Category Archives: Early Literacy

Early Literacy iPads at AVRL, by Angela Reynolds

After many months of planning and creating (and sweating), we now have Early Literacy iPads at the Annapolis Valley Regional Library. Because of limited funding, we have 4 iPads that we are using for this 12-month pilot. 2 of the iPads will be available for check-out for one hour per day IN-LIBRARY only. We are asking that adults check them out on their own library card, but they must have a child between the ages of 2-6 along with them. You can read our iPad agreement here.

el ipads logoApps on the iPads were chosen to enhance the ECRR skills: Talk, Sing, Read, Write, Play; plus I added “Make” and “ABC & 123” folders as well. The apps that are currently on the iPads are listed on this Pinterest board.

We went with the check-out in-library model for several reasons. We’ve been using iPads in storytimes and programs for over a year now, and one thing we’ve heard is that parents & kids want to spend more time together on the devices. We’ve also heard from teachers and family literacy organizations that many families do not have the money to purchase devices for their kids, but want to know more about how they work and want their child to have access to them before they start school. This model gives them access, on their own schedule, and allows for joint media engagement inside the library. Since we have many small branches, and the iPads can only be borrowed for one hour per day, we feel this provides an opportunity for more people to have their hands on the devices than if we allowed them to be checked out and taken home. (We also kind of hope this model will be less likely to result in loss of our equipment.)

MC ipadsWe are placing 2 iPads at a time in the branches, even though we own 4. We are doing this so that every two weeks, the set in the branch can be switched out and refreshed by staff at our headquarters, who are trained to do so. This avoids transport of more equipment, and only a few staff need to know how to do this step. Again, small branches, often with one person on staff at a time, with little time to do extra tasks.

The technical bits are the reason it took us so long to get this running. We are using Apple’s Configurator app to manage the set of iPads. Everyone said it was easy to use, easy to update and refresh the iPads and to add apps. Ok—I’ll say this—yes, it is easy, once you’ve climbed the Mt. Everest learning curve. You have to have a DUNS number, which this small Canadian library system had never heard of, let alone have. Then you have to register with Apple as a business. That’s right, not an educational institution, a business. Then you have to get VPP (Volume Purchase Program) account. Then you have to purchase an app for each device. None of this “sharing on 5 devices” stuff for businesses. The list of steps goes on and on, and you’ll likely need someone with a lot of patience and/or a lot of Apple know-how to get you through it. YouTube is your friend here, because we found lots of solid advice there. Anyhow, once you have it all figured out, yeah, it IS easy. You plug the iPads in, hit refresh, and boom, any changes made by patrons are wiped clean, your iPads are back to exactly the way you want them to be.

So now we have them, just put out in the first branch last week, and we’ll see how it goes. We are trying it for a year, and each of our branches will get the iPads for a month. We may need to tweak things during this time, and we will if we need to. I am looking forward to hearing comments from our branches and seeing how it goes.

Here’s a list of the technology we needed for this project:

Angela Reynolds
Head of Youth Services
Annapolis Valley Regional Library
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Early Literacy Tips on Screen, by Anne Hicks

Since I had my flat screen television and Apple TV installed, I’ve been testing out various ways to utilize them in storytime. From the beginning I’ve used it during toddler storytime to mirror apps, ebooks, and song sheets. I had not used it during baby storytime because I was unsure how best to use it with this age group and whether I should use it with them at all. I believe that tablets can be used with very small children but the use should revolve around child and adult interactions. That is more easily achieved through one-on-one sharing of a tablet. A fleet of tablets would be perfect for that but alas, I only have one storytime tablet (which I am very grateful to have!).

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 7.04.41 AM

I decided to use the iPad to mirror early literacy tips onto the big screen. I try to keep it very simple with just a few tips per storytime. I have “branded” the information by including my library’s logo. I leave the information up throughout the entire storytime and have definitely noticed people reading it and commenting on it. I had previously included early literacy tips on my handouts but wasn’t sure how many of the caregivers were actually reading them. I thought it wouldn’t hurt to try sharing the information in another way, and it seems to be pretty effective.

