Book Week has arrived and schools across Australia are celebrating a love of books with the theme ‘Old worlds, new worlds, other worlds’. But what if your child doesn’t enjoy Book Week like their classmates do because their disability is an obstacle? Here are our top tips for parents and teachers to run Book Week in an inclusive way that supports all children, including those with disabilities, to have fun with books.
Having a range of activities as part of Book Week makes reading engaging for children, so think about how activities can be run in a fun and accessible way.
These tips can be a good start for thinking about inclusive activities:
Include a variety of activities which can involve technological aids
If a child likes hands-on activities, make a diorama of the setting of a book or make a favourite character out of household items like pipe cleaners, plastic cutlery and toilet rolls
Create a story based on the Book Week theme - children can write their story, type it or make it up aloud and have an adult write it down, then illustrate it
Colour in a picture of a character or scene from a book
An important part of Book Week is the books which children read with their class, not just the ones they read on their own.
Classes should be given inclusive and diverse books to read to build their understanding of children with a disability, and the character with disability in the book doesn’t have to be the main character, they could simply be a supporting character.
The book could carry a specific message about inclusivity or just show the character with disability interacting with other characters as they would in real life.
For children reading individually think about these ways to make sure they are enjoying it:
Make reading fun, not stressful or time pressured
Read books with your child if they need support to read
Think about a variety of books - not just heavy text-based options but also picture books, graphic novels, audio books and large text books
Zest Care provides a list of a few inclusive books to give you ideas.
Many schools run a parade for teachers and students who dress up as their favourite book character, which can be an important inclusive activity.
The parade can also be a loud and scary activity if the feelings of children with disabilities are not considered, but that doesn’t mean children with sensory processing difficulties shouldn’t be included.
Parents could try having noise cancelling headphones as part of their child’s costume, or ask if there is a designated quiet space where the child can watch the parade from and still feel involved.
Any other aids and equipment your child uses can also be incorporated into their costume, for example by turning a wheelchair into a spaceship.
Schools should make sure the parade route is free from clutter and obstacles so kids with mobility issues can navigate the course easily.
If your child still does not want to be part of the parade, suggest an activity they could do nearby - such as drawing a picture of a character.
In many schools children wear their costumes for the day, so your child could still dress up as a character like the rest of their class even if they do not join the parade.
Tips for teachers
For teachers with children in their class who need extra learning support it is important to understand how the different activities of Book Week could affect them.
Book Week can also be an opportunity to teach your class about the challenges which children with a disability may face.
Involving and consulting parents can help to make sure activities will be inclusive of each individual child, as parents know their child’s interest and learning needs, but also help with making sure activities teach the class about life from the perspective of a child with disability.
Giving the class several options for activities so they can choose an activity they are interested in and will enjoy is a way of being inclusive without highlighting differences and book choices can boost this as well.
Children should be able to choose a book which interests them, but provide some support to pick a book which will not be too difficult for them to read - they need to be engaged in their reading and have fun while reading.
Learning from home
If your child is learning from home because of the current COVID19 situation in your area, or for any other reason, you can:
Use Zoom to set up a Book Week party with friends to do activities as a group
Set up an online quiz on a program like Kahootabout your child’s favourite book - the quiz could also be shared with classmates or friends
Set up a treasure hunt around your home for your child to find objects or pictures related to a book and tick them off a list
Watch online story time sessions, like those on Puffin Book’s YouTube Channel
Free resources can be downloaded from the following websites, some of which may be suitable for your child or could be helpful classroom ideas for teachers.
Story Box Library (these resources include Auslan translations)
Do you have any other ideas about making Book Week inclusive? Tell us in the comments below.