Sensory Story Time planned for January: Library works to promote diversity & inclusion

Published 12:05 am Saturday, December 28, 2019

LAPLACE — The special needs population has been underserved in the local community, according to leaders of the St. John the Baptist Parish Library System. An atmosphere of diversity and inclusion is the goal, and library leaders are working to bring change with the introduction of Sensory Story Time.

Sensory Story Time is making its debut at the Central Branch Library in LaPlace at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 27. According to Children’s Librarian Trina Smith, it will be a variation of traditional story time offering more structure. The program is ideal for children ages 3 to 10 who are on the Autism spectrum, as well as children who have sensory processing or developmental disorders.

Smith saw a need for Sensory Story Time after communicating with parents via Facebook. Many indicated they bring their children to the St. Charles Parish Library for Sensory Story Time because nothing like it was being offered in St. John.

Children cheer for Story Time.

“I got a tremendous response from parents,” Smith said. “This is going to acknowledge those children who are underserved in our community. I’m happy to do it. The planning is a little more intense than the traditional story time because you are dealing with different behaviors and children who are more sensitive to sound and light. Those are the kinds of things you have to consider.”

Sensory Story Time features structured transitions to ease children through the program. A bulletin board will visually map out the flow of the program, letting children know when it’s time to listen to the story and when it’s time for music.

“It’s not going to be as loud with big sounds,” Smith said. “It’s more subtle but still highly interactive.”

A seating arrangement will help add structure to the program, Smith said. Children will also have the opportunity to find stimulation by handling beanbags or other small toys during Sensory Story Time. The program will be held in the library’s meeting room, offering a quiet and private space. There will be space in the meeting room for a child to separate from the group and unwind, if needed.

“Having those things and visuals in place will make a difference,” Smith said. “People are saying this is needed, and wish they could have had it before. There is a need to promote diversity and inclusivity.”

Smith has added literature to the Children’s Section to promote diverse representation. Books available locally celebrate cultural heritage, including Hispanic Heritage Month. The collection also reflects the experiences of kids who come from single parent homes or straddle between different households.

New St. John Parish Library Director Andrea Tullos said public libraries are provided for all, and they should reflect the community accordingly. In a region known as a mixing pot of cultures with converging walks of life, she feels equity must become a priority.

Children’s programming is a hit at the St. John Parish Library System. For a calendar of events, visit

“It also should challenge your community to be more open and inclusive of different cultures out there,” Tullos said. “I think libraries are a great opportunity for us to create and also support change. Change doesn’t have to be hard if we do it the right way, with a lot of compassion and consideration.”

Tullos joined the St. John Library System in late November. She previously directed a library system in Orange County, North Carolina, that has provided Sensory Story Time for the past 18 months. There, the program was offered to middle school students in the local school system.

Over the past several weeks, Tullos has met with every library employee one-on-one to discuss talents, interests and visions for the future.

If the Jan. 27 Sensory Story Time is a success, Smith would like to make it a staple in the St. John Parish Library System.

The Central Branch is located at 2920 U.S. 51 in LaPlace, and no registration is required to attend the first Sensory Story Time. Traditional story time is held for children at 10:30 a.m. every Thursday.

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