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Adult story time a rewarding chapter for Fort Wayne librarian and participants

Librarian Rebecca Wolfe, with book, reads a story with students at the L.I.F.E Adult Day Academy during the story time she presents there for them once a week. Wolfe, the manager and teen librarian of the Allen County Public Library's Dupont branch, also includes music and movement in the story time. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Librarian Rebecca Wolfe, standing, greets students attending the adult story time Wolfe presents at L.I.F.E Adult Day Academy in Fort Wayne. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)
Librarian Rebecca Wolfe, center in a black-and-white top, gets students clapping along with a song during the adult story time she presents at the L.I.F.E Adult Day Academy in Fort Wayne. Wolfe is the manager and teen librarian at the Dupont library branch. (By Kevin Kilbane of News-Sentinel.com)

Rebecca Wolfe goes around the circle of students seated in chairs and greets each one with a fist bump. Moments later, she has them up jumping around and shaking hands and arms to high-energy, dance music.

It’s Monday morning story time at L.I.F.E. Adult Day Academy (LADA) in Fort Wayne, and smiles beam from the faces of adults young and old as they take part.

“It is the best way to start the week,” said Wolfe, the branch manager and teen librarian for the Dupont branch of the Allen County Public Library.

“The students are so open and friendly,” she said. “They greet everyone.”

LADA, 7515 Westfield Drive, serves adults ages 18 and older who have a wide range of mental and physical ability levels, said Lloyd Jones, LADA executive director.

“Most of our students come from all kinds of different backgrounds and situations,” Jones said. “To have someone like Rebecca, who respects those different backgrounds and situations, is awesome.”

Her program also is fun — so fun that some students come to LADA just on Mondays so they can attend the weekly story time, Jones said.

Wolfe’s first experience with story time for teens or adults with disabilities came about 10 years ago when a teacher at Northrop High School began bringing students with significant disabilities to the Dupont branch for story times. After the teacher’s field trip budget was reduced, Wolfe began driving to Northrop to continue offering the story time to students.

She began going to LADA nearly a year ago. She also provides story time at Maple Seed Farms in Fort Wayne, which serves people with intellectual disabilities, and during summer months at Camp Red Cedar, which serves people with and without disabilities.

Since early 2017, Wolfe also has gone to Gigi’s Playhouse, which serves people with Down syndrome. She leads a book club, where participants typically take part in reading portions of the book.

The story times at LADA usually begin with a hello song so Wolfe can go around and greet all of the students. She then may do a song involving a puppet or puppets, and then dancing-type songs and a song with instructions.

“You have to be willing to look silly and dance around, even if you are not a good dancer,” Wolfe said.

They usually also read at least one children’s book during the 30- to 35-minute program.

About 35 students usually join in the story time at LADA. Those who aren’t able to stand or move around much still can bob their heads or move their hands to the music.

Wolfe believes she is one of only a few ACPL librarians who provide this type of programming. She also hasn’t heard of any other libraries around the state that provide story times for adults with disabilities.

There is great demand for the programming, however, and she hopes more libraries will consider it.

“It probably is the most rewarding thing I’ve done in my career,” she said.

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