April Tinker Meeting Recap, by Liz Fraser

April Tinker meeting photoThe Chicago area is lucky to have the fabulous Tinker Group, a group for “library folks who work with kids, teens, and technology.” Every other month, about 40 people gather to learn about technology programs and ideas from other librarians. It’s a great way to hear about new ideas and talk with others who have tried different and interesting programs. Each meeting usually focuses on a couple topics; there’s a brief introduction and then time for hands-on exploration. This month the topics were Scratch and Makey Makeys.

Janet from the Wilmette Public Library talked about the Scratch programs she has been doing for five years(!). Scratch is a free programming language for beginners that can be used to create stories, games, artwork, and more. There’s a great video on the Scratch website that gives an overview of what it can be used to do.

At Wilmette, 5th-8th graders come for 2-hour programs (unless it’s a more complicated project; then they’ll do multiple sessions). Everyone starts on the same project together, but they are open-ended so once kids have the hang of it they can continue tinkering and make it their own. They’ve had kids create a labyrinth (related to the Percy Jackson books), make a cheese touch game (for the Wimpy Kid books), make Mad Libs, and more. You can see some of their past projects here. They’ve also done open studio time where kids work on their own projects and help one another.

A few more notes from Janet on doing a Scratch program at your library:

  • You can use Scratch on PCs or Macs and it can be used in a browser or downloaded to your computer.
  • The Scratch website has a great Help page with a getting started guide, beginning project ideas and video tutorials.
  • To save projects, you need an account. Sometimes the kids have their own accounts, but it’s a good idea to create a library account that kids can use to upload their projects.

Renee from the Evanston Public Library then presented on Makey Makeys. They are microcontrollers that you can use in endless ways—be sure to watch the video on their website to see some fun things you can do with them. The most basic way to use one is as a game controller; when you plug it into a computer it recognizes it as a keyboard and you can control the up, down, left, right, and space bar keys. Renee went over the basics of how to get a Makey Makey up and running as a controller and then everyone experimented with different ways to use it. A fun thing about Makey Makey is that it can be used with Scratch; kids can create a game and then use the Makey Makey to control it, or use their Makey Makeys with projects other kids have uploaded. I’ve actually done programs with Makey Makeys and they are a lot of fun!

Liz Fraser is Children’s Librarian/Technology Coordinator at the Ela Area 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.

Encouraging Parent & Caregiver Participation During Storytime Using Keynote at La Grange Public Library, by Rachael Dabkey

The staff at La Grange Public Library have had several meetings about ways to encourage parent and caregiver participation during our storytimes. Currently, we offer ten storytimes per week for ages ranging from six months to six years. At the start of every storytime session, we go over our expectations for storytimes where we tell the parents and caregivers that we would like them to participate with us. We have also tried handouts, but they were distracting. How could we expect parents to do the actions to the songs and fingerplays when they were holding a piece of paper? Additionally, we tried printing the words to our songs and fingerplays on ledger paper and displaying them on our easel, but little hands often pulled them down and they took up quite a bit of storage space. Last spring, we were fortunate enough to purchase an iPad for staff to use in our department. That’s when I began experimenting with ways to encourage parent and caregiver participation through digitally displaying the words to the songs and fingerplays that I use during my storytimes.

Finding the Right App

In my search for an app that allowed me to digitally present the words to the songs and fingerplays I was going to share in my storytimes, I wanted to be able to:

  • Access the presentation offline since the wireless internet in our building can be spotty at times.
  • Have the ability to import my PowerPoint presentations into the app so that I could easily edit my slides based on the material I was presenting in storytime each week.

I downloaded the Keynote app after one of my coworkers recommended it. With Keynote you can import your slides via Google Drive. I edit my slides using PowerPoint, then upload my PowerPoint presentation to Google Drive. Both of those are done on the computer. Using the Google Drive app on the iPad, I am given the option of importing my slides into Keynote. Very quick and simple process!

Keynote’s Effectiveness

LGPL storytimeIt works! I am always seeing parents and caregivers looking on our screen and singing along with me. The biggest improvement has been in my lapsit storytime. The parents’ and caregivers’ hands are free to bounce, tickle, and play with the babies, allowing for full participation. I keep the iPad next to me on the floor and I can easily swipe the screen to move on to the next song.

