Storytime 2.0 at the Wellesley Free Library: An Update, by Clara Hendricks

Since October 2013, when we launched our app-advisory and iPad storytime programs, I have led seven sessions of Storytime 2.0, an iPad-integrated storytime for children ages 3-6 with a parent; three programs to teach parents about using apps with children (Raising “App-y” Readers, for parents of pre-readers, and Raising “App-y” Learners, for parents of elementary school students); and collaborated on nine themed app-advisory lists (available on our apps page)!

Storytime 2.0 has continued to be a popular program. We have developed a core group of regulars, as well as new faces who join us each time.  The majority of the participants tend to be 3 years old, but we do get some older and younger children as well.
From this first year of offering the program, I can offer the following advice and suggestions:

  • Use the device for more than book apps!  While we have enjoyed many book apps projected on the big screen (favorites have included: Barnyard Dance, Do you know which ones will grow?, Go Away, Big Green Monster, The Monster at the End of This Book, and Piccadilly’s Circus), iPads and other tablets are such versatile devices that it is great to use them for things that simply don’t translate to paper.  My favorite thing to do is showcase non-book apps that create a participatory storytime environment.  Each storytime session I use at least one app where the kids get to decide how to manipulate the game or activity.  Based on my theme for that day, I have used: Mini-U: The Kitchen (the product sorter activity), Feed the Animals, Toca Kitchen and Toca Kitchen Monsters, and, perhaps the most versatile, Animal Sounds.  I have used this app within rhymes, in games, or simply having the children go around and name what animal they want to hear.  These games and activities are a high point of my programs.  Yes, I use the iPad to enhance the program in other ways, projecting song lyrics, doing felt board rhymes, and reading one or two book apps per session, but I think that these activities are the most unique aspect of the storytime.
  • Speaking of felt boards, I learned early on that the felt board apps (Felt Board and Mother Goose on the Loose) are much more fun and effective when you move the pieces within the app while doing the song or rhyme.  You can capture still images and use them as a slideshow, but manipulating the pieces as you go is a much more interactive experience.
  • After the storytime I handed out a list of the apps (and books) I used during that particular storytime.  I also added to this list related apps that can be used at home.  That way when I had a great app that related to the theme, but couldn’t figure out any way to use it in storytime, I still got to recommend it for home use to the parents and caregivers.
  • Kids still love the hands-on stuff!  During one of storytimes I handed out felt food pieces and read the book Lunch by Denise Fleming with a mouse puppet, letting each child come up and “feed” their food to the puppet. They thought it was hilarious!  Several children mentioned to their parents that it was their favorite part of the program.  So when planning, don’t forget that the storytime should be a nice blend of on-screen and non-screen.

We will continue on with our three-pronged approach (app advisory lists, parent-education, and storytimes) in the fall, as well as hopefully rolling out wall-mounted iPads in the children’s room.

Clara Hendricks is a Children’s Librarian at the Wellesley Free Library in Wellesley, MA.
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Children’s Technology Review YouTube Channel & More

I subscribe to Children’s Technology Review, which is run by our friend Warren Buckleitner. As part of that subscription, I get a weekly email with reviews and industry news about, well, children & technology. Last week’s newsletter featured Warren’s video review of Astropolo, which one of our librarians, Carissa Christner, has tried out in her library. Check out Carisa’s mention of it in the LittleeLit Google group.

Also check out the rest of the CTR YouTube page for all kinds of videos, reviews and product demonstrations.

Note: Warren’s review comes complete with “bad singing”! Yay! we love bad singing! All singing is welcome and encouraged!)


Thinking About iPads from a Parent’s Perspective, by AnnMarie Hurtado

Much has been said already about the impact that iPads are going to have on the way twenty-first-century children will approach education. Tablets aren’t just going to change the materials children use to learn, but also the ways in which children approach learning. Studies are already surfacing that suggest ebooks may have a detrimental impact on children’s reading comprehension skills. This is worrisome enough, but up until recently I hadn’t seen a lot of discussion about the potential impacts on a child’s development of creativity and imagination.

