Library story tipi to support children and young people with SEND
A flavour of Native American culture has arrived in Haydock Library as part of an initiative to make libraries more comfortable for children and young people with special educational needs (SEND).
Thanks to funding as a parting gift from the now dismantled Ashton with Haydock Rotary Club, the library has acquired a tipi-style story tent, a place for all children - particularly those with SEND - to go where they can be calm, relaxed, and read a book in peace.
The idea for the story tipi came from local resident, Debbie Goldthorpe, the parent of a child with SEND, who suggested libraries needed safe spaces where children with SEND could become calm if an environment or situation became overwhelming for them.
Debbie’s suggestion came after being given the opportunity by St Helens Library Service, Designated SEND Clinical Officer, Julie Hoodless, and local parent carer forum, Listen4Change, to visit libraries with other parents of children with SEND – as well as the children themselves – to outline the benefits and challenges of using libraries, indicating what steps could be taken to increase access.
“I know how difficult it can be for the parents and children to access places in the community,” said Debbie, who worked with library staff and creative artist Mary Hill to get the project off the ground.
"I walked around the library with Library Services Manager, Kathryn Boothroyd, and Julie and made some suggestions. The library was already doing some things to help SEND children, like ear defenders and sensory toys if required, but I suggested maybe a tent or something that a child could go to if they get too overwhelmed with sensory overload.”
Debbie, a volunteer for Listen4Change, added: “I am very happy with how the tent looks and how we all worked together on the project, including St Helens Borough Council to make things more inclusive for our families.
“I really think the tent will make a difference for families of children with SEND to access the library and make things a little easier for them.”
Thanking Ashton with Haydock Rotary Club and everyone who made the initiative possible, Councillor Anthony Burns, St Helens Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Wellbeing, Culture and Heritage, said:
“This project has allowed us to closely examine the services we offer, the benefits of having trained library staff, and how the service can make improvements to ensure children and young people with SEND and their families are included in service provision.
“While we are making great strides to make our libraries inclusive places to cater to all needs, we won’t stop there. Together with parents, we will be working on a SEND Friendly Library charter and future work will see parents visiting libraries to assess the space to ensure it meets the charter.
“As a council, one of our key priorities is to ensure all young people have the best possible start in life, and initiatives like this will play a big part in achieving this.”