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Library Gets Adaptive Books for Special Needs Children

Parents and teachers of special needs children can now find great new resources at the Library, thanks to the efforts of two dedicated mothers.
Ten years ago, Rita Angelini and Jodi Miller, both from the Northwest suburbs,  became frustrated by the lack of reading opportunities available at local libraries for their special needs children, and  decided to find a solution themselves.
Borrowing ideas from speech therapists, they began to take popular children’s books, such as The Berenstein Bears and Clifford series,  and refashion them in ways that make them accessible to young readers who struggle with cognitive or fine motor skills. The mothers’  project, known as "Adaptive Books," has since gained national attention and corporate sponsorship, along with a growing network of public libraries eager to carry the books on their shelves.
Recently, the Park Ridge Public Library added ten of these special titles to its collection. According to Children’s Services Manager Kelly Durov, the books can be useful for any child learning how to read.
 "Adaptive Books incorporate picture symbols to highlight vocabulary and guide you through the reading experience, which can be especially helpful for special needs children," says Durov. "But other children can benefit as well."
With Adaptive Books, the original pages are removed from the spine, laminated to make them stiff (similar to a board book), and enclosed in binders that allow the book to lay open. Soft plastic cushions on the edges aid in flipping the pages, while a colorful image key helps children comprehend different parts of speech.
The story of Adaptive Books is a labor of love, particularly for Angelini, who has worked on the project for more than a decade, despite the death of her daughter Kiki in 2011. Kiki, who had cerebral palsy, helped inspire a number of Angelini’s innovations, including the "communication strips" at the bottom of the page that contain the image key. Because Kiki communicated primarily through nonverbal symbols, the communication strips became her means of following the stories.
Assembling a single book can take several hours of work, and is now done primarily by Angelini and her volunteers. Books are then donated to the libraries. Angelini’s goal, as she described in an interview last year with the Daily Herald, is to let parents of special needs children know that these books are available.
"Parents aren’t aware," Angelini told the Daily Herald. "Parents don’t get to the library when their child has special needs. Also, I want to make teachers and aides aware of this possibility. They have this resource they can use."  
For more information on Adaptive Books, you can visit http://adaptivebooks.weebly.com. To learn about titles available at the Park Ridge Public Library, please call Children’s Services at (847)825-4527 or visit the library website at www.parkridgelibrary.org.

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