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 7.04.50 AM

Another thing I plan to try during my next session of baby storytime is to use the iPad to mirror the rhymes and songs we’ll be reciting. I hope to just put one rhyme/song up on the screen at a time and swipe through them as we go through the storytime. This idea occurred to me, but I talked myself out of it thinking that parents would rather have the paper handouts. However, during my last storytime, a mother actually said to me, “Have you thought of using the TV to share the rhymes?” She said she would prefer that because then she wouldn’t have to try to keep the paper sheet out of her daughter’s mouth and would be able to focus on the rhymes more.

So I’ll give it a try and see how it goes. The wonderful thing about having this technology available is that I’m able to test out different ways to use it and see what works best for me and my patrons.

Anne Hicks is a Children’s Librarian with the Henrietta Public Library.
Little eLit is a collaborative think tank of professionals thinking about the topic of young children, new media, and libraries. Individuals who share their viewpoints, experiences, and presentations in Little eLit blog posts are expressing their personal views and do not represent Little eLit as a whole.

Dr. Betty Bardige tries Felt Board – Mother Goose on the Loose app at Opening Minds 2014

Dr. Betty Bardige, a developmental psychologist, educator, child advocate, and author, stopped by the Little eLit booth at the Opening Minds 2014 Innovation Awards Showcase. Cen shared with her all the awesome that is this grassroots, crowd sourced professional development and resource sharing movement, and then Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen talked about the development of her Mother Goose on the Loose app with Software Smoothie. Cen captured on video Dr. Bardige’s experience using the app for the first time, and it’s something we think you should see for yourself.

You, too, can download the FREE Felt Board – Mother Goose on the Loose app from Software Smoothie.

October Challenge: Digital Storytime, by Claudia Haines

I have introduced and successfully integrated apps into several of my library’s weekly preschool storytimes. However, there are some apps and digital media I have not used but wished I could. Our storytimes are held in our children’s library instead of a separate storytime space, and the beautiful design does not easily accommodate media tools like large screens. When the space was designed and built, new media was not part of the storytime conversation. Without a large screen on which to project book apps and other new media, some are too difficult to use or be seen by large groups on the smaller iPad screen. In fact, ability to be easily seen on the iPad screen and used by groups are two of the criteria I use for selecting apps for storytime.

Innovation, as always, requires creativity! So, with my director’s support and interest, I designed a new, digital storytime using our meeting room with its large monitor and space for comfortable seating. (We removed the meeting tables before the event and brought in the beanbags from the children’s library.) We decided to not only alter the media format for the pilot program, but to also host it on a Saturday, another first for our library.

The digital storytime seemed like a perfect fit for Little eLit’s October Tech Challenge, in which we try something new and a even little bit nerve-wracking in honor of the “scary” month. Here are the details of my challenge-to-me program.

Digital Storytime: App-ily Ever After

16 kids and caregivers attended the program. Kids were ages 2-9. Two teachers brought their kids. Only three of the kids had ever been to a storytime at the library (or outreach program) before this one. The group size was perfect for a pilot program in our room size and with the devices we had on-hand.

I divided the one-hour program into two parts. The first half was a storytime similar in format to the weekly preschool programs. We sang, moved, and read together. This format was used with the idea of offering some familiarity to families while at the same time letting me highlight apps that demonstrate the tips I planned to share with parents. The kids had fun while the parents saw the apps in action.

The second half of storytime was dedicated to letting kids and caregivers try out apps I had preloaded on four iPads and share information with each other about apps they like. I also took the opportunity to talk with families about what to look for when searching for apps.