Using Keynote also allows me to stay on track during my storytimes. A big improvement to my post-it notes! Keynote’s ease of use has allowed me to use the iPad in other programs as well. I have used it during my book discussion programs and during our Every Child Ready to Read workshops.

Future Goals

We are currently looking into wireless options for using the iPad in the activity room where our storytimes are held since the iPad has to be attached to our wall panel and this setup doesn’t allow me to move freely through the room. I’d also like to use Keynote for storytelling or to display pictures to introduce the children to our storytime topic/theme. I’d also like to include early literacy tips on the slides in such a way that it is beneficial to the parents but doesn’t take away from them being able to sing along with me.


  • Keynote can be purchased for $9.99 through the iTunes store. It is currently available on iOS devices only.
  • The Google Drive app is available for free in the iTunes store.


Rachael Dabkey is a Youth Services Associate at La Grange Public Library in La Grange, IL. You can find her on Twitter @rachaeldab, visit her blog at rachaeldabkey.wordpress.com, or send her an email at dabkeyr@lagrangelibrary.org.
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.

Fred Rogers Center Early Career Fellows (ECF) Program LittleeLit Entries

I am very, very pleased to share that two LittleeLit contributors, Claudia Haines and Megan Egbert, have submitted applications to participate in the Fred Rogers Center Early Career Fellows (ECF) Program. I am so very proud to be associated with these innovative and passionate individuals, and urge everyone to send them successful vibes. It is of utmost importance that children’s librarians participate in these kind of boundary-pushing professional development activities, and that we loudly broadcast our expertise in the areas of content evaluation, curation, storytelling, early learning & literacy beyond the walls of libraryland.

Best of luck, Claudia & Megan. If your projects don’t make it into this program, we’ll work to make them a reality some other way. LittleeLit’s got your back.

Keep the big ideas coming, colleagues. It’s a brave new world out there, and we have a huge opportunity to positively impact the way we remember ourselves to our children.

Update: Claudia & Megan’s entry videos are coming back soon; after winners have been announced.


Goose 2.0 with the IslandLink Library Federation in Victoria, BC (HOME!)

I was thrilled to present a Goose 2.0 workshop with Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen in Victoria, BC (which is my heart’s true home). Here are the techy slides from the presentation, and below is the full presentation.


I’ve also made a list of apps mentioned, both in the workshop itself and as a part of our felt board brainstorm:

Annoying Fly 
Felt Board 
Hairy McClary from Donaldson’s Dairy
Mother Goose on the Loose App
Toca Store


Digi-tots Playtime, by Stephen Tafoya

In 2010, when I worked as a Reading and Comprehension Consultant, and the year the iPad launched, I immediately got excited at the potential for iPad usage in education. Of course now it’s become a mainstay in the classroom. When I started working in libraries in 2012, my gears started to crank again with potential ideas for program use.

Last summer I got to partner with a few of our children’s librarians to test out some apps in teen programming and storytime and discuss how to use iPads and apps in the most effective ways. It was well received but progressed a bit slower than I’d hoped (as some of you may have seen at your libraries). Getting people on board and excited can be a task in and of itself, in addition to just figuring out how to make it work. But once you get the ball rolling, it can be contagious and hard to stop.

R Digi-tots Handout Apr14

So earlier this year, I started brainstorming with Amy Wright, Rifle’s Children’s Librarian, about how we could use iPads with the kids. Amy started to implement the digital piece in her core storytime while we planned to launch an all digital specialty program called Digi-tots Playtime.

We’ve been through 2 Digi-tots sessions now, held the First Tuesday of each month, and so far we feel we have a solid program. The challenge is getting people who would want this program to come on a different day that is outside of anything they else they attend regularly at the library. The feedback from those who attended has been great. It’s amazing to see how much families know and do not know about mobile devices and apps.

About the program: we have structured Digi-tots Playtime similar to storytime since it is something the kids are already familiar with. We have an opening song, a story app, an APP-tivity, a second story and one final APP-tivity before free play. The goal is to let the children with their caregivers have the iPads in hand so that they can explore the app along with the group. This had mixed results the first time we did it, especially with stories. Once the kids figured out how to turn the page, some of them were 2-3 pages ahead of the group and no longer attached to the group activity. This brought to awareness that we need a “best practice” for when the iPads are in their hands. Basically, some fun rules that engage the caregiver to encourage the child to keep “hands up” when Miss Amy is reading, and to touch the app when she says it’s okay. We haven’t had a chance to implement this thinking yet, but we shall see for next time.

