For my first foray into digitally enhanced storytime, I chose to read the app, “Tacky and the Winter Games” by Oceanhouse Media, during our Olympic-themed Pajama Storytime. This required surmounting some technical issues with the iPad and our projector; it turned out I needed a Lightning to VGA adapter to connect with my 4th generation iPad. And because we do not have a projection screen, I improvised and projected onto our banana-yellow wall. You know, with the lights out, I really didn’t even notice a color difference. The hardest part of setting up was positioning our gigantic media cart, which the projector is bolted onto, and then positioning myself in a good spot so people could see both me and the wall.
Once I got going, I had so much fun reading this way. I felt like the kids and parents were more engaged, especially the parents who were able to read along with me. The book itself is very funny and creates a lot of openings for great audience participation. There was lots of laughter; I felt like a rock star. Because I was standing up, as opposed to being in my normal seated position, it felt more like a theater performance than a reading. This only enhanced the energy of the program.
The Tacky app makes very good use of comedic timing, revealing the funny bits not all at once, but with a page slide of the finger. When it came time to sing the Tacky Olympics Anthem, the whole crowd (those that can read) sang along with me because they had been following along, too. The app included a cute little soundtrack and sound effects that played through my Bluetooth speakers and worked really well to propel the story forward: the sound of the starting gun popping, the sound of Tacky’s fish skis flopping in the snow. Afterwards, I turned on the lights and sat on my regular storytime cushion in the front of the room. I asked the crowd of about 35 kids and 25 adults if they enjoyed it. Applause. I asked the parents specifically if they enjoyed it, and they said “they loved it!”
In planning the program, I felt that I should balance out the digital portion of our program with lots of movement and activity. Because it’s the middle of a long winter in the Rockies, I had been noticing the kids’ and parents’ need for a little more activity and a little less listening. After Tacky was over, we did a short movement song and then moved right into the Olympics portion of our program. I had five events set up along the length of our Children’s section: ring toss, ball toss, high jump, pom pom hockey, and the tunnel. I had two crafts prepared: a pipe cleaner snowboarder (or skier) and a gold or silver medal necklace made with Fruit Loops. I also supplied popcorn in Dixie cups that almost resembled tiny Olympic torches. Overall, I would give this program the “Big Winner” medal.Sarah Kostin is the Head Youth Services Librarian at the Bud Werner Memorial Library in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Not one to sit still for very long, she is always looking for new ways to spice up programs or invent new ones. She is super excited about being a member of Little eLit, swapping ideas and exploring all of the new ways that digital media can be incorporated into library programming.
Amy Wright, our Children’s Librarian here at the Rifle Branch Library, implemented the Felt Board app (by Software Smoothie) into her “Fly” themed storytime. Amy, who is AWESOME at storytime and working with kids, took to using the app and iPad in a way that made it fun and engaging so that parents and caregivers could really see how technology can be another tool to help build early literacy skills. We even had a good laugh at the little “slip up” that happens part way into the clip, so be sure to watch the whole thing!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.
During my last semester of grad school, I did a project on “Mobile Apps for the Library” and in the course of my research, I discovered an app and online service called A Story Before Bed that allows users to create a video of themselves reading a book. They have hundreds of books in their collection, including both self-published titles and more familiar books available for physical check out in my own library. A Story Before Bed has taken care of all the copyright issues for the titles in their collection. Each recording is assigned a unique URL that doesn’t disappear even after your subscription expires. And they had just created an annual subscription model designed for library use. I couldn’t wait to try it out!
Because their pricing is calculated “per location” it seemed prudent to do a pilot project with only one branch before committing to subscriptions to all 9 of our library’s branches. I took the idea to our Friends of the Library, who like to fund new ventures like this, and they were quite excited by the idea as well and were willing to fund a year’s subscription.
Creating the recordings
Then, it was up to me to start creating the recordings. After experimenting with several different recording set-ups, we determined that the simplest set-up and the best results came from simply using my Apple laptop. A Story Before Bed isn’t equipped to use standard videocamera footage, so no editing is really possible. Each time I was ready to make a few recordings, I found a sunny window to set up near, hung a piece of fabric behind my head to create a neutral backdrop, and started recording! I chose titles based on which books my library owned because I wanted to make a connection between these “virtual” titles and the physical books on our shelves. During each recording session, I usually recorded 3-5 books. Because I wanted to do each one in a single “take” and occasionally something happened halfway through (like my backdrop falling down or an ambulance driving by outside), doing the recordings was more time-consuming than I’d originally thought.
