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Sensory Kits - Resources for Parents and tools for kids

Published in the Frankenmuth News Sept. 30, 2020

Early Literacy Specialist Cheri Stainforth has, like the entire library staff, been busy during the closing and partial opening stages, moving forward and aligning new resources to assure that all patrons of the library are well served.

Explaining her motivation for gathering grant funding for the new Sensory Kitsnow available from the library, Stainforth explains, “This is all about inclusion. It is my heart. The library space needs to provide for the development of all kids.” She is specifically thinking of kids – or any aged person – who might identify with being somewhere on the autism spectrum or who deals with dyslexia or Down syndrome. However, it is important to note that these kits are also useful for those interested in helping a friend or family member who might be in these groups.

Funding for these kits is from the University of Michigan School of Information, the Library of Michigan and the Institution of Museum and Library Services. Like the Reading Booster Kits and the Book Club Kits, these are pre-packaged items collected in a good-sized backpack that are checked out as one item for, in this case, three weeks. The library now has five of these: How to Be a Better Friend; How to Be a Better Me; Autism; Down Syndrome; and Dyslexia.

We unpacked the How to Be a Better Friend kit. The notion of friends and others at school or at home learning how to deal with ease with those who have differences is a practical theme for a kit. One book in the Better Friend kit is “The Tease Monster” which makes the distinction between teasing and bullying as well as the distinction between Mean Teasing (“like a mean bite”) and Nice Teasing (“like a nice bite”). It talks about how to deal with having a Baditude, “What to do when your life stinks.” The lessons in this book help develop social skills not just for the person who might have differences, but for everyone.

The Better Friend kit includes four books, two games, two pop tubes (I think I need one), and two fidgets. It is true that non-verbal people sometimes learn differently using other senses, react to noise differently, or organize ideas differently. However, the Better Friend Kit encourages us to be a better, kinder friend to everyone, to make conscious choices how to treat people inclusively. All five kits have similar components – appropriate books and games for the theme of each kit – and all have pop tubes and fidgets.

Personally, I think we can all learn something looking at any of these kits. After all, school isn’t the only place we all need to get along with respect and understanding with those different than us. Life is better if we aren’t making bad assumptions about who belongs and who doesn’t in any particular environment – like school, like the library, like the neighborhood.

But most people who will want to check these kits out will no doubt be parents for their kids.

While more group activities were in the planning pre-pandemic such as special story time or enhanced activities for adults with certain needs during Friday Crafts, those plans have been put on hold temporarily. But that doesn’t mean library life is all put on hold as these new Sensory Kits show as well as the Reading Booster Kits that were featured in this column two weeks ago.

Cheri emphasizes, “Parents need to know that all their kids are in a welcoming environment. We all need to be as kind as we can to everyone.”

Frankenmuth Strong. Frankenmuth Kind. Check out our kits.

See you at the Library!

(Roz Weedman)

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