I think one of the best parts of Digi-tots Playtime is the APP-tivities. Basically, it’s taking an early literacy app and turning it into an engaging group game that gets the kids Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, Playing (and Laughing… I really think that should be a sixth practice :) )

Some examples of APP-tivities we’ve done:

1. Endless Alphabet – Having the kids talk and tell the answer to what letter comes next in the jumbled word, and to play and make silly faces and the sounds of the letter. When we did the word “exercise,” we also played by exercising at the end of the word.

2. colAR Mix – Letting the kids write and color on the page and watch their faces light up as their creation came to life on the little screen (ie. iPad Mini). This app is a great introduction for families to STEM-based learning.

3. Wheels on the Bus Band – We played the song on the big screen and sang, and the kids had access to the iPad and app and can use any of the numerous built-in instruments to play and jam along. One thing to note: because that app interface is very busy, the children could feel overwhelmed by all the colors and activities. We talked about maybe having other singular instrument apps loaded, like the bongo apps, and also having things like egg shakers and other real instruments available in case the child wants to use something else.

At the end, the kids are free to go play with toys or play on the iPads with any of the apps we have loaded. We make ourselves available to answer questions that caregivers might have and to engage the children in play. The whole thing, with freetime at the end, goes for about 45 minutes, which is a good amount of time for this type of program.

We are excited for next month and will be working on bringing new families in to try it out and hopefully help them better navigate this digital world they are in.

Stephen Tafoya works as a Technology Trainer for a library district, and he partners with Youth Services Coordinators to engage kids and teens with technology in library programming.
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.

LittleeLit at ALA Annual in Vegas!

It looks like we’ll be participating in at least 4 different sessions at ALA Annual in Vegas! Here’s what we know so far:

The Apps are all Right
Cen Campbell, Barbara Klipper, Carisa Kluver & Tess Prendergast
Saturday, June 28 at 8:30 am – 10:00am.

Designed as a primer for children’s and teen librarians, this session offers a dynamic overview of the place of the app as a new format within our profession. Four panelists will provide relevant research and examples from practice with diverse populations of children and teens. Participants will also be invited to
explore the continuously evolving rationale for strengthening the role of the children’s and teen librarian in app recommendation for the communities we serve.

ECRR 2.0: Using Apps and eBooks in Early Literacy Programs
PLA Sponsored Session: Phyllis Bontrager, Cen Campbell, Chip Donohue, Carisa Kluver, Claire Moore & Naomi Smith
Saturday, June 28 at 1:00 to 2:30

Parents and librarians want to know how to safely integrate apps and eBooks into their lives without feeling guilty. A panel of practitioners will explore: the current research on the effects of digital media on children, how to model healthy media behavior, when apps are useful, and how they can be incorporated into collections and programming.

Whet Your APPetite: Rapid Reviews of Apps for Children from Preschool to Tweens
ALSC Hot Topic: Paige Bentley-Flannery, Cen Campbell, Amy Graves, Marianne Martens, Claire Moore & Allison Santos
Sunday June 29 1-2:30 PM

Are you ready to start using apps in your library programs and services? Already using apps but want to try something different? Looking for new recommendations for caregivers and children? Come to our showcase of new and favorite apps selected by ALSC’s Children and Technology Committee and Digital Content Task Force. The recommendations will be paired with concrete ideas for how to use these apps with children in your library.

Dynamic Digital Dia: Promoting Cultural Competence in Digital Storytimes
Cen Campbell, Jamie Naidoo & Karen Nemeth
Sunday June 29 3-4 PM

For almost 20 years, librarians have used Día to celebrate literacy and cultural and linguistic diversity. By getting digital with Día, librarians can provide broader access to culturally responsive materials, connect digital natives with global children’s literature, and provide interactive programs promoting cultural and digital literacies. Navigating the fluctuating landscape of digital media, this dynamic session provides selection criteria and suggestions for using apps and digital books to promote cultural competence in children’s library programs.


iKids: Adding Tablets & Apps to Your Programs for Young Children, by Lisa Mulvenna

Last week I was invited to speak at the Michigan Library Association’s Spring Institute on the topic of using apps in storytime. This was a great chance to share what I have been doing in my programs for the past 1 ½ years with 75 or so Michigan librarians.