This type of storytime needs tools just like any other storytime program, but sometimes the tools are just a bit different. I stated that iPads would be used in this program, but many of the apps I used or mentioned are available on multiple platforms. The equipment I used for this program included:

  • Large monitor
  • Apple TV (This connected the iPad to the monitor wirelessly, allowing for more movement as I used the iPad.)
  • Wireless Router (We created a hot spot in the meeting room so families could download apps with ease during the program without competing with the whole library for bandwidth.)
  • 4 iPads (I used my personal iPad to present the storytime elements and then had the library’s iPad and a city-owned iPad on hand–both preloaded with a collection of 20 apps I selected–for kids and caregivers to try out. My director also brought her iPad loaded with apps she wanted to share. It turned out that all but one family brought their own iPad, which I encouraged on the flyer for the program.)
  • 20 apps for storytime program and for families to try out
  • Beanbags and chairs for families
  • paper copies of Sandra Boynton‘s Blue Hat, Green Hat and Mo Willems‘s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (two apps used in the program are based on the popular paper books)


Welcome song: Open Shut Them (a classic storytime song we sing regularly on Wednesdays)

Song: Are you ready for a story? (Clap Your hands)

Parent Tip: I explained the difference between a book app and an e-book.

Book app: Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boyton and Loud Crow (2011)
$3.99 :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store, and Nook Color

This app is so silly that even the adults were laughing! It quickly helped the group relax and caught their attention.

Parent Tips:

    • The value of meaningful Interactivity: In this app the reader taps animals and objects to animate them. The actions closely relate to the story, as do the sounds, which extend the story. Early readers can tap on the individual words to hear them read aloud even with the read-to-me function turned off.
    • App’s early literacy value: phonological awareness
    • Choosing book apps: This is an engaging story with entertaining characters, not just lots of interactivity. Plus it has simple, uncluttered pages with quality images and easy-to-read text.

Toy App: Peekaboo Barn by Night & Day Studios (2011)
$1.99 (free lite version is available) :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store

After seeing all of the silly, farm animals in Boynton’s app, we played a game identifying farm animals in this one. When the app is started, a barn appears and an animal’s sound is heard. Tapping on the barn opens the doors to reveal the animal making the sound. The name of the animal also appears on the screen. The barn doors then close and a new animal sound is heard. While this app works well with groups because there are multiple opportunities for kids to participate, I actually prefer another farm animal app I have used in the weekly storytime. The game format I use with it would not work with the large screen.

Parent Tips:

    • Joint Engagement: A child could navigate this app on his/her own, but it is more fun when children and caregivers or children and other children play it together. Joint Engagement offers great opportunities for learning!
    • Early literacy value: phonological awareness and print awareness
    • Choosing apps: Look for apps that are age appropriate and can be played over again. Be sure to review an app before introducing it to your young child.

Song: Are you ready for a story? (Tap your toes)

Book App: A Frog Thing by Eric Drachman and Oceanhouse Media
$2.99 :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store and Nook Color

Frog is a frog who has dreams. He wants to fly, even if it isn’t a frog thing. In this gentle story, again with meaningful interactivity, frog saves the day, realizes a dream, and inspires his family and friends. I picked this book app because it demonstrates another way book apps can still be effective and engaging without being silly.

Parent Tips:

    • Early literacy value: This book offers new vocabulary, like the word “aerodynamic,” as well as opportunities to build narrative skills. This is also a good choice for STEAM storytimes focusing on frogs.
    • Choosing apps: Look for uncluttered pages with easy-to-read text. I pointed out the read to me, read to myself, and auto play options and the button to turn music on or off, all features which I look for.

Toy app: Felt Board by Software Smoothie

We used this digital feltboard to act out the song Five Green and Speckled Frogs (demonstrated here by the Jbrary librarians). Many librarians have talked about using this app and this felt story before. Instead of using screenshots of each movement in the story and projecting them with keynote, I saved my story (a new update) and physically moved the frogs as the story progresses in the song. This worked perfectly and mimicked one of the great aspects of traditional felt boards. I was comfortable doing the actions with my hands and moving the frogs on the iPad. Almost everyone sang along with this song.

