As many of my neurodiverse friends know, April is AUTISM AWARENESS MONTH.
Being neurodiverse myself, and being a librarian, of course, I couldn’t let the opportunity pass me by… I just had to come up with a list of wonderful books for the occasion. In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I decided to branch out on all spectrums of neurodiversity.
So, without further ado, here are over 100 book recommendations, ranging from children's picture books and middle-grade stories, teen and young adult fiction and adult reads!
It’s been a little while since I’ve made a post. Here’s what I’ve been up to…
For the past few months I’ve been gathering information, doing research, attending webinars, and working vigorously toward starting a non-profit Homeschool Group for families in need in my community. And I’m happy to announce, it has been a great success!
I’m so excited to share this news with you, so let’s dive right in!
What is Homeschool Group?
Homeschool Group is a place where families can come together and socialize, and kids can engage in self-paced, hands-on learning in a relaxed and creative environment. Right now, my group is open to ages 7-10, but I may look at expanding those age brackets as time goes on and I get a better feel for the specific needs of my community.
Where and when is Homeschool Group hosted? How can I attend?
Great question! Homeschool Group is being hosted in the Hendersonville Public Library in Tennessee. This group is held on the first Monday of each month at 2 PM. Sign-up sheets can be found in the Children’s area. For other cool events we have going on, check out our Facebook page or Instagram feed for updates and calendar info!
My personal goal with Homeschool Group is to inspire creativity and encourage social emotional learning while exposing children to the five elements of STEAM education; science, technology, engineering, arts, and math.
Around the room I have activity tables set up for kids to visit, imagine, and explore the wonders of reading, science, building, writing, creating, socializing, inventing, and playing!
Each of our tables is inspired by STEAM concepts, and is designed to encourage creative thinking and problem solving, enhance motor skills and social-emotional learning, and inspire children to find connections and explore the realm of imagination in a safe and fun environment.
Throughout the building process of this project, I was able to get some fabulous inspiration and ideas from several webinars, a few that I will mention here.
The two that stood out among the rest were STEAM in the Public Library: Programs & Services for Children and Creative Spaces and Family Engagement in Libraries, both available on Webjunction. Now, for those of you who may not know this, in addition to being a children’s book writer, I am also a Children’s Librarian. And, being homeschooled for the majority of my childhood, I have extensive knowledge of what it’s like to be in that position. How hard it can be to make connections within the community. Finding the right resources. Finding places to go. And forget about costs! You can’t find a “cheap” homeschooling program or event to participate in, and free? Free is unheard of. Everything costs something, and most often, it’s a higher price than the average family is looking to spend. Especially when you have more than one child. And that’s not a slight at pricing. It’s very possible that the price is justified and appropriate for whatever services are being offered, but nonetheless, many families simply can’t afford it.
So naturally, coming from a place of understanding, I wanted to offer a service to these families that wouldn’t dip into their pockets. And after some well thought out planning and a trial run, we were finally up and running!
Back to the wonderful Webinars I was able to enjoy. Here are a few of the notes I took from Creative Spaces and Family Engagement in Libraries, that really made me think about why art is such an important role in a child’s life.
The arts are not just expressive and effective. They are deeply cognitive. The arts develop essential thinking tools:
Pattern recognition and development.
Mental representations of the observed/imagined.
Symbolic and metaphorical representations.
Abstraction from complexity.
Cross wiring of brain areas.
Engagement with an art trains the brain to FOCUS, improving learning
* Interest in an art form leads to sustained attention when practicing that art form.
* Engaging in art involves resolving conflicts among competing possible responses.
* The ability to resolve conflict among competing responses is also a crucial aspect of attention training.
Arts integration improves learning
Studies consistently show:
* Greater emotional investment in classes.
* Work more diligently and learn from each other.
* Parents become more involved.
* Teachers collaborate more.
* Increased cross-curricular learning.
* Curriculum becomes more authentic, hands-on and project-based.
Yes, yes, YES, to all of the above! If you don’t believe this to be true, I suggest taking a look at my book, ADHD and Me. Yep, shameless self-promo. But I wouldn’t try to sell you if I didn’t think it’s true. And I happen to know it is because it was inspired by a real young lady, who went through the same everyday challenges as Malory. Who was that young lady? Me.
About the book: ADHD and Me is an SEL (social-emotional learning) book about a young girl named Malory who has ADHD. Throughout her neurodiverse journey, she is encouraged to express herself using art, by her art teacher Ms. Julie, who was diagnosed as a young girl with Autism. With the help of her fabulous support system, including friends and family, Malory is able to find the joys in life and embrace her differences.
Now for my notes on STEAM in the Public Library: Programs & Services for Children with guest speaker Amy Koester and blogger, “THE SHOW ME LIBRARIAN.”
A little bit about Amy. Amy is a Learning Experiences Manager of a Public Library. She serves as a vice president of ASLC, and she’s a big supporter of her library and community. To see more about her click here.
Amy is a kindred spirit and fellow supporter of all things STEAM. And, her blog is simply AMAZING. Here is a link to visit her blog, THE SHOW ME LIBRARIAN.
So, a few things that I took away from this webinar are listed below.
American children are lagging behind other countries when it comes to creative thinking.
School and life success isn’t just about reading.
Creativity is a top work skill. Today, big companies are looking for outside-of-the box thinkers and problem solvers. It is a highly valued and sought after trait in today’s workforce. And understandably so. Children who are adept learners and creative problem solvers statistically fair better in all avenues of life.
Now, a few of the suggestions that Amy gives are:
Set up activity stations (check!)
Observation station (check-check!)
Sensory lights (FUN!)
Glow in the dark (Who doesn’t love glow in the dark stuff?)
Grow plants (Check!)
Root gardens (Fantastic idea)
Incorporate living things (100%)
Butterflies/ant farms- and tie in books that fit your experiment! (yes!) While we are on that topic, see if you can sprinkle in non-fiction books too!
Use recyclables (ALWAYS!)
A few other helpful tips to make your programming fun and engaging for your young participants:
Encourage them to make something.
Get your hands dirty!
Include things that will involve motor skills.
Make STEAM displays fun: one suggestion Amy gave was a globe! A globe is great because kids can both look at it AND play with it. It spins!
And last but not least, give children the tools to succeed!