In addition to discussing research and reviews to help librarians find their own apps, I showed off some of my favorites for storytime. For those who were already app savvy, I showed off ideas for taking apps to the next level, including an all app-based storytime (see my Farm Fun program plan here) and app recommendations for your library’s web site. My session handout is linked here.

Based on the feedback that I got, the librarians who attended came out with a lot of good information. In addition, a few librarians stayed afterwards and we had an additional discussion on apps to use at the reference desk, which sounds like another presentation topic!

Lisa Mulvenna is the Head of Youth Services for the Clinton-Macomb Public Library and one of the three co-founders of MiKidLib. You can also find her blogging at http://www.lisaslibraryland.blogspot.com or on Twitter at @lmulvenna.
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.

MakerSpaces: A Webinar and Book with Little eLit-ers Cindy Wall and Lynn Pawloski

The Little eLit community now includes 200+ library staffers and other professionals across North America. It should come as no surprise that these passionate librarians are involved in many youth services initiatives in addition to the usual young children and new media focus of Little eLit. Today’s post, by Cindy Wall and Lynn Pawloski, highlights some of the pair’s work with makerspaces, another library service concept getting a lot of traction. ~Amy

Sometimes Libraryland hands you lemons and all you can do is make lemonade. If your library is too crowded to accommodate a dedicated MakerSpace like ours, don’t give up. Create your own mix of Maker lemonade with library Maker programming.

At the April 2013 Connecticut Library Association Annual Conference, we delivered a presentation on iPad programming for children that inspired many questions and much enthusiasm from the audience. On the same day, we attended a terrific presentation by Bill Derry and his colleagues at the Westport Public Library on MakerSpaces which, in turn, inspired our own questions and enthusiasm. However, when we returned to the reality of our own library, we were told our library was too small to house a dedicated MakerSpace.

What were we to do with all of this unbridled Maker enthusiasm? We decided that even if we couldn’t have a MakerSpace, we could have Maker programming. We started with programming for older children and worked our way through the ages until we offered Maker programming for ages 1-12.

While we were brainstorming Maker program ideas, we were still being contacted and visited by librarians interested in iPad programming. We wondered if we might receive the same amount of interest in our ideas for Maker programs as we did from our iPad programming presentation. Then we thought, “What if we wrote a book about Maker programming?” We laughed at the outrageousness of the suggestion, but researched publishers anyway. Sure enough, we found one who was interested in our proposal.

ABC-CLIO is currently editing our book, The Maker Cookbook: Recipes for Children’s and ‘Tween Library Programs. We’ll be previewing a selection of ideas from the book in the ALSC webinar, Maker Programming For Kids: No MakerSpace Required, on Wednesday, April 9th from 7:00-8:00 p.m. ET or Thursday, April 24th from 2:00-3:00 p.m. ET. Some of the programs we’ll discuss include:

  • Balloon Zip Line
  • Stop Motion Film
  • Food Detectives
  • Maker Open House for Preschoolers
  • T-shirt Transfers

Maker programming is a great way to add diversity to your library’s offerings. There is something for everyone, regardless of budget, staff size or technology comfort level. So, go ahead, mix it up. Like real lemonade, your Maker programming will be refreshing and a sweet success!

Cindy and Lynn work together in the Children’s Department at Southington Library and Museum in Southington, CT. They have dedicated their year to creating Maker programming and have recently taken to the podium to spread the word about the joys of integrating Maker programming into programming for children of all ages. Cindy and Lynn are co-authors of the forthcoming book The Maker Cookbook: Recipes for Children’s and ‘Tween Library Programs.
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.

A First-Time Digital Storytime Experience, by Allison Tran

The first time I saw digital storytime in action, I was amazed to see how effectively we can engage an audience with a book app. I realized that the presentation style and level of audience involvement isn’t necessarily any different from “traditional” storytime– it’s just that the book is so much more visible. Watching an expert share a book app was like a lightbulb going off in my head, and the first time I actually got to try it myself was most definitely another lightbulb experience. But I’m not going to lie: it was also AWKWARD.

Despite the fact that I’ve done storytime with print books for seven years, despite the fact that I’m comfortable in front of a crowd, despite the fact that I’m a regular iPad user—wow, attempting to manipulate the iPad while referring to the screen while interacting with the audience was more challenging than I expected.

