By PHIL NOBILE
Proving local municipalities can pool resources, a new program focused on children with sensory disabilities was announced between the Harrison and Rye public libraries.
Starting this year, the Harr-ison Public Library and the Rye Free Reading Room will present a free monthly program called “Sensory Storytimes” at the Harrison library, focusing on interactive and educational methods for children with cerebral palsy and other sensory disabilities.
“We have seen a lot of Rye patrons in our library, and a lot of Harrison patrons in Rye’s, so we figured why not join programs,” Harrison Public Library Director Galina Chernykh said. “We’ve done it for teen programs, so now we’ve expanded it to children.”
The two libraries, partnered with the Kiyoko Brown Lekotek Center at Cerebral Palsy of Westchester, encourage parents of children with sensory disabilities, and children in general, to enjoy the free program.
“Libraries are obviously com-m-unity resources for everyone, so we try to be able to provide programs for all residents of our towns,” Rye Free Reading Room Director Chris Shoemaker said. “Working with children and adults with disabilities is part of the mission.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in children, and about one in 323 children are identified as having the motor condition. It occurs primarily from abnormal development of the brain before birth or damage to the brain while it is still developing, and leads to a lack of control of muscles. Most diagnosed with cerebral palsy need equipment to walk, although those milder cases may have an impeded walk that does not require mechanical aid.
For Chernykh, who has been the library director since July 2011, the hope is to create a comfortable and safe library environment for all kids, disability or none.
“This is a series of sensory story time and activities for all that is interactive and educational for every child,” Chernykh said. “It’s open for all, and promotes the benefit of play and inclusion of children with special needs in the community.”
The sessions feature an introduction between the children, the telling of two stories, stretching periods and other sign and motor activities to encourage movement during the program.
Lindsay Buttenshon, a children’s service coordinator at the Kiyoko Brown Lekotek Center at Cerebral Palsy of Westchester, performs the sessions with the children, hoping to give them a normal story-time experience.
“In this area, there’s not too much going on for [children with disabilities],” Buttenshon said. “Especially for parents who do have a child with a disability, they normally don’t feel comfortable for a normal story-time. This type of a program is more of a welcoming environment for these type of parents.”
The Harrison Public Library and the Rye Free Reading Room have joined forces in the past for mutual programming, such as joint initiatives for staff development, programs for youths with autism and a program series at the Microsoft store in the Westchester mall in White Plains.
“We’re so close to each other, so why not share resources?” Cherynkh said. “It’s empowering for the communities and a different way to provide innovative and in-demand programs and services. It’s a great idea and benefits families and kids.”
Shoemaker, who worked at the New York Public Library operating its teen programs until becoming the Rye director in June 2013, said the programming between the two organizations makes sense due to the similar backgrounds of each town.
“The population of Rye and Harrison are very close and similar in background,” Shoemaker said. “By partnering on programs, we are able to use our resources and innovate those needs without continually duplicating programs.”
For more information, contact the Harrison Public Lib-rary at (914) 835-0324 or visit