Tree Book vs eBook in Storytime

In this post I announced that I’ll be working on a digital storytime project where we will use apps and eBooks in storytime.  I’ve had a few people contact me directly, and some comments were posted publicly about this. I got one really good question in particular:

I’m curious as to the benefits of using an electronic felt board over a real felt board, and a book shown in eBook form over a book shared by a librarian. How do you feel using apps and digital media in a storytime setting enchances the storytime experience?

I’m glad you asked, dear reader! There are a number of ways in which digital media can enhance an early literacy program, but before we dive into those I want to be clear about my intention with this particular digital storytelling project: The goal is NOT to replace traditional, tree-book based storytelling entirely with a digital facsimile.  The goal is to use SOME technology to enhance traditional storytime in a way that improves the experience for all participants. I love this quote from Kiera Parrott:

It is tempting to operate as if supporting literacy is a zero-sum game in which the players are technology versus books.

The librarian will still be sharing books and reading out loud, but instead of holding up a book in one hand and panning around the room and usually missing a number of people in the audience, the image of the pages can be projected onto a large screen so no one has to squint or crane their necks to see the pictures.  Have you ever found an awesome book that you think would read really well in storytime, but the pictures are too small for it be viable in a room full of toddlers? (think Everywhere Babies– I can’t wait until there’s an app for that one!)  Now we have the option to make those images really big if the book is available electronically, and you can still take full advantage of a well-rhymed story or cute characters.

I also envision using both tree books and eBooks in the same program.  I’ve got a huge copy of The Very Hungry Caterpillar with an adorable little plush toy that can physically move through the holes in the book.  There’s an app for that… but what I’ve got ain’t broke, so I’m not going to fix it.

There are some things you cannot duplicate digitally in a storytime environment: wiggling, egg shaking, clapping, stomping, waving scarves and throwing silk flowers into the air.  Those things will always be a part of storytime, but now we get to add yet more tools to the storyteller’s tool kit. It is not a case of digital felt board vs physical felt board; we can use either, or both, depending on what would work best for our audience and the intended learning outcomes.

Here are some ways that digital media can be used to enhance a traditional storytime:

  1. Project digital versions of books or felt boards to make the viewing experience easier for large groups;
  2. Use Storytime as a reader’s advisory tool to showcase the digital versions of storytime favourites;
  3. Introduce participants to the varied digital resources available through the library’s virtual branch;
  4. Support different learning modalities (visual, aural, oral, kinetic etc)
  5. Foster creativity and give parents ideas for how to engage their children with high quality digital media in an active, educational way at home.

Incorporating digital media into children’s programming also provides a fantastic opportunity for children’s librarians; we can use these emergent technologies to enforce the library’s relevance in everyday life.  Smart phones and tablets are here to stay, and as long as there are apps available on iTunes, Amazon and Google Play, parents are going to download them and let their kids play with them. Why not show them where the good stuff is? That’s what we do, isn’t it? Children’s librarians know how to select the best quality media for children, they know what’s appropriate at what age, and they know where to find resources that point to good quality media. We need to establish ourselves as experts in this area; it’s a natural fit and we should be leading the charge into the exciting new world of digital literacy.


Posted on June 2, 2012, in Early Literacy, Libraries, Media Literacy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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