With multiple backgrounds and a zillion characters and features to choose from, this toy is perfect for kids of multiple ages and for playing together.

Parent Tips:

    • Choosing apps: Select apps that encourage open-ended play and creativity.
    • Early literacy value: This app is great for building narrative skills.

Toy app: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive This App by Mo Willems and Disney
$5.99 :: App available from Apple only

This app is based on the popular book Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The app does not include the book, but it extends the story by offering kids a chance to create and play using the beloved characters from the book. As a group we recorded a story directed by the bus driver. We were asked a series of questions and took turns saying silly answers, which were then incorporated into a story that was played back and acted out by the bus driver and the pigeon. This was a great transition into the second portion of the program.

Parent Tips:

    • Early literacy value: Strengthens narrative skills and helps build vocabulary. This also provides a nice introduction to creating digital stories.
    • Choosing apps: This app has no in-app purchases or ads, what I look for especially for use in storytime.

For the rest of the time, we looked at and explored apps informally. Caregivers shared apps they have used and liked. Kids and caregivers had lots of questions about app suggestions, even for specific purposes like strengthening math skills, and how to select apps. Several of the adults also asked if we were going to offer a similar storytime again!

I gave every caregiver a double sided information sheet about kids and digital media which included app suggestions, developer suggestions, early literacy information, and resources for learning more. This kind of program offers a lot to think about, so something to take home was important.

This was a successful pilot program that showed us two things. One is that a program like this one can be successful and is important to families. Secondly, it helped us assess the need for Saturday storytimes. We hope to host similar programs again as resources allow.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Coordinator
Homer Public Library

Sock Puppets: A Review and a Few Ways to Use it in Storytime, by Emily Lloyd

Confession: my driving motive in using apps in storytime is parent and caregiver education around choosing and using apps with kids. If I can highlight a strong content creation app, I’ve found a small way to promote the use of apps as fun tools to explore with children, and in the case of Sock Puppets, one more way parents and caregivers can work the early literacy practices of playing together and talking together into their day.

Sock Puppets is a free iOs app that allows you to choose from six puppets and several sets and act out and record a 30-second scene. Scenes can be saved for later playback and shared to Facebook or YouTube. After recording a voice sample, you can set the pitch of each puppet’s voice, so that when you record your scene, playback transforms your own voice into the differently-pitched voices of the puppets. Here, to me, lies the magic of the app when it comes to use by children: from echoes to simple amplification to voice changers, kids love to hear their own speech repeated back to them, transformed. A child who does not already gravitate towards or feel comfortable acting out scenes with physical puppets or dolls might feel inspired and liberated by this feature and find a way “in” to dramatic play.

For storytime, I like the 30-second limit built into the free version of Sock Puppets–that’s the longest I’d want to play a pre-recorded stretch of video in storytime, anyway–but extended recording time is available as an upgrade for 99 cents. You can also purchase a wider array of puppets and backgrounds. The only upgrade I’ve purchased, also for 99 cents, is the ability to import my own photos as backdrops, so I can use photos of my library.

Here are a few ways I’ve found to use Sock Puppets in storytime to date:

1. I regularly introduce the letter of the day by having a physical puppet pull a foam letter from a bucket, asking the kids to call out the name of the letter as soon as they can see enough of its shape to identify it. Then I ask the kids what the letter sounds like at the beginning of a word. After this, I’ll quickly mention the Sock Puppets app to parents and caregivers, and play a short prepared scene reinforcing the letter of the day and its sound, and demonstrating our “Letter of the Day Song,” which we’ll sing together after watching the puppets sing it. If you’re satisfied with your first take, a video like this takes about 1 minute to create:

2. I’ll also occasionally use Sock Puppets to briefly introduce an important part of the library in a fun way (Where’s the nonfiction section and what does it include? What’s the Information Desk look like and what can I do there?), using a photo of a place in my library as a backdrop:

3. This is a bit goofier, but a quick way to reinsert our now-familiar Sock Puppets friends at the end of storytime to get kids jazzed about checking books out before leaving the library for the day:

Once you take a few minutes to get the hang of it, Sock Puppets is exceptionally simple to use–in theory, a preschooler could use it him or herself to record a surprise scene for or message to a parent, after first having played with it with an adult. I highly recommend this app both to parents and caregivers, and to storytime providers looking for a way to introduce app advisory in storytime.

