I love to read.
I’ve always been a reader. I remember frequent trips to the library during my childhood. Once I got in the habit, I never stopped. Everywhere I’ve lived, I’ve always made sure I got a library card. I’ve used some of those cards so frequently that I memorized their numbers.
I began taking Philip to the library at a very early age. First, I lugged him there in his car seat, and then we began making trips in the stroller. Now, he walks in on his own two feet.
Before Philip was born, I had visions of reading him books all the time. I imagined that he would have favorites that he would request again and again. I thought he would avoid bedtime by asking for “Just one more story, Mom. Please?!”
Things did not turn out as I envisioned.
Philip is certainly interested in books. He finds them visually and tactilely appealing. Unfortunately, it’s hard to actually read a book to him. He wants to control the page turning. He may want to stare intently at the current page. Other times, he wants to quickly turn through the pages, first forward and then back again. Sometimes, he will immediately close the book so that he can examine the cover. He usually ends up taking the book out of my hands.
Not only is it a challenge to get Philip to listen to a complete book, he tends to chew and tear pages and covers. I stopped checking out library books for him since we don’t have it in our budget to constantly replace damaged books. Instead, I take advantage of the quarterly book sales that the Friends of the Library sponsor. They have a great deal during the final hour of the sale where you can buy all of the hardback books you can fit in a grocery bag for $2.00. I stock up on board books every time they have a sale.
Once I purchase the books, we store them on the highest shelf in our living room. We set out a handful of books at a time. This way we reduce the clutter, but, more importantly, we eliminate the chances that Philip will immediately destroy the books.
Despite these challenges, during our weekly visit to the library on Saturday I signed Philip up for the “Read to Me” summer program. He will get to pick out a prize for every fifteen books that I read to him.
It is now up to me to incorporate more books into Philip’s day. As long as Philip isn’t splashing too much, I’ve discovered that I can read to him while he is in the bath tub. When Philip turns our tub into a tsunami, I have to wait until he is getting dried and putting on pajamas to read. When we aren’t practicing our PECS, I can read to Philip as he eats a snack. I know that I don’t have Philip’s undivided attention, but I also know that it isn’t realistic to expect him to sit perfectly still for a book.
I also signed myself up for the summer reading programs for adults at our local library plus the library in the town where I work. I check out materials for myself from both facilities, so I figured I could easily participate. While I read throughout the year, I have more opportunities to read in the summer. Last summer, I often was working on four books at once. It isn’t a matter of time as much as it is space. I can take a book to the backyard and read while Philip plays. When I’m in the house, he tends to get curious about my books and tries to steal them from my hands. Even worse, he has leaned in to nibble at the corner of a page.
In addition to the reading program, I registered Philip for one of the story times at the library. As the end of the school year got closer and I contemplated the empty summer calendar, I knew we needed structured activities for Philip. Once we signed him up for his sensory class on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I selected the Family Story Time on Friday mornings.
Since I have to work, I recruited Grandma to take him. She hesitated at first. I can’t blame her. If I can’t get him to sit still at home for a book, what would we expect at the library? Yet, I knew this would be a good opportunity for socialization and routine.
Before committing, I spoke to a youth librarian. I asked her to describe what a typical story time would be like. I told the librarian that my son has autism and is non-verbal. I explained why I wanted him to participate, but also why I was concerned that it might not work. She told me that the library staff has worked with other children with special needs. We agreed that we would register Philip and, if it didn’t work out, I would call to release his spot to someone on the waiting list.
The first session was this past Friday. I told Grandma to just give it a try. If Philip got fussy or upset, she should just leave. I anxiously waited at work for my lunch break so that I could call my mom and see how it went.
I was relieved and pleased to find out that Philip stayed for the whole time. Being used to our weekly visits, he at first tried to head to the aquarium instead of downstairs to the meeting room. He was nervous entering this new-to-him area of the library, but managed fine for the rest of his story.
The story time lasted for thirty minutes. Grandma reported that the librarian began with several songs before reading three books about night-time. There was also a craft project. After story time is an open play time. Apparently, Philip kept knocking over another child’s blocks, but the other child finally moved away. Otherwise, the morning was a success.
The only other book-related activity that I would like to incorporate into our summer is the Bookmobile. In addition to my fond memories of going to the library as a child, I also remember when the Bookmobile visited my elementary school. I looked forward to seeing what latest books were included in the traveling collection. I was also thrilled when I was selected as a student helper. Even though I have no recollection of the tasks that I did, I distinctly remember the warm feelings from that experience.
During the school year, the Bookmobile visited Philip’s preschool every other Monday. The first time that his teachers took him, he was very anxious, clingy and crying. I really don’t know how much his fear subsided as the school year went on. I was hoping that Peter might take Philip to the Bookmobile when it is in our neighborhood this summer. I thought it would be a simple routine to include in our week, plus it would help Philip become more familiar and less fearful of the vehicle. Unfortunately, the most convenient stops conflict with his sensory class and speech therapy.
As the summer progresses, I hope to have more library stories to share. When the summer reading programs end, I will report back on the number of books that I read to Philip.
Happy summer reading, everyone!