Promoting the service
Once the recordings were complete, I posted them on our library’s website along with a link to finding the physical book in our online catalog. I created posters, bookmarks, and business cards directing people to the page that listed the recordings, along with instructions for how they could listen to the stories on their iPhones or iPads, and how (during our subscription year) patrons of our branch were allowed to create their own recordings for free! I also asked some “local celebrities” to create recordings to add to our website. Inside the front covers of the library books that had A Story Before Bed recordings, we pasted a QR code linking to the recording’s URL.
Results of the pilot project
After our year’s subscription expired, I realized that I had found time to record about 50 books which, after doing the math, wasn’t that much cheaper than buying individual titles would have been. Only a handful of patrons took advantage of the “record your own stories for free” option (perhaps because their recordings were then visible on the library’s A Story Before Bed account and potentially visible to the public?) and I had recorded most of the titles that our library owned, so I decided to end our subscription and switch to the pay-per-title model for now. Many patrons still tell me how much their kids love to watch me reading books to them on their iPad/iPhone/computer, and when I use those same books in library programs now, someone always says, “I have that book on my iPad!” I have also spoken to teachers who like the possibilities that their students who are learning English have a local source for hearing books read by a native speaker and can hear them being read over and over as often as they need to. I have really enjoyed this project and I’m very pleased with the results. Many thanks to A Story Before Bed and the Friends of the Alicia Ashman Library for making this all possible!
P.S. Looking for a more “live” experience? The developers at A Story Before Bed have also created a way to share their same video + book reading experience through Google+ Hangouts! Go try it out for free!!Carissa Christner is a librarian with Madison Public Library.
What is Screen-Free Week, you ask? According to their website, it’s an “international celebration where children, families, schools, and communities spend seven days turning OFF entertainment screen media and turning ON life!” Go with no screen time for a week, you say? With two kids, this seems daunting. While we don’t sit it in front of the TV all day, we do use the iPad for everything from ebooks for both the kids and me, reading games, jigsaw puzzles, and more.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, who organize this event, say that Screen-Free week is more than just trying to go without using a screen for a week. Instead, “it’s to encourage people to try living without screens for a week so that they’ll reconsider the place of electronic entertainment media in their lives and make long- term changes for a healthier, more satisfying life.” In a nutshell, they are attempting to help families build healthier media habits in their lives. Their motivation is the myriad of research that connects screen time to issues like childhood obesity, poor academics, the impact on reading and literacy, and the affect it has on mental health.
Obviously, Screen-Free Week has sparked much discussion amongst the members of the LittleLit Think Tank. Namely, is there a better way to go about this that is more supportive, and encourages a more active role in doing so for the family? One member, Chip Donahue, suggested that shifting the focus from screen-free to screen awareness would be a better approach. He says, “If we want young children and families to be digitally literate, turning off all screens doesn’t make much sense to me. But, putting a positive focus on being more aware of what children (and adults) are doing on screens, as well as how much time they spend with screen media, seems like a great opportunity to put the focus on a healthy media diet and provide resources for parents and families about a family media use plan in the home that takes into account all of the screen exposure children have across all settings during their waking hours.”
An interesting alternative to Screen-Free Week was developed in Canada: Unplug and Play week, by Participaction. The emphasis is the positive message of getting outside and playing for an hour a day, and the healthy benefits in doing so, instead of the negativity of screen time.
Not only does Deborah van der Linde love to read, but she loves to get everyone around her reading, too. She works on-call at her local public library, is working on a masters of education in children’s literature, and is the mother of two small children who love it when she reads to them. She can be reached at email@example.com.
This year was our 4th Annual Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s Birthday. However, this was the FIRST year we incorporated technology (besides that magic stuff that turns our eggs GREEN!).