Emily Lloyd is a public librarian and lives in Minneapolis.

Early Learning Apps in the Library, by Hayley McEwing

I recently presented at OhioNet’s Embracing eBooks Conference. My presentation, “Early Learning Apps in the Library,” set out to ask a few key questions and equip attendees to develop new skills for joint media engagement:

Why, when, and how should we use apps in the library, particularly with young children? Find some answers to these questions. Discover apps that aid early literacy, math, and science learning as well as some notable eBook apps. Get ideas on how to use iPads in library programming.

My presentation slides are below; other session handouts are available here.

Hayley McEwing, an Ohio librarian, blogs at Opinions are hers alone and do not necessarily represent those of her employer.

In Response to Chip Donohue’s #ala2013 Remarks, by Trista Kunkel

“These tools are not inherently evil.” These are the words spoken by Chip Donohue who was awesome enough to agree to present with us during our conversation starter at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago. What tools is he talking about, you ask? Those would be the use of tablets and apps in the library.

One of the big debates going on in libraryland right now is whether or not tablets and other technologies should be used in the library. We here at Little eLit believe that it’s the duty of librarians to embrace this new technology and that it’s up to us to help parents learn how to properly utilize it as well. A few of the loudest complaints that have been going around are that screen time for youngsters can hurt them developmentally and that apps don’t offer anything different or better than books. Thankfully Chip was with us at our conversation starter to offer some wonderful insight and advice. He touched on numerous subjects during his part of the presentation and brought up some very interesting points, the main theme being that we need to embrace this technology, and that it’s our duty to develop these skills ourselves and teach them to the public.

Chip stated that one of the issues shouldn’t be “all tech” vs. “no tech.” We should be incorporating them both together, and that if a child reads an ebook it doesn’t mean that s/he is going to stop wanting to read an actual book.  In fact, kids don’t delineate the physical and the virtual. It was mentioned during our conversation starter that some people have noticed that their child becomes even more interested in the book version of a story after reading it on a tablet. We know that parents are already using this technology at home with their children, and it’s up to us, like Chip said, to provide information for them on how to properly use these new tools.

Now I’d like to ask a question. How many of you have NEVER had a patron come to you or another library worker and ask how to use some sort of technology? I’d be surprised if anyone has ever truly had this happen. We are NOT just book slingers. We have a duty to help our patrons navigate the wide world of technology, and what better way to make sure we’re knowledgeable and comfortable with answering their questions than using and utilizing the technology ourselves? Patrons come to us expecting us to be able to help them, and how can we if we refuse to use or accept the technology with which they need our help? Another argument that Chip made was that we need to work on our own digital literacy before we work with others, that we need to be able to offer sound information for inquiring patrons and that there are no skill deficits for librarians to be able to do this. To select, use, integrate, and evaluate are all skills that we already use, and now it’s just a willingness to do it with technology.

This brings me to the next point that Chip made during our conversation starter. The app market is enormous and can feel incredibly daunting for patrons. With so many apps coming out every day, how can a parent make educated decisions on which apps are best for them? Once again, this is where we should come in. We already have the ability to assess and evaluate, so why shouldn’t we use these skills to help make the app marketplace more manageable and navigable for our patrons? And this, folks, is the main reason we had our A to Zoo for apps conversation starter. We need to take it upon ourselves to become involved with reviewing these apps and making sure that there is a credible area for us to navigate this massive marketplace.

