Storytelling to Children with
Special Needs or in Special Settings
Before Cushla was born, I would have laid claim to a deep faith in the power of
books to enrich children's Hues. By comparison with my present conviction, this
faith was a shallow thing. I know now what print and picture have to offer a
child who is cut off from the world, for whatever reason. But I know also that
there must be another human being, prepared to intercede, before anything can
MAINSTREAMING OVER THE PAST decade has brought many more children with special needs—the mentally disabled, the blind and partially sighted, the deaf and hearing-impaired, the physically handicapped, the chronically ill, the emotionally disturbed—into the story-hour group. But the skills needed for effective storytelling to these children are rarely covered in the library-school curriculum or in the storytelling literature.
The storyteller who tells to children with special needs must have the qualities of a good storyteller—only more so. Extra warmth and extra sensitivity to the group's needs are necessary in order to sustain good listening. Each child must be seen not as handicapped, but as a child with a handicap, that is, the emphasis must be on the whole child (Figure 15).
The recently passed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which mandates accessibility for persons with disabilities to all public facilities and activities, has increased the awareness of librarians as they plan story hours and other programs for children with special needs. This awareness often focuses on physical facilities and costs. For example, it is necessary to run an induction loop around the program room if hearing-impaired children use the library regularly. This loop, when used with an amplifier, sets up a magnetic field that enables sound to be picked up by a device attached to a child's hearing aid. To inform librarians of the implications of the ADA for staff training and program planning, as well as facilities and costs, the ALA/ALSC Library Service to Children with Special Needs committee updated its program support publication, "Programming for Serving Children with Special Needs." Additional information can be found in Meeting the Needs of People with Disabilities: A Guide for Librarians, Educators, and Other Service Professionals by Ruth A. Velleman. For inspira-