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North Central Regional Library has received a $9,900 grant to start two new story times and create take-home kits for children on the autism spectrum. 

The grant will pay for training and supplies to start new sensory story times at the Tonasket and Moses Lake public libraries in 2020 that will be modeled after one that started this fall at Wenatchee Public Library.

The grant from North Central Accountable Community of Health will also help create kits of books and sensory support items that can be checked out for free from any of the 30 libraries in the district.

“Our goal at North Central Regional Library is to be a library for everyone,” said Daniel Klayton, a branch group manager for NCRL who applied for the funding. “Story times are open to all children. But often times they can be a little overwhelming for kids on the autism spectrum or with special sensory needs. So parents may be hesitant to bring their kids to a program.”

All of NCRL’s 30 libraries offer regular story hours that combine reading books with songs, crafts, and kinesthetic activities to plant the seeds of lifelong learning. But large group settings can sometimes be overwhelming for children on the autism spectrum and certain crafts can be more frustrating than nurturing for them. Library staff have heard from parents who felt uncomfortable bringing their children to story times out of fear that they will be disruptive.

The sensory story times will offer the same literacy and socialization benefits as all NCRL story times, but will include crafts and toys that accommodate the needs of children with autism, including compression vests, weighted blankets and stuffed animals that help calm and focus children, fidget toys, and noise-cancelling headphones.

The take-home kits will also include resources that connect families to other support organizations in their local area.

Staff training will begin in early 2020 with the goal of starting the new program in the spring.

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