Before the program started, kids filed into our large meeting room, and OH! Every so often, the children would catch a glimpse of a rascally black and white cat prowling around the hallways and by windows. When all the kids and adults were seated, Amy, our Children’s Librarian, started with a Welcome song and message, and THEN…
THE CAT IN THE HAT came out to greet the children!
(AND got her tail stuck in the door. Luckily Amy was there to be a helper!)
The Cat in the Hat comes each year to read Green Eggs and Ham. And this year, the Cat in the Hat read it from the screen using the Green Eggs and Ham iPad app. This gave EVERYONE a good view of the story from the big screen!
After the story was over, everyone sang a silly song; just enough exercise to build up an appetite FOR:
GREEN EGGS & HAM! (and juice and orange slices)
It was a celebration everyone could sink their teeth into!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.
LittleeLit will be presenting with a panel of dynamic presenters at the ALSC Institute on September 18-20, 2014 in Oakland, CA.
Tech Access on a Budget
Cen Campbell, LittleeLit.com; Suzanne Flint, California State Library; Molly Fraker, Berkeley Public Education Fund; Mary Ann Scheuer, Berkeley Unified School District (CA); Andrea Vernola, Kalamazoo Public Library (MI)
Have you ever wanted to bring new technologies like iPads, podcasting or video editing labs to the children and teens you work with, but felt like you can’t even enter the discussion because funding is so tight? This program uses real life case studies to examine ways similarly situated libraries have brought new technologies to children and teens through different funding opportunities from. You’ll learn about different funding opportunities, how to make an effective case for tech, and most importantly, why young patrons benefit from increased access. Participants will leave with immediately implementable ideas, whether a small scale trial or a large scale grant, for increasing access to high quality media and technology on even the most daunting budget.
Also check out:
I had the opportunity to present at the CATS (Children and Teen Services) Winter Workshop in Colorado at the end of January. The program was called APPles & Androids, and I would like to highlight the points from the workshop for you here.
Before we got into the slides, we did our first APP-tivity. Using Endless Alphabet, I told the participants that I needed their help. “These rascally monsters just came through and messed up all my letters and I need you to help me put the letters back in order to build the word.” By asking choice/contrast questions, I had the participants tell me which letter was first, which one came next (or after) that first letter, and so on. As you may know, when you touch a letter in the game, it makes the letter sound. So, when I touched the letter, I had the participants make that letter sound with me, and told them they could even use their hands to show me what they think the letter sound looks or acts like. Once we put all the letters back in place, we cheered ourselves on a job well done, and then we listened to what the meaning of the word was. I shared with the participants some language I may tell parents. “By asking your child questions about which letters go where and having them repeat the silly sounds, you are helping them build letter and sound knowledge and the order sounds go in to make up a word. You can also have your child play and act out the word meaning to help build their vocabulary!” And that was our first APP-tivity.
Then we started in with the slides. I gave everyone the big picture of tablets in society. From there, we took a look at the different tablets that are available, and ones you may consider buying for programming use. Starting with the Kindle Fire, we discussed the different models, and how having access to Kindle Freetime Unlimited would make this tablet great for a digital literacy station. Going into Android, I highlighted the specialty “kid” tablets and spoke about Android tablets in general. Now that the newer Androids have the ability to create custom profiles this is a huge draw; however, they still don’t have the content that Apple does in their App Store, but they are growing. That led us into Windows 8. Not a whole lot to offer in terms of how we use them in libraries with children. Maybe someday.
From there, it was all about the iPad, the various models, the pluses of all the app content that is available, and how to evaluate apps in the App Store (I live demoed that piece). From there, the discussion led to how iPads can be used in the library with young children, the most common use being implementation in Storytime. I shared other ideas, things I’ve done or seen in other libraries, stuff that other libraries could potentially do. Then we went into the big picture of how and why the Librarian should be the media mentor (SPOILER: it’s so the PARENT in turn becomes the MEDIA MENTOR)
I did another APP-tivity with everyone, using Sago Mini Forest Flyer and how to “think outside the app”. I taught everyone how to make a flying bird friend using their fingers and taught them this song:
I’m a little birdie,
Flapping through the forest,
Looking to see what I can see.
