In September and October of 2019, the Illinois Prairie District Public Library hosted its first “big read,” cleverly titled The Illinois PraiREAD. The chosen title was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. This title was chosen in part because a local community theatre was staging the play in the fall. Additionally, it helps the library highlight offerings for patrons with autism.
There were many events held at the library over the eight-week period. Fifty copies of the novel were given away and two book clubs used the title for the month of October. Additionally, due to the convenient timing of the theatrical endeavor, tickets to performances were raffled off to patrons at each branch. All story hours during the two months included sensory-friendly elements. Finally, a guest speaker with autism was invited to speak.
The guest speaker was funded with a grant from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Greater Midwest Region. Thanks to the grant, we were able to bring in a local speaker with experience presenting her story nationwide.
Marty Murphy is an adult with Autism Spectrum Disorder, who presents Finding Normal “nationally to provide parents, school peers and educators a better understanding of the world of autism.” The presentation was uniquely adapted to speak to library staff, patrons and the cast and crew of the neighboring production.
Whether it be books or celebrities about or with autism, recognizing certain behaviors or creating welcoming and inclusive spaces, Murphy was extremely well-received and everyone in the audience took something different away from the presentation.
-Guest post by Joel D Shoemaker, Director of Illinois Prairie District Public Library