At the end of this past school year, Brennen received an exciting card in the mail - it was an invitation to the TD Summer Reading Club. The invitation was printed in English and braille, and stated that it was "For kids of ALL abilities", so we headed off to the A.C. Hunter Children's Library, renewed our library card, and eagerly signed him up! The TD Summer Reading Club is Canada's biggest bilingual summer reading program for kids of all ages, all interests, and all abilities. It is a free program that is offered at 2,000 public libraries across Canada. It celebrates Canadian authors, illustrators and stories, and inspires kids to explore the fun of reading in their own way. There is something for everyone, including children with print disabilities as well as preschoolers and their families. (You can learn more about print disabilities HERE.)
We were excited to receive an accessible notebook, which contains a place for your child to state their summer reading goals, a list of top recommended reads for the summer, a space to collect stickers from the library each time we visit, and a list of challenges for school age readers and pre-readers - really fun things like "Make up a story about you and your favourite toy" and "Say hello to every animal you see"! Our notebook also included an audio book on CD that we can listen to at home, and a program certificate that can be personalized once we complete our reading goals.
Children's books are one of my greatest loves. I have always been an avid reader, and I love to get lost in the quiet of a good novel, but there are some children's books that I read as much for me as I do for my little ones. There's just something so powerful about having a life's message condensed into just a few words in a way that a child can understand. It gets me right in the heart. At our most recent visit to the library, I spent some time looking around - meandering through the aisles of hard-bound treasures, while Andrew settled into a cozy chair reading stories to our youngest. I came back with tears in my eyes, and he said, "What's wrong with you?!" I said, "I read THIS book.."
We are big readers and book collectors in our house. Our little ones love to look at the pictures and listen to the sounds of the words on each page. Reading books aloud to children stimulates their imagination and expands their understanding of the world. It introduces concepts such as numbers, letters, colors, and shapes in a fun way, and it builds listening, memory, and vocabulary skills while preparing them to understand the written word. You should definitely, absolutely, without any question read aloud to your children. Reading together at home creates a special time for you to bond with your child, while at the same time helping to develop their lifelong appreciation for reading.
Diversity in children's books is a big issue for us, as I believe that every child has the right to see themselves reflected back from the pages of picture books. Here are some of my favourite books that celebrate difference and uniqueness and feature children with a range of abilities:
We Go In A Circle by Peggy Perry Anderson - A story about therapeutic horseback riding that reminds me of our time with Rainbow Riders.
Just Because by Rebecca Elliott - A young boy describes all the fun he has with his big sister, who has special needs.
What's Wrong with Timmy? by Maria Shriver - Answers to questions that children might ask about a child who looks or acts different.
Don't Call Me Special by Pat Thomas - Talks about equipment that children with physical disabilities might use to help them live happy lives.
Different is Awesome by Ryan Haack - Shows how some people do things differently, but that's ok!
Do you guys have any favourite books that help children learn to celebrate being themselves? I'd love to hear about them!
Raising a child with a disability, I have come to realize that we live in a world where accessibility is generally an afterthought, but I am happy to see that our local public libraries are super accessible and super accommodating, and the staff are eager to help. They have put a lot of time and thought into considering people who experience reading in different ways.
Our libraries also offer activities and events that children of all abilities can participate in. The website states, "If your child has special needs that affect their ability to participate in programs at the library, mention this to staff so that programs can be adapted. Any specific suggestions you can offer may be helpful."
Talk to your local public library staff this summer to find out how your family can join the TD Summer Reading Club!