So they flapped along as I moved the bird on the screen and then placed her on one of the animation spots. When the bird started to interact, I would say, “What’s this? Our friend Bernadette (what they named the bird) smashed her face right into the cupcake! How silly, Bernadette! She must really love cupcakes!). Now, we are going to sing our song and fly again with our friend, but this time I want someone else to talk and tell me what Bernadette does.” And we did a few rounds of that.
At the end, I gave them language to tell parents like, “Through talk, singing our song, and play, you are helping your child build Vocabulary and Narrative Skills.”
We concluded our workshop with tips like Know Thy App (when you use it the first time, after each app update, to the point where you could do it in your sleep), Extra Tech Prep Time and Have a Backup Plan WHEN (not if) the tech does fail. And toIntegrate Naturally as it relates to their specific community (ie. slowly build it into storytime, survey parents first, etc.).
The workshop was well-received, questions throughout, and overall the CATS Workshop was a hit! Lots of great presenters, STEAM-related content, yummy food and friendly fellowship.
View the presentation slides here:
After reading about the use of apps in story time for months I finally gave one a try this morning connecting the iPad to our HDTV with the Apple 30-pin Digital AV Adapter. Peekaboo Barn from Night & Day Studios was a hit. My first app experience got off to an auspicious start when, while I was testing the equipment in our empty program room, a young customer heard the music and ran in to watch.
I do a program called Nestlings for children from birth to 15 months and Fledglings for children from 15 to 24 months. Today’s theme was peekaboo so the app was a perfect fit. I was undecided about whether to use Peekaboo Barn with the younger group but gave it a go when I saw that my attendees this morning were closer to the 15 month end of the spectrum.
I like the crisp, bright graphics and how the word for the animal appears once the barn doors open on each one. The animal sounds are authentic (except for the squeaking bunny) and the customizable voice is a nice option though I stuck with the cute kid voice today. I also like the flexibility of timing- I was able to encourage guesses while we watched the barn shake and listened to the sound of the next hidden animal and take as much or as little time as I wanted.
We do some signing in our groups so I was able to reinforce some signs as we watched the animals and I saw one young participant excitedly flapping her wings as soon as she heard the duck sound. I did wish there was a way to skip over some animals without losing the sweet bedtime ending. My younger group started to lose interest before we made it through all thirteen animals but the older group was entranced throughout and one not-yet-verbal little girl continued to point to the TV after I had turned it off. I now feel more comfortable with the equipment and will definitely explore more apps to use with the little ones in story time.
Youth Services, Shaker Heights Public Library
Nicki Petrone is a Children’s Services Associate at Shaker Heights Public Library where she specializes in programming for children birth to 24 months and creating book displays. She can often be found singing, playing the ukulele, standing on a ladder, or talking about books but has never attempted all those things at the same time.
PBS Kids just released a new survey on family media use with children aged 2-6. The results are very pro-PBS (take that as you will- they funded the study) but there are some really great suggestions and recommendations in the article. Here’s an excerpt:
School Readiness Tips for Parents
Understanding that the first five years of a child’s life are a time of physical, emotional, social and cognitive growth, parents and caregivers should look for resources and tips to help prepare children to enter school, including the following PBS KIDS tips:
1. Be involved and make learning fun. Research shows that children are more likely to succeed academically and socially in school when their parents or caregivers actively support and encourage them to take pleasure in learning.
2. Talk with your child. Young learners need to be in language rich environments. Talking to your child about a book you read together or exploring an educational app together are ways to help your child build language and acquire the skills needed to learn how to read.
3. Help your child explore. Encourage kids to ask questions and try different ways of using materials, offering them a wide range of new experiences. When choosing media, follow your child’s interests and look for educational content that builds on their excitement.
4. Let your child experiment. Kids experience great satisfaction when they try and finish new things. Give them a bit of support when they need it, but be careful not to take over completely. Simple household tasks, art projects and experimenting with various musical games are all ways that children can experiment and build confidence.
5. Nurture your child’s natural curiosity. Allow your child to chase a butterfly or watch a hermit crab peep out of its shell. Encourage them to investigate everyday objects as a way to develop curiosity and an interest in learning more. Look to media resources and characters like Curious George and Daniel Tiger from PBS KIDS, who help kids discover the world around them.