Chip ended his portion of the discussion by reminding us that these devices are an invitation for joint engagement between caregivers and children, that when they choose to come to the library it is on purpose, and what better reason do we need to provide this service of bests for them? Fred Rogers believed technology might be good, could be great—but only when used for social and emotional development. We’re the experts here, not the parents, and it is up to us to help guide them on the proper use of this new technology. Like Fred and Chip said, we need to “Think of the child first.”

Trista Kunkel
Youth Services Librarian
Birchard Public Library

iPad Apps & Your Pre-reader: an app advisory session by Emily Lloyd

My library recently received an iPad for staff use. In addition to introducing it to storytime, I’m working on an app advisory session to present to parents and caregivers at libraries and preschools this fall, and Cen invited me to share the work-in-progress here. If you’ve done something similar, I’d be thrilled to hear how it went, and I’d also love feedback on what I’ve got here so far.

The program, “iPad Apps and Your Pre-reader,” will tie a selection of free apps directly to ECRR2’s five early literacy practices. I plan to make the most of the hour to not just offer tips on choosing strong apps and exploring them with pre-readers, but to talk about the five practices in a much more extended way than I usually get to in storytime (the session will be adults-only). At its core, it’s a session on the five practices that simply acknowledges that exploring apps together is one more way we can write, read, play, sing, and talk together. Parents and caregivers will also leave with an introduction to and list of exceptional free iPad apps to explore with their pre-readers.

I’m sticking to free apps for a few reasons. One: they’re what I feel most comfortable recommending in a library context. Two: I’ve been able to download and evaluate as many as I wish as I attempt to curate the strongest. Three: the App Store isn’t much fun to navigate, and countless free apps are cluttered with intrusive ads; I consider introducing parents and caregivers to some of the best worth downloading a valuable and time-saving service (“Save the time of the caregiver!”). And four: there really ARE a bunch of great free apps out there. I’m including only ones I can highly recommend, with zero-to-minimal ads, and none with ads that are insidious or difficult to ignore. This does mean that I’ll need to re-review the apps closely before each presentation, as free apps have a way of becoming paid ones or disappearing from the app store altogether.

My slides-to-date are below. Again, feedback and tales of similar programs are highly appreciated–as well as suggestions for fantastic free apps that I missed and should include. Thanks!

Emily Lloyd is a librarian, educator, and writer living in Minneapolis. You can find her online at and on Twitter at @PoesyGalore

Nanos Gigantum Humeris Insidentes

givingneumanI’ve been doing a lot of research recently on the use of media with young children. I have a number of webinars and presentations coming up and I want to be as prepared as possible. Today I had two big epiphanies:

1) I know that I know nothing

2) What I have been advocating (intelligent use of technology with young children) is not a new concept

A book that has really hit me in the gut is Susan B. Neuman and Donna C. Celano’s Giving our Children a Fighting Chance: Poverty, Literacy and the Development of Information Capital. This book details a study that was undertaken from 1999-2009 in two neighborhoods in the greater Philadelphia area. One neighborhood is very affluent, one is very poor. This book is heartbreaking, and I have begun to see an entirely new value in the use of technology with young children in libraries. I have heard of the app gap, obviously, but it had never felt as visceral as Neuman and Celano have portrayed it. Neuman has been studying this for years, and has been an outspoken challenger of the “screen time is bad” notion; she wrote Literacy in the Television Age: The Myth of the TV Effect in 1991 and updated it in the second edition in 1995. She and Celano were also the ones who evaluated ECRR in 2010.

The word “engagement” keeps coming up over and over in my reading; the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading talks about Parent Engagement, conversations with friends (“I talked about apps with my wife; she now uses them with our son. We know now that it’s ok as long as we do it WITH him”), Neuman and Celano’s Book, and the 800 pound gorilla, Every Child Ready to Read 2.