The video in this post shows me sharing the book app of Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton in a digital literacy training, and it’s basically a cold reading. I’m familiar with the print version of this book, but I’d only seen the app version once, very briefly. And suddenly I was volunteering to get up in front of my colleagues and present it as if I had any idea what I was doing.

So, what did I take away from this first attempt? Learning to use apps in storytime is a process—one that takes practice and thoughtful preparation. The actual experience was exhilarating, slightly disorienting, and fun. There were moments where I felt like, “Oh! Okay, I’ve got this!” and other moments where I felt like, “What am I doing up here? Where should I swipe? Where should I look?” There’s a lot to think about: managing the device, referencing the screen, interacting with the audience—and, of course, remembering to smile! More than anything, I felt like this skill could only get better with practice, so I kind of wanted to try again immediately after finishing the story.

Even though I cringe seeing myself on video, I think this video will be essential in my journey to becoming adept with this new format. Watching it, I see that I’m not quite as awkward as I felt, but there are definitely aspects of my performance I can work on. Here’s my personal critique:

Needs improvement
* I need to work on getting my head out of the device and making more eye contact with the audience.
* I would definitely be more familiar with the app I’m sharing before presenting it in a real storytime. I would practice enough to know exactly where on the screen to swipe to turn the pages, and would test out all of the app’s interactivity to have a solid idea of which bells and whistles I want to share and which ones I want to skip.

Right on!
* I used the app’s background music to emphasize the fun you can have with rhythm and pacing.
* I got the audience involved.
* I created a teaching moment when I accidentally prompted the narrator to say a vocab word–I didn’t mean to pull it up, but I explained to the audience what had happened and moved on.
* There were a few pages where the interactivity I expected simply didn’t happen. User error? Probably. But rather than fuss with it, I just kept going. Hopefully nobody was the wiser!

Let me admit something to you about myself: I’m a perfectionist. The idea of sharing with the world something less than completely put-together is scary to me. This video of my first attempt at digital storytime is–well, it’s not a shining example of best practices. It’s a glimmer. It’s a hope. So, I sincerely hope that I can share with you another video in a few months that shows me more confident, more practiced, more polished.

Do you use ebooks or apps in your storytimes? How did you feel the first time you tried it? What helped you build confidence?

Allison Tran, Mission Viejo 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.

Press Here: First Session of Tablet Time, by Angela Reynolds

photoHere’s a recap of my first session (of four) of Tablet Time. Attending were 3 children and 2 parents. Because I only have 6 iPads, I have limited the registration to 6 kids, so half-full isn’t bad for this rural library. I started by reading a few books. The “featured” book was Press Here by Herve Tullet. Kids love this book—it is so interactive, they love seeing the “magic” that happens. My only caution–when the book asks readers to blow on the dots, hold that book up and away from you, because little kids do not know how to blow without spitting.

dotsOur next activity was dot alphabet matching. I created a page of the alphabet—upper and lower case (see picture). Each child got a sheet of dots. We wrote their names, one letter per dot, and they got to search for the letter on the sheet. Then they pressed the dot over the letter. They wanted to do more than just their names, and I gave parents extra pages of letters and sheets of dots to do the activity at home. We tried another activity, which was to write their names on paper and put tiny dots along the letters, but this was too hard for the youngest ones and not as exciting as looking for letters.

Next up, the app Press Here. One thing I love about this app is that there are really no instructions. You just figure it out, and play. There are 15 different games, all involving dots. There’s a fireworks game which involves making, well, fireworks. There’s a music game, a sports game for 2 players called “Inside Goal,” a memory game, and more. I asked the parents to spend some time with their kids testing out this app, talking to them and working together. After they spent about 10 minutes with that app, they had free-play time. The kids did enjoy this app—though the youngest of them (3 years old) enjoyed it more. She played with it for quite a while, and I heard some good parent-child interaction going on.

One of the moms was looking for good apps for her son who is in speech therapy. He really enjoyed Alphabet Car and was even able to unlock a new level in the game–he was really enjoying saying the letter aloud when he ran it over with his bus.


The kids really enjoyed each having their own iPads, which is why I think I will keep this program small. When I tried this program before, we had 6 iPads for 20 people, and while they were really good about sharing, they much preferred this format of being able to really spend some time with the apps.

Angela Reynolds
Head of Youth Services
Annapolis Valley Regional 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.

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