I am busily doing laundry and starting to pack for my trip to Chicago the day after tomorrow for American Library Association’s Annual conference. My poster session Growing Readers at Storytime (see summary below) is ready, my business cards are at the print shop and I am buying a new backpack to save my shoulders from harm in the exhibits hall haul. Oh, and my ALA schedule is truly out of control. I am really looking forward to connecting with my colleagues and sharing our passion for all the ways we can work together to connect kids and literacy in all its wondrous formats.
My focus is on how we can make our early literacy programs and services more inclusive of children labelled with disabilities of all kinds. I also think librarians can set such a positive example and hopefully encourage other service providers to do the same thing with their programs (community recreation programs for example). It is really important to me that kids who have traditionally been excluded from mainstream early learning actually get to participate alongside their age peers. We can’t keep offering “special programs” for “special kids”. Inclusion works (especially in early childhood!) when it is done mindfully, with the essential features of “access, accommodations and supports” woven right into the service or program, so there is no need to parcel kids off. While I see the value of things like Special Olympics and Easter Seals Camps (my own child attends regularly!) literacy experiences need not be segregated, at all, especially not in early childhood. I have heard one too many times about kids who are denied placement in inclusive early childhood classrooms and are effectively segregated for their first years of schooling and beyond. Have we not already figured out that segregation is both wrong and harmful to everyone involved?
This blog is not just for librarians, and early childhood educators and others are welcome here at all times, but my focus is on the informal (but still very important) kinds of early literacy experiences that children can have in library contexts. For that reason, while I am in Chicago, I hope to have many conversations and brainstorms about how we can work together to advance inclusion aims in our own profession, and hopefully support inclusion on a wider societal scale. See you in Chicago!