Yuma, Arizona - A popular Yuma County Library District program has been recognized with a 2020 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo). The awards honor innovative, effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents.

NACo recognized “Sensory Storytime” under the category of Libraries.

Sensory Storytime was launched at the Foothills Library in March 2016 for children on the autism spectrum or with other sensory needs. The intention was to create a welcoming environment for families with children who might have occasional outbursts, or might find a traditional storytime too overwhelming.

Sensory storytime is limited to 10 families in order to reduce the chances of overstimulation. Lighting in the room is dimmed, and a schedule of activities with pictures is posted for children to see. The session starts with an introduction of staff members and a welcome song followed by physically engaging activities. This is followed by a storytime with books carefully selected to facilitate participant interaction, if desired.
In 2018, grant funds were used to expand the project at the Foothills Library to a Special Needs Resources Center equipped with bilingual books, learning aids, and communication devices, and add a monthly Sensory Exploration class. Funds were also used to expand Sensory Storytime to three other library branches. Through participation in this program, children and their families develop their literacy and comprehension skills, as well as connect with other families and community resources.

Nationally, awards are given in 18 different categories that reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide. The categories include children and youth, criminal justice, county administration, information technology, health, civic engagement and many more.

Started in 1970, NACo’s annual Achievement Awards program is designed to recognize county government innovations. Each nominee is judged on its own merits and not against other applications received.