Category Archives: Storytime

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.


ASL English Bilingual Family Storytime Resources – click here!

This link will take you to another blog that is a compilation of resources that some colleagues and I put together to promote this great program model at a conference we presented at in May. Enjoy!We are all very proud of this collaborative program model!

6 Steps Towards Inclusion

I have contributed a chapter about inclusive early literacy to this forthcoming book Library Services from Birth to Five: Delivering the Best Start, Carolynn Rankin and Avril Brock, editors

The publishers invited me to write a blog post about the topic so here it is. Read it! Comment! Share! Order the book! It is going to be fabulous!

Here is a link to the book itself

Flannel Friday FUN FUN FUN

One thing that I truly believe in is the power of the flannel board to engage all children including children with disabilities in storytime activities! I have been enjoying the creative goings-on at Flannel Friday and thought I would join in the fun. Flannel (or as we Canadians tend to refer to it) FELT stories are an integral part of making stories, songs, games and other activities come alive in our programs. This one is more of an open ended activity that meshes well Halloween and Monster themes.Just cut out a bunch of random monster bodies, monster eyeballs, antennae and limbs and let the kids mix and match their monsters on the felt board. You can do it as a “make and take” activity too – send them home with a little bag of monster parts to make and remake at home OR help them glue it together, stick a magnet on it and you’ve got a flannel fridge monster! It works really especially well after a reading of Go away big green monster!

Monsters on the Flannel Board!

Monsters on the Flannel Board!


Aiming for Inclusion: Breakout Session at ALSC Institute Fairyland

Here is a summary of the Fairyland breakout session that I presented with my colleague Kelly. Thanks to all who attended!

Aiming for Inclusion at ALSC Institute 2014

What we are talking about: inclusive programs not “special needs” education or designing special programs for special kids. We are also not able to delve into specific features of children with different disabilities and what you might need to know to help include them – we are dealing in generalities, with some suggested techniques that both Kelly and I have found effective in inclusive settings where children with disabilities participate alongside their age peers.

Dealing with disability in history

Among other things, inclusion means we are working towards overcoming systemic exclusion and presumptions of incompetence. This is important to acknowledge: a great deal of social harm occurred/still occurs because of exclusionary practices with regards to those who had/have developmental disabilities/differences. It is important that we each acknowledge our own biases, fears and possible misunderstandings about disability in general as we begin to consider how we might approach our own programs and their inclusiveness.

Inclusion definition from NAEYC/DEC

Early childhood inclusion embodies the values, policies, and practices that support the right of every infant and young child and his or her family, regardless of ability, to participate in a broad range of activities and contexts as full members of families, communities, and society. The desired results of inclusive experiences for children with and without disabilities and their families include a sense of belonging and membership, positive social relationships and friendships, and development and learning to reach their full potential. The defining features of inclusion that can be used to identify high quality early childhood programs and services are access, participation, and supports. (see links for URL to this statement)

Building on this definition, and drawing on the work of sociocultural literacy researchers, my own working definition of inclusive early literacy as I conduct my doctoral research is this:

Inclusive early literacy, refers to early literacy policies, discourses, programs, practices and opportunities that consider the needs of diverse children and their families in order for children to participate together in the same setting. One of the aims of inclusive early literacy is to ensure that young children with disabilities are given the same or similar opportunities to have appropriate early literacy experiences as their age peers without disabilities.

What are the implications of this statement and how can children’s librarians aim to emulate it when we create programs for young children and their families?

Since we all agree that everyone is indeed welcome to come to our programs, why are we

  1. noticing that children with disabilities tend NOT to come to regular programs and
  2.  creating “special” programs just for kids with disabilities?

We could have an entire conference just about barriers but for this discussion we are going to focus on 2 very significant ones and ones that, once addressed, serve to greatly increase the inclusiveness of all of your programs.

  • Size of group – why is this important?
  • Speech & Language, pacing & comprehension – why is this important?

 Some techniques to address some barriers

Language Fun Storytime began as a “special” program: in partnership with speech therapists, children’s librarians deliver small-group storytimes to children who are receiving or waiting for speech-language therapy. The program design was, in a large part, conceived by a speech therapist, who thought that a program that focussed on just one book per week, done 2 or 3 different ways would be appropriate for children with language delays. You can read more about this program in the book called Children’s Services: Partnerships for Success, edited by Betsy Diamant-Cohen. It was. It still is. However, the technique of repeating of only one story, and/or repeating thematic elements of a single story within the program can be applied to more diverse groups of children (what we call “population-based”). This means that the whole population is represented there. Interestingly, Betsy’s newer book “Transforming Preschool Storytime” promotes repetition of stories told in different ways across storytime series. These techniques are inclusive: they consider the needs of children who may need extra time and support to grasp concepts, new words etc. but they remain engaging and developmentally appropriate for children who have typical development.

Here is how this would work with Pete the Cat in a “regular” storytime program where children with diverse abilities were in attendance, along with your other usual storytime elements of songs, fingerplays, dances etc.