Then via the LittleeLit Think Tank, I came across an article written by Olof Schybergson entitled “The Generation Raised on Touchscreens Will Forever Alter Tech Design.” The article itself doesn’t offer much food for thought, unless your business is in tech or product marketing. But if you’re interested in the potential impacts of iPads on children’s cognitive and creative development, read the comments.

There was a particularly intelligent comment signed by a psychologist/teacher named “Teacher Tyler”—I urge you to read the entire comment here:

“[W]hat I’ve seen is that there is a MAJOR difference in children who have been put in front of a screen at early ages… [K]ids are being entertained by their ipads/tablets/screens verses creating the environment using their imagination around them… thus leading to an era where kids want the environment to stimulate them, instead of the child making their environment stimulating. This is huge. I’ve seen…countless children go from sociable to sitting in chairs looking for things in their environment to entertain them. I’ve yet to completely understand how this cohort develops into emerging-adulthood, give me 9 more years, but I feel that its going to be limited because of a lack of imagination due to a screen environment.”

When I read Tyler’s comment—especially the part about children being limited by a lack of imagination because of their screen media usage—I felt frightened, and a little conflicted.  I am a librarian starting monthly appvisory programs at my library, and I am also a parent of a four-year-old who has been using iPads since the age of two. I have always read books to her and have always done a lot of play, singing and interaction with her. When she uses the iPad, I frequently use it with her. We love apps like “Presto” and “Puppet Pals,” and we make up funny stories and watch the apps transform our voices or our pictures into hilarious sounds and images.

Although I believe I’m using the tablet in the best possible way with my daughter, I have to confess I sometimes have misgivings about even letting her play with iPads.

It’s true she becomes less social after she’s spent some time playing alone with one. (No, I am not always interacting with her every single time. Sometimes she does use the iPad alone, because I am human and I still need to wash dishes or cook dinner every now and then.) Occasionally, she has sudden outbursts of hyperactivity or tantrums after having spent time with the iPad. She even went through an aggravating phase of thinking books were “boring” because there were no exciting sounds or video clips embedded in them. Sometimes, as punishment for bad behavior, I take the iPad away for a few days. I’m usually glad for that break, because her behavior is noticeably better and she’s more social and engaged.

In general, I think my daughter is turning out to be a smart and imaginative kid. But I’m still worried that screen media might stunt her creative growth. That’s scary for a parent. Everybody wants their children to have the best possible foundation for life, and hearing that screen media may limit their children’s development (even if it’s still by no means proven) is more than enough to give a parent pause.

If I didn’t have enough Mommy guilt to deal with, there’s my professional involvement in this trend of iPad use in libraries. Sometimes I worry about my role in promoting that among kids, and wonder if I’m on the “right side of history.” But then I remind myself that there’s no going back. Doing appvisory in the library is becoming as necessary as any other kind of media curation or reader’s advisory service.  Tablets and smartphones are here to stay.

However, I feel a strong pull to tell parents, “Before you download another app, make sure your kids are also running around your backyard, reading books, and drawing pictures with pen and paper. Make sure they’re interacting with the REAL WORLD and bringing stories to life with their own minds.”

For now, I will continue to play with my daughter and give her experiences that will develop her imagination. And I’ll look out for Teacher Tyler’s master’s thesis. As both a parent and a librarian, I’m anxious to see what his research will uncover.

AnnMarie Hurtado is a youth services librarian with Pasadena Public Library.
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Happy Travels by Jack: A Review, by Awnali Mills

Happy Travels by JackHappy Travels by Jack is an app designed by (wait for it…) a five year old! Helped on the technical end by his mom and dad, Jack has created an adventure game where the player completes “chapters” in the game to get to the next chapter. According to this article, “The artwork and imagery in the game are entirely of Jack’s own design, which he creates using pencils and Crayola® crayons. Everything from the backgrounds to the vehicles to the enemies are dreamed up and drawn by Jack. Mommy then scans the illustrations and Daddy codes them to come to life exactly as Jack envisions them.” The game is a great example of family engagement and cooperation.