The work that I’m concentrating on right now uses ECRR2 as a framework for incorporating digital media into storytime. When I first began doing this, it was mainly intuition and habit; probably because the library system that I was trained in to do storytime made ECRR (the first edition) available to me, and we used the 6 early literacy skills in every one of our programs. (Stanislaus County, I maintain to this day, employs some of the finest storytellers and children’s librarians I have ever known, even in the middle of California’s perpetually economically depressed central valley). I feel comfortable using an ECRR2-inspired format to run my programs, so that’s where I started. The more I read, however, the more I understand what a great framework it is. That said; ECRR2 is just a set of tools, and you need to use tools the right way for them to be effective. I have heard varying opinions of ECRR2; it can be implemented very well, it can be implemented very badly, “why are we modeling out programs to get kids ready for an educational system that is completely failing?!”, “who the hell are THEY to tell me how to lead my storytime?” etc.

But the more I learn about ECRR2, the more I think it’s the ideal tool for children’s librarians to use to A) get THEMSELVES used to the idea of omnipresent technology in children’s services and B) to guide parents through establishing good media habits and being able to recognize good content.

ECRR2 is designed to help parents/caregivers to become their child’s first teachers and support their young child’s early literacy development. It comes as a surprise to many of us graduate-degree laden folks that not every parent has the resources, experience, modeling, or support to do that instinctively. Adding the motivational power of technology to this framework plus giving parents high quality options for media consumption may not just have an impact on individual children’s literacy; it could have a positive impact on our society as a whole.

Now I see that one of the giants of children’s literacy research (Neuman) is in FAVOR of using technology with young children, I am even more convinced that ECRR2.0 (as I loving refer to ECRR + technology) will be the tool that brings our profession to the forefront for the evaluation, curation and implementation of interactive children’s media in early literacy programming.

nanos gigantum humeris insidentes: We are standing on the shoulders of giants.

From Giving our Children a Fighting Chance (pages 74-75, emphasis is mine):

Early Reading skills, particularly the first part of the reading equation- phonological awareness (rhyming, alliteration, segmenting and blending) and letter name knowledge- are especially well-suited to the mastery learning capabilities of the computer. With adult supervision, computer programs, specially orchestrated to drill and practice these skills, can make the work like play, in a manner that builds both speed and fluency. Consequently, what would ordinarily be a centerpiece in kindergarten is now in the hands of a miraculous machine and an authoritative parent who is guiding his or her child at age 3.

When you take the drudgery part out of the reading process- learning the basic decoding skills- and make them automatic, you provide working memory capacity to do other things, such as thinking about what you read in the text. This is the fun part of the reading process because it allows you to learn and develop knowledge that will be critical for the second part of the reading equation- comprehension. In some respect, then, the sooner a child can learn the nuts and bolts of reading, the sooner he or she can begin to build a knowledge base and become an independent learner- and the sooner, too, that the child can build the conceptual base that will be critical for the development of information capital.

Before this time of independence, however, children will need adult assistance in learning about reading and learning to read. In this environment in which the playing field is somewhat level [the library], our observations made plain the centrality of adult scaffolding- even with these so-called self-teaching programs. There was a power dynamic that differed across settings [affluent neighborhood library & impoverished neighborhood library]. In one setting, the power seemed to be held by the parent, who manipulated the tools to their children’s learning advantage. In the other setting, the power balance seemed to favor the tool, with the parent deferring to its will, and allowing the child to take ownership. This relationship seemed to hold true regardless of whether the tool was a book or a computer.

KidTech: Early Literacy & The Evolving Role of the Librarian in Today’s Digital Media Landscape

kandyThe lovely folks at KandYshoppe and I had a little discussion about digital media, literacy and children’s librarians for their KidTech series. Check out KidTech: Early Literacy & The Evolving Role of the Librarian in Today’s Digital Media Landscape.

Here’s a taste:

While some research is beginning to emerge on the use of interactive, tablet-based media with young children, there are still no definitive guidelines for the consumption of this kind of media, and very few positive role models to show parents what a healthy media diet looks like. Our children live in a media-saturated environment; it is time for librarians to step in and offer some guidance on the quality and quantity of digital media consumed by families in our communities.