampant in Canada too. Besides the actual existence of these horrid attitudes, now that Trump has told the entire world that xenophobia, ableism and misogyny is okay, the bigots and sexists have their hero (again). They and their terrible ideas are being legitimized as I type. Today, I learned that a Canadian politician thinks his “exciting” ideas will be welcomed in Canada? I don’t f***ing think so, not in my Canada anyway.

I am not crawling under a rock to wait it out though. I have every intention of continuing to show up for my students as well as and the children and families I serve in public libraries. I will call out bigotry and ableism at every turn so I dare bigots to try it in my presence, or on my Facebook page, on my Twitter page, on my blog or in real life. I will take bigotry down while I still have breath. I will research and write and publish and talk about inclusion. I will hold the line for equality, respect and acceptance. I will watch my colleagues in Canada, the USA and beyond do this good work too. The monsters got in a few shoves, maybe took a bite or two, but they are not eating us whole. No way.

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Seeking Early Literacy for All: An Investigation of Children’s Librarians and Parents of Young Children with Disabilities’ Experiences at the Public Library

I am proud to share that I have had a paper published in Library Trends. 

Prendergast, T. (2016). Seeking Early Literacy for All: An Investigation of Children’s Librarians and Parents of Young Children with Disabilities’ Experiences at the Public Library. Library Trends, 65(1), 65-91.

https://muse.jhu.edu/article/629585

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Elusive Inclusion

Hello!

My Australian colleague and friend Jo Kaeding and I are sharing some insights from our similar dissertation studies at this short presentation at UBC on Monday.

Everyone is welcome!

http://lled.educ.ubc.ca/sept12inc/

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What about adults with disabilities in libraries?

I am in the throes of revising my dissertation. I have a publication coming out in a library journal in a few months though, and I will post about that here when it is available to read. The library world is quite small, and I have been approached to offer suggestions on how to “handle” certain disability-themed situations. Sometimes I have good, concrete suggestions, mainly because they are things I have thought about before, or things that I have heard other people have had success with. Even though my scholarly knowledge is focussed on young children, I even get asked about adults with disabilities in libraries sometimes, as was the case today. The person who asked me said that some staff were considering inviting some adults with disabilities to children’s programs because they were developmentally more like children so wouldn’t these programs be the right fit for them?

I am tired of hearing that adults with developmental disabilities described as being “like children”. They aren’t. They may have low literacy levels, they may have low vocabulary and lower abilities to express themselves than other people their age. They might like a lot of things that kids like but so do many non-disabled adults too (hullo, Star Wars, Harry Potter?). That doesn’t mean adults with developmental disabilities should be grouped in with children, or worse, treated like children. They are not children and have every right to be treated like adults because they are adults. Adults with disabilities should have agency in the choices they make, even if they need help making those choices and need support in acting on their choices. It is demeaning to adults with disabilities to be perceived as children and treated like children in adults’ bodies.

Now on to specific scenarios to address in public libraries: Many children’s library programs are designed to be experienced by a group of age peers and that is completely okay. As long as they are inclusive of all the children within that age range who show up, disability or no disability, it is okay. I might be one of the most disability-friendly librarians on the planet, but I would not want an adult with any kind of  disability to come to my book trailer program, not because of their disability and not because I thought they couldn’t learn to make a book trailer, because I would always assume they could. I would not want them to come because it is a program for children and this person just isn’t a child. However, that being said, in order to provide topnotch library service, I would want very much to point this person to an appropriate program for adults and I would want very much to assume that they would be welcomed at that program by that particular program’s leader. If this adult needed to have or bring a support person of course that would be accommodated and if they needed to have things explained visually, or needed a bit of extra time to do the program activities or whatever, that would also be accommodated. That is what inclusion is.

What concerns me about this is that in discussions to do with libraries and adults with developmental disabilities, it often seems to me that offering children’s programs are the only thing being considered. But adults should attend offerings for other adults, not children. So what are adult librarians thinking about here? Have they never encountered an adult with a developmental disability who wants to participate in any of their book clubs or crafting circles or whatever? I am going to venture a guess and say, rarely or probably not. This might be because there is a widespread assumption that adults with developmental disabilities are “child-like” so they couldn’t possibly be interested in adult oriented programs so they often don’t get invited either.

If public libraries offer programs that are open to the general public, things like puppet shows, magicians, concerts and singalongs then by all means, invite adults with disabilities to come, but don’t invite them just because they are adults with disabilities. Invite them because they are people who might enjoy something fun. If you offer programs with specific age ranges in mind, like my example of a book trailer camp for ages 10-12 then no, don’t invite them and gently say no even if they ask. It is a program for children and they are not children. Refer them to something else instead. If there isn’t anything else then we’ve found a gap in service haven’t we?

Library staff members at all levels of service need to be educated in what is called the social model of disability and they need to understand that barriers to participation for an adult with a disability are erected by society, not the person themselves. Keep in mind that we are emerging from an era when people like the adults with disabilities who come into your library today were institutionalized as a matter of course. This practice was generally horrendous and unjust and we should be relieved that it is no longer standard practice. However, the remnants of that era are still with us and many of the practices directed at people with disabilities seem to me to be designed to keep them in their assumed place at the bottom of the social heap. Often they must be recipients of “charity” just to live their lives with dignity and many do not have lives of dignity even with charity. This is appalling. People with disabilities need agency and opportunities not tokenism and charity and they most definitely do not need to be infantilized.

We have long way to go, but I maintain that public libraries are a great place to demonstrate inclusion. However, I also believe that there is a chasm we all need to cross first. In my research, I have been working on early years inclusion in libraries but I sincerely hope other library researchers take up other age groups. Finally, I will state that “special” library programs designed just for people with disabilities are perfectly acceptable and that while they can and do offer a great many things they don’t really do much (or enough) to advance inclusion aims. Finally, it troubles me that libraries are constantly calling themselves inclusive places when their programming and overall practices really aren’t inclusive. As a profession, we need to understand inclusion from a social model of disability standpoint and it is on all of us to figure out what that means in terms of how we go about meeting the needs of adults with disabilities beyond inviting them to a program designed for children.