When Saroj Asks You To Do Something, You Do It.

Many moons ago (in May) Saroj Ghoting asked if I would outline my philosophy around using apps and eBooks in storytimes for a new book she is writing. The following is what I produced for her.

Storytimes and Technology
Cen Campbell, Founder

A new addition to the storyteller’s toolkit is tablet technology, usually in the form of an iPad, and often mirrored onto a TV screen or projected. There are many reasons why libraries are beginning to incorporate digital media into their storytimes; the most important of which is modeling healthy media behavior for parents and caregivers. The children’s digital publishing market is rapidly growing, and since libraries provide access to books in all formats, the inclusion of apps and ebooks in library services, programming and collections is a necessary and exciting part of librarianship in the digital age.

Tablet technology is pervasive in our society now, and many parents struggle with finding guidance for their young children’s media consumption. In many homes digital devices are used as electronic babysitters, and we as leaders in early literacy have the opportunity to turn that solitary media experience into a cuddly, book-based, educational interactive experience between the parent and child, not just between the child and the device.  Storytimes offer an ideal forum for sharing bite-sized bits of information about choosing high quality, age appropriate media, sharing the media experience with their children, and making media consumption an engaged, active experience for both the children and their caretakers.  Mainstream media often depicts children interacting alone with a device, and we in our changing role as curators and stewards of high quality digital content have the challenge and opportunity to provide a model for joint media engagement where the emphasis is placed on the interaction between caretakers and young children, not the format of the content. In other words, we do not censor digital media from our collections or programs based on format, or because that content is consumed through a screen. We use the same storytelling techniques, care in the selection of our books, and storytelling props as we always have, but we include digital elements in order to provide reader’s advisory within this new publishing environment, and because digital texts from many different platforms are a legitimate reading choice for many families.

In addition to addressing the changing needs of families and their digital reading choices, tablet computers serves as powerful teaching tools for parents and their very young children. Presentation software like Keynote or Google Docs can be use to engage the multiple learning styles of the parents and caregivers in attendance at storytime; visual cues that indicate movement from one activity to another (like an image of a sleeping child before you come to the lullaby section of your program), music, sounds, lyrics, and opening and goodbye slides can all contribute to the overall quality of the program, and the content can be easily shared online via Slideshare or through the library’s website. Parents often want to remember what books, songs, and activities that were used in a given program, and links to all content (digital or otherwise!) accessed during the storytime allow parents to access that content later, download digital content for themselves, find out how to access that digital content through the library, or place holds on physical items.

Why Digital Books?

The most obvious reason to use the digital version of a book in storytime (either an app or eBook) is to make the words and pictures easy to see for everyone in the room. The storyteller’s hands and body are free to do fingerplays and other actions. I’ll often put the iPad down and wiggle around, point to pictures or words on the screen, clap or lead other activities that I wouldn’t be able to do if I was holding the book; this way families can see the text, pictures AND the associated activities at the same time. Singable books work especially well in a digital environment because parents can clearly see the words and sing along, while children look at the pictures and listen to all the voices. It is much more beneficial for children of all ages to hear their caregiver’s voices singing the words than just the storyteller!

Digital storytelling tools for multiple age groups

Infant and Toddler

Digital felt boards, lyrics and images support caregiver and baby/toddler engagement, as well as apps that support early literacy development. For example, the Wee Sing ABC app is great for Letter Knowledge and Phonological Awareness, and segues easily into singable activities. Use a different letter each week, or in each program to create continuity from one week to the next, and explore different types of musical instruments.


Post screen shots or scanned images of nursery rhymes or action rhymes into Keynote or other presentation software; when you mirror the image onto a screen or monitor your hands and body are free to do activities or fingerplays, which they wouldn’t be if you had to hold and pan the book. Try Humpty Dumpty from “My First Nursery Rhymes Books” (available through Bookboard.com); get down on the ground and bounce and slap your knees, then “fall” with your whole body down to the ground (the goofier, the better!). Babies can be bounced on knees, and older kids can bounce and fall by themselves.

Apps based on board books (Sandra Boynton books and Goodnight Moon, both by http://loudcrow.com/) are very popular with this age group; make sure to have physical copies of the books available for checkout.


Preschoolers especially enjoy picture-book based apps, especially common books that they would normally see in print (Llama Llama Red Pajama is always a hit in storytime, as are Dr Seuss book apps!) Read a digital book the same way you would read a physical book, and make sure when you read, you are facing the screen, not the iPad in your hand so that you direct attention to the pictures and text that your audience can see. Point to the screen to engage parents and kids around text, pictures or concepts; model the same skills you normally would with print materials. For example, run your finger along underneath text or ask open-ended questions. E.g. What is the bear doing?


Posted on December 11, 2013, in Literacy. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Vicki Kouchnerkavich

    This is a great information to include in my brief Digital Reading/Learning presentation for parents at my local elementary school next week! Thanks for sharing.

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