  • Book
  • Felt board
  • Sock activity

Moe the Mouse ™ Speech and Language Development Program: A Program of the BC Aboriginal Child Care Society

Speech sounds are the building blocks of verbal communication and in order to be understood when speaking, children must learn how to make the speech sounds of a language. (BC Aboriginal Child Care Society, Moe the Mouse ™ Curriculum Book)

Moe the Mouse ™ Curriculum Box is a speech and language resource, created by Speech Language Pathologists, that uses Aboriginal toys and stories to strengthen language development in young children. While developed for childcare settings, this rich resource has elements that can be incorporated into library storytime, including activities that help children produce speech sounds in isolation and then use them in words.

Who is Moe?  Moe is a charming little mouse mascot, who brings animal friends with him to storytime, each with their own speech sound. Moe cheers the children on as they use the various speech sounds to participate in storytelling, songs and activities.

Moe the Mouse ™ storytime is population-based and supports children’s language development in a natural setting.  It is also a lot of fun!

Discussion, Q&A



We all understand that social inclusion & inclusive education is still “a work in progress” in our society. As professionals who serve families, we commit to being part of the progress towards a time when we don’t need to worry about children with disabilities’ (or any other kind of barrier) access to early literacy experiences!

  • Investigate the possibility of working with speech therapists and others who serve preschoolers in your community.
  • Be open to trying new approaches to regular storytime programs that address some of the barriers we have identified
  • Continue to offer “special” programs as a way to build bridges with families whose children have disabilities and to invite their eventual participation in regular programs


NAEYC Inclusion Statements

NAEYC Diversity Statements

My Inclusive Early Literacy Discussion Summary on ALA Connect

Language Fun Storytime Links

Moe the Mouse Links

The New “Volunteer-delivered” Storytime…not so much…

I recently came across this promotional piece from Upstart Demco about their Very Ready Reading Program. Here is a link to the piece entitled “The New Storytime: Putting Research Into Action”. The short piece goes on to tell us about how their product has helped a children’s librarian to train and prepare volunteers to do storytimes. You can read it here…I will wait…

I am so convinced of the importance of our professional role that I was dismayed to see this practice of having volunteers deliver storytime programs, however necessary it may seem to be in this community, lauded, in print as an example of “The New Storytime”. It isn’t. Volunteer work can in no way be reflective of the extraordinarily complex, nuanced, balanced and well-researched professional practices that are currently underway in the field of children’s librarianship. There are many examples of such professional work all over the internet. I am not acquainted with the librarian featured in the piece, nor any of her volunteers. I am sure they are all committed and wonderful people. That does not make it acceptable for volunteers to do what I consider to be a professional children’s librarian’s core activity, for, you know, money?

All levels of government need to adequately fund libraries so that overworked and short-staffed children’s services staff do not need to rely on volunteers, however well-meaning (or well-trained they are via this product) to plan and deliver early literacy programs. If a volunteer can do what I do (i.e. face to face early literacy work with young children and their families in a public library) as well as I do it, I would argue vociferously that he or she is being exploited, period. Also, the use of volunteers sends the message that actual paid children’s staff of all levels (librarians, library technicians and library assistants)are superfluous. Haven’t all children’s librarians heard “Oh, your job must be so much fun, just reading to kids all day!” or some such other nonsense. Yes, my job is fun, and do love it. It is however NOT so much fun defending the salary I work for in a job I qualified for by completing 6 years of full-time university. In doing this PhD, I am striving/hoping/aiming for a future job educating students in children’s librarianship where I want to share my enthusiasm and expertise for doing what I think of as one of the Western world’s most important jobs. I really don’t want the exemplary work of a long history of children’s librarianship to be relegated to future corps of volunteers who follow a script.

Early Literacy is NOT FREE!

Early Literacy is NOT FREE!

Inclusivity in Storytime Programs: Including Children with Disabilities

At the American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas, I had a the honour of leading a discussion about inclusion in storytime programs. Follow the link to read my notes. Following my presentation, we had a roundtable discussion on the importance of finding ways to encourage the participation of children with disabilities in library programs: sometimes that means creating specialized, separate programs and sometimes it means rethinking the way we deliver regular programs to maximize the participation of children who may otherwise not be able to participate to their potential. Many thanks to my hosts with the ALSC Preschool Discussion Group, Sue McLeaf Nespeca and Linda Ernst for inviting me to present on this topic! Also, many thanks to the the discussion group attendees who shared their perspectives and thoughts on this topic. We all agreed that children’s librarians play extremely important roles in ensuring that children with disabilities are provided with early literacy learning opportunities in their communities.

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Conversation Sparks: Library Programming for Special Needs

Conversation Sparks: Library Programming for Special Needs

I can hardly believe I have yet another blog post after so many months of silence. Please do not forget that I am doing my PhD as well as working, as well as maintaining a somewhat stable family environment (!) so blogging takes a backseat way behind all that. Anyway, I had to the honor of being asked to participate in a great online learning opportunity for library practitioners called Conversation Sparks. It takes place in an online environment, much like a webinar. I will summarize and post my speaking points in a later post but I wanted to invite you to listen to this Conversation. Just follow the link and enjoy. I am the first of 3 speakers on the topic of library services for children with disabilities.