Tech in Storytime: In response to an #ala2013 question, by Anne Hicks

During the Conversation Starter at ALA, an audience member asked how librarians have been integrating technology into their storytimes. That’s a great “conversation starter” on its own, so I thought I’d take a moment to highlight some of the ways contributors to Little eLit have been incorporating digital media into their work.

Digital Storytelling:

One way to incorporate technology into storytimes is to project eBooks onto a screen for all the participants at your storytimes to view.  Using a mirroring device such as an Apple TV with your iPad allows you to operate the tablet while the image is projected.  You are then able to seamlessly share high quality eBooks and apps in combination with traditional storytime methods.

Typical Equipment Used:


Digital Storytelling is a wonderful way to provide a storytime for a very large audience.  Projecting onto a screen enables even the participants at the back of the room to appreciate the illustrations of the eBooks.  You can also scan and project lyrics to songs and the words to fingerplays.  This encourages the adults in the room to participate in the fun!  One of the most valuable benefits of this type of storytelling is that it allows the librarian to promote quality eBooks and also model to caregivers how to interact with children while sharing digital media.  As Cen Campbell puts it, “using high quality digital media in storytime is one way we can expose parents to good quality book-based or educational apps. This is just a fun new kind of reader’s advisory!”

For more details on Digital Storytelling, check out these posts from Cen Campbell, Bradley Jones, and Holly Southern.

Apps as Storytime Extensions:

Another way technology can be integrated into storytimes is to use apps as an extension of your storytime theme, the same way you would use a flannel board or a puppet.  The librarian holds the iPad and does the tapping and swiping while interacting with the children.  This works best for groups of about 20 or less. There are a large number of apps on the market that can be easily used by the librarian to engage with children.  For example, you can use an animal sounds app or a vehicle sounds app and have the kids guess which animal/vehicle they are hearing.  You can use a robot-building app and have the kids help you design a robot.  You could also create a “felt board” using the Felt Board app developed by Software Smoothie.

Typical Equipment Used:

  •  iPad
  • Various Apps


The only equipment needed is the tablet, so this is a very easy way for librarians to test the waters as far as integrating technology into storytime. Also, using apps in storytime allows you to promote high quality apps to caregivers.  Often, parents think of the iPad as a means of solitary play for the child, a “babysitter.”   Encouraging them to engage in play with their child is an important aspect of what we do as Children’s Librarians. By promoting the apps in storytime you are also allowing an opportunity for the caregiver to extend the storytime at home.  I doubt many parents have the time and supplies needed to recreate a flannel board at home, but they can easily download an app and play with their child.

For more examples of how to use apps in your storytime check out the following posts from Anne Hicks: Animal Sounds, Vehicle Sounds.

Fleet of Tablets

Providing tablets for each family to use during storytime is yet another way some librarians have included new media in their storytimes.  You can preload the devices with the eBooks and apps you will be using during storytime and guide the participants to use them throughout the storytime.  This is not a replacement of traditional storytime activities (songs, fingerplays, print books…), but rather another tool to engage young readers and their caregivers.

Typical Equipment Used:

  • Multiple tablets (typically iPads)
  • Various Apps/eBooks
  • Headphones with splitters (optional)


This type of storytime is the perfect way to encourage caregivers to engage with their little ones as they use digital media.  It allows the adult and child to “cuddle up” while using a tablet (the same way we encourage them to do with print books). It also makes using the device, and the storytime at large, a truly shared experience.  And as with the other methods mentioned in this post, it allows the librarian to promote high quality media.  Lastly, it provides access to technology that some patrons may not otherwise have access to.  Using a fleet of tablets is a wonderful way to provide access and guidance while also promoting engagement.

For more on this type of storytime, check out these posts by Angela Reynolds, Emily Miranda, and Bradley Jones.


About Amy Koester

I'm a youth services librarian with a penchant for exciting ideas and engaging programs. It's a sure bet that if you talk to me about STEAM, whimsy, and trying new things, we'll be best friends forever.

Posted on July 29, 2013, in Apps, conferences, Interactivity, iPad, Story Time and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Vicki Kouchnerkavich

    Amy, I am interested in using an iPad during the story times that I offer at our small public library. I know I need some of the equipment listed above. What part does a Nexus S play in using an iPad?

  2. Hi Vicki,
    Thanks for the question. Cen Campbell uses the Nexus S (a smartphone) as a wifi hotspot. This allows her to connect the Apple TV to her iPad wirelessly. If you have a stable wifi connection in your building I believe you wouldn’t need to use a smartphone as a hotspot. I’ll check with her and make sure that’s correct.

    • Vicki Kouchnerkavich

      Ok! I get it. We are wifi here in our building so I shouldn’t need that unless I take it on the road.

  3. A fleet of iPads is also useful for sensory storytime. Since not all kids enjoy the same sensations, you can use apps as an alternative to something messy. For example, offer the Happy Little Farmer app when planting seeds. The same planting steps are required, and children have to do more than swipe so it may count as a little occupational therapy. It also helps kids wait their turn for the real thing!

    • Holly I’m so glad you commented. I know that iPads are frequently used by professionals who work with kids on the autism spectrum and have been found to be very beneficial. Including them in sensory storytime makes a lot of sense. That app sound like a lot of fun – I’ll have to check it out!

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