Wrestling Your Bear
I think of children’s librarians who are resistant to using technology with children as bears. Big cuddly teddy bears that you have to hug to the ground and convince that this is the way the world is now, and that book-based apps and eBooks are a legitimate reading choice for many families. I’ve been contacted by a number of children’s librarians recently who are having difficulty wrestling their own bears, and in a recent email I put together the following soundbites:
- The storytime does not have to be entirely digital; an app or an iBook on a large screen or projector is just another storytelling tool and is not intended to replace paper books.
- People are already using mobile technology with their kids, and most of the time it is not high-quality or age appropriate. Children’s librarians have a long history of curating content and developing programs that support a child’s early literacy development. That does not change in the digital realm; if anything, it’s more important now than ever that we step in and show parents how to find high quality book based apps, and how to read WITH this children in a digital environment, not use an iPad as a babysitter.
- Using high quality books based apps and eBooks in storytimes acts as reader’s advisory for apps (appvisory!) and you can display the physical copies of the book for check out on a table in your storytime area. Children’s librarians often have very large versions of books, or book props or flannel board versions of a story for storytime, but they are for storytelling purposes only. I have the HUGE version of the Very Hungry Caterpillar, but I don’t use it because I want the parents to check out THAT particular copy of the book; use it because everyone in the room can see it! It’s the same thing with projecting an ebook or book-based app.
- There are huge implications for outreach. When I go into a new space, all I need is my iPad and a cable and I can show off the library’s databases, ebooks offerings, kid’s section of the website, upcoming events, hundreds of fiction and non-fiction books, flannels boards, draw and tell stories, book lists, music, etc. ALL FROM MY IPAD!
- Children under 2 shouldn’t really be exposed to screens much, even if the content is really good, because their brains can’t process it yet. Use a PRESCHOOL storytime to educate parents about this, because in most households, there are screens available to very young children. Use the digital storytelling portion of your storytime to explain to parents gently why this kind of exposure should be saved until after 2, and then after the age of 2, that the digital reading experience should be a shared experience between the parent and child, just like with paper books. Use the storytime to model good cooperative reading skills within a digital context to the parents.
- This technology is here to stay. Pretending that it’s not part of a children’s librarian’s job is NOT going to help kids who are already bombarded with media exposure. Helping the parents how to read with their children constructively in a digital environment with high quality content WILL help these children as they learn to read.