Naperville’s 95th Street Library offers sensory-friendly alternative to Family Storytime

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A new inclusive program at Naperville’s 95th Street Library is bringing more children on storytime adventures. 

What is Sensory-Friendly Storytime?

“Sensory Friendly Storytime is a 30-minute program for children who experience sensory needs or maybe have some processing disorders. It’s a slower-paced storytime, so very similar to what we offer for our Family Storytime if folks have come to that before at the library, but it’s at a slower pace,” said Jenny Berry, Children’s Services Supervisor at Naperville’s 95th Street Library.

Like Family Storytime, the new program features stories, songs, and early literacy learning, but focuses on one element at a time. 

“So instead of saying, ‘Hey, we’re doing all of this and it’s going to be a great time’ and everybody’s screaming and moving and talking, we pull back the layers of the onion and we make it a little more palatable for kids that can’t take that situation,” said Berry.

Sensory Friendly Storytime also focuses on social and emotional learning.

“All emotions are good emotions to feel. It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to be happy, of course, but not all reactions are going to be good reactions,” said Berry. “Children are still learning these emotions and then from there, they can have that toolkit to better respond once they transition to school or they gain a little bit more independence away from their caregivers.”

The space is adapted to the sensory needs of the children. Lights are dim, sound is low, movement is minimal, and capacity is maxed at 10 child and caregiver pairs. If a child needs a break from the activities, there is also a designated calm-down area in the room. 

“We put elements in place for the program to help children be the most successful they can be and still experience a library program that they can benefit from as well,” said Berry.

When is the program offered at Naperville’s 95th Street Library?

Sensory Friendly Storytime is offered on the second Monday of every month. The 95th Street Library will host sessions on April 8 and May 13 before taking a break for the summer. The program will pick up again in September. 

“We really wanted to give those kids that maybe couldn’t have the other opportunities because of sensory needs or processing needs to have that spotlight and to feel that there’s something just for them,” said Berry.

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