After several introductory screens, and links to books available for purchase, the player can finally begin the game. Using a finger to control a boat, the player must avoid treasure stealing jellyfish and capture the treasure chests. Once the player has collected 10 each of two kinds of treasure, the next chapter is opened.

I’m not a five year old. I get that. But I found the first “chapter” to take quite a while to play and was getting irritated and tired of it by the time I earned enough treasure to get to the second chapter. Imagine my dismay when the second chapter was more of the first, but with swarms of chewing fish that eat holes in boats instead of jellyfish that just steal my treasure. I ran my boat into the fish just to make it stop. Unless you successfully complete the second chapter, you can’t go on to the others, and frankly, I don’t want to know what happens next badly enough to endure chapter two.

This was obviously a money making endeavor for Jack and his folks, which is a wonderful thing. But I found the number of in-app purchases to be off-putting. I doubt I would put it in the hands of a child for that reason alone (I REALLY dislike in-app purchases, but that’s just me).

I liked that Jack did the artwork himself, and I liked the bit of story that we were given. I would have liked to have seen more story, but we might have to wait until Jack is, I don’t know, six? It was a fantastic first effort, and could be used as inspiration to other children to show them what children can do.

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Finger Works Pro: Amazing in Storytime, by Awnali Mills

It can be difficult to find great activities to do for a Fourth of July storytime, but Finger Works Pro: Amazing was a perfect find for me. I managed to download it when it was free and have enjoyed playing with it ever since, vowing that I would somehow find a way to work it into storytime even though it has no apparent literary value.

Purple two fingers Red following

I could do this!

Then, I was looking for activities to incorporate into my Fourth of July storytime, and remembered this app. It was perfect for a play time activity, and very “fireworkish”. The app is simple. Soft music plays while tiny points of light with little tails roam across the screen, much like a large school of fish. Ah, but when you touch the screen, those lights begin to follow the movement of your fingers, or respond to stationary touch by creating beautiful fireworks-like formations, while the lights gradually change colors. I could literally sit for hours playing with this.

yellow three fingers Purple one finger

Many of my storytime kids don’t have a lot of access to technology, so this was a great introductory app to help them figure out that they could touch the screen and that it would respond to them. The kids were anxious to get their hands on it. I held the iPad and directed the kids to take turns. Up to two kids could touch it at a time, and it was neat to see the interactions created on the app by the different touches.

Green following Red three fingers

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

An AWE Alternative, by Elaine Betting

The patrons loved our AWE computers. Staff, not so much.

First, there was the cost. We paid a lot of money to AWE for a lot of software we didn’t even want. Of the 30-40 games installed on each computer, only about 10 were ever used regularly. And some of those that were used weren’t really great programs. There was “The Cat in the Hat” that made you get through the ENTIRE book backwards or forwards in order to exit the program and start a new game. There was the anatomy game “My Amazing Human Body” that seemed to crash into a black and white pixilated screen whenever a kid used it for more than ten minutes. We wanted to pick our own games for kids to play that were age-appropriate and held up to the heavy usage these computers were receiving.

Another problem was system maintenance. You pay a hefty fee every few years for AWE to service your machines when our IT staff could be doing this in-house if the computers weren’t on lockdown. If this only happened once in a while, it wouldn’t be such a problem. But it seemed like we were sending computers across our system back to AWE constantly, and at one point the Main Library (where the machines were the oldest and most prone to problems) had two of its four AWE computers off to be repaired at once, with one further computer just barely running and in need of a tune-up.

AWE assured us that when we upgraded to the newest version of their product, all of our problems would be fixed. However, we had gotten newer versions of their product before as we added computers at different locations, and we weren’t sold on the idea that “new” meant “better.” We were no longer able to only get a “software only” package and use our own computers to run the software. We would now be required to purchase hardware from AWE as well, and that was a daunting cost with the ongoing maintenance fees we would have to pay as long as we continued to use the product.

Hatch1Around the time we were contemplating how to pay for the new AWE systems, the Adult Services manager came back from PLA with a brochure from a company called HATCH. They were mostly school-based, but looking to break into the library market. They were offering an all-in-one touch screen computer (AWE was not offering this at the time), which appealed to me because we had experienced theft and vandalism of our keyboards and other peripheral equipment at the Main Library. Their school-based product that we modified can be found here. Also, the HATCH computers allowed you to load your own games and do in-house modifications. Plus, no continuing fees! Once you buy it, they will provide support for as long as you own the units.

We bought one HATCH computer, stripped a lot of the school settings out, and installed some of our own games. Our technology staff did some fiddling to get the computer working the way we wanted, and we were off and running! That first computer worked so well that we decided to buy HATCH computers for all of our branches, including the locations that had never had AWE computers installed.

Hatch2For the most part, our HATCH experience has been great. It was a little bumpy at first as HATCH representatives learned how different the public library market was from the school market, but the support staff at the company has been really wonderful in helping us figure out what we could do with their product to make it work in our locations. We like that we can have different computer games at different locations. For instance, a game in Spanish is great for our South Lorain branch, but wouldn’t be used at our rural Columbia Branch location. And while we still occasionally have computers crash and we have to reboot, it isn’t nearly as often as the AWE issues, and if it is a particular game that is causing problems we can just delete that one. There is no more sending the computer out to be serviced because our Tech staff can just head out to the branch and troubleshoot the problem there.

We’re still learning how these computers can do more for us, and we’re hoping that HATCH will develop a model specifically for public libraries so we wouldn’t have to take so many of their cool school features off the table. Even more, I hope that more companies will take an interest in the public library computer market and develop more options for us to choose from.

Elaine Betting is Youth Services and Outreach Librarian Supervisor with the Lorain Public Library System.
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Creative Digital Literacy in Public Libraries by Sylvia Cecilia M. Aguiñaga

Many thanks to Sylvia Cecilia M. Aguiñaga for sharing her paper, Creative Digital Literacy in Public Libraries, which was part of her graduate work at San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science.


“Literacy has always been a core tenet of a successful society” (Leatham, Rich,& Wright, 2007, p. 5). The notion of literacy as a “core tenet” of society remains true. What has transformed is the very definition of literacy along with the society it benefits. This paper explores literacy and its adaptation to the digital age. Given that we have accepted the need to define and promote digital literacy, developing creative digital literacy—coding, media production, computational thinking—is a crucial step forward. Studies on Scratch, a coding language for children, and other practical applications of computational thinking, act as a platform for discussing creative digital literacy skills and theory. This paper emphasizes the need for public librarians to effectively cultivate 21st century learners by implementing a new creative digital literacy framework.

Read the full paper here.

Digital Fun in the Library Doodlecast by @chapterpaigeone

This is an oldie but a goodie, and Paige says another one’s on the way soon!

Whet Your APPetite: Creation Apps

Many thanks to Claire Moore for sharing her slides from our Whet Your Appetite Session at ALA in Vegas a few weeks ago. Next week I get to go visit with her in New York City, too! YAY!

Interested in Apps, iPads, eBooks and Other New Media with Young Kids?

If yes, we would love it if you would join the conversation. We have a Google group that serves as the LittleeLit Think Tank (it functions like a listserv so you can interact with it via email, but also an online collaboration tool) where participants post new research, app suggestions, ask logistics questions, or share cool new things they’re tried in their libraries.

We’d love to have you join the conversation! You don’t need to be an expert, and you can even lurk for a bit before sharing or asking anything. We are entirely crowd-sourced and grass-roots, and we believe that everyone has something to share on this topic. Please join us! We want to hear what you’re up to, and if you have a question, there are lots of folks who might be able to answer it.

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