Category Archives: Interactivity

Using the Sesame Street Family Play App to Play Together On and Off the Screen, by Naomi Smith

Let’s talk transitions. Storytellers and librarians are no doubt familiar with trying to come up with the perfect transitions in story times. I have used fun apps like Animal Sounds or Endless Alphabet as transitional activities between books in my Toddler Times. Parents too, are faced with a series of transitions for their young children. Waking up, going potty, brushing teeth, getting dressed, eating breakfast, playing, cleaning up, potty again, putting on shoes, getting into the car. All of this and more before story time! Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to share apps with parents that could help assist with transitions and waiting and kept the parent and child engaged with each other?

My go-to app for this is Sesame Street Family Play. It suggests real life games to play with children. The package of games for home comes with the $.99 app, download games for both travel and away from home for $1.99 more. The app asks simple questions to start, like your location and whether you have certain materials handy. If you say no, no problem, it moves right along. It then suggests a quick game, endorsed by one of the Sesame Street characters, that a caregiver and child(ren) can play together right that minute.

IMG_8511My children, ages two and four, and I enjoy playing together on my iPad. But they often have a difficult time transitioning to another activity. Enter Family Play. One night, after we had played with two apps, one of each child’s choosing, I chose Family Play. I told the kids that we were going to look at the iPad and a Sesame Street friend would suggest a game. They were sold. First, we measured the living room in lengths of kid (8.5 if you were wondering), then we played a game where the first person to find an object to put on their head was the winner and the most creative was also a winner. The app even tells you which skills you are helping your child develop by playing. We’ve also used the app when transitioning between non screen activities. The time between clean up and bath time went from boredom and sibling squabbles to pretending to be frogs and hopping over lily pads made of throw pillows. Yes, I can think of games on my own, but it’s always nice to have an assist after a long day.

Family Play is a favorite of mine personally. However, there are many other apps that would fit the bill for all sorts of families. Why not do a couple of fun math problems with Bedtime Math, learn a few new rhymes with ACPL Family, dance with the Laurie Berkner Band, or create a story about your day together using Our Story for iPad? All free to download! What apps do you like best for helping parents and children have fun together, both on and off the screen?

Naomi Smith is a Youth Services Librarian for the Parkland/Spanaway branch of the Pierce County Library System in Tacoma, WA where gets to do the Baby and Toddler Story Times. She occasionally tweets at @Naomireads.
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.

Digi-tots Playtime, by Stephen Tafoya

In 2010, when I worked as a Reading and Comprehension Consultant, and the year the iPad launched, I immediately got excited at the potential for iPad usage in education. Of course now it’s become a mainstay in the classroom. When I started working in libraries in 2012, my gears started to crank again with potential ideas for program use.

Last summer I got to partner with a few of our children’s librarians to test out some apps in teen programming and storytime and discuss how to use iPads and apps in the most effective ways. It was well received but progressed a bit slower than I’d hoped (as some of you may have seen at your libraries). Getting people on board and excited can be a task in and of itself, in addition to just figuring out how to make it work. But once you get the ball rolling, it can be contagious and hard to stop.

R Digi-tots Handout Apr14

So earlier this year, I started brainstorming with Amy Wright, Rifle’s Children’s Librarian, about how we could use iPads with the kids. Amy started to implement the digital piece in her core storytime while we planned to launch an all digital specialty program called Digi-tots Playtime.

We’ve been through 2 Digi-tots sessions now, held the First Tuesday of each month, and so far we feel we have a solid program. The challenge is getting people who would want this program to come on a different day that is outside of anything they else they attend regularly at the library. The feedback from those who attended has been great. It’s amazing to see how much families know and do not know about mobile devices and apps.

About the program: we have structured Digi-tots Playtime similar to storytime since it is something the kids are already familiar with. We have an opening song, a story app, an APP-tivity, a second story and one final APP-tivity before free play. The goal is to let the children with their caregivers have the iPads in hand so that they can explore the app along with the group. This had mixed results the first time we did it, especially with stories. Once the kids figured out how to turn the page, some of them were 2-3 pages ahead of the group and no longer attached to the group activity. This brought to awareness that we need a “best practice” for when the iPads are in their hands. Basically, some fun rules that engage the caregiver to encourage the child to keep “hands up” when Miss Amy is reading, and to touch the app when she says it’s okay. We haven’t had a chance to implement this thinking yet, but we shall see for next time.

I think one of the best parts of Digi-tots Playtime is the APP-tivities. Basically, it’s taking an early literacy app and turning it into an engaging group game that gets the kids Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, Playing (and Laughing… I really think that should be a sixth practice 🙂 )

Some examples of APP-tivities we’ve done:

1. Endless Alphabet – Having the kids talk and tell the answer to what letter comes next in the jumbled word, and to play and make silly faces and the sounds of the letter. When we did the word “exercise,” we also played by exercising at the end of the word.

2. colAR Mix – Letting the kids write and color on the page and watch their faces light up as their creation came to life on the little screen (ie. iPad Mini). This app is a great introduction for families to STEM-based learning.

3. Wheels on the Bus Band – We played the song on the big screen and sang, and the kids had access to the iPad and app and can use any of the numerous built-in instruments to play and jam along. One thing to note: because that app interface is very busy, the children could feel overwhelmed by all the colors and activities. We talked about maybe having other singular instrument apps loaded, like the bongo apps, and also having things like egg shakers and other real instruments available in case the child wants to use something else.

At the end, the kids are free to go play with toys or play on the iPads with any of the apps we have loaded. We make ourselves available to answer questions that caregivers might have and to engage the children in play. The whole thing, with freetime at the end, goes for about 45 minutes, which is a good amount of time for this type of program.

We are excited for next month and will be working on bringing new families in to try it out and hopefully help them better navigate this digital world they are in.

Stephen Tafoya works as a Technology Trainer for a library district, and he partners with Youth Services Coordinators to engage kids and teens with technology in library programming.
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.

Press Here: First Session of Tablet Time, by Angela Reynolds

photoHere’s a recap of my first session (of four) of Tablet Time. Attending were 3 children and 2 parents. Because I only have 6 iPads, I have limited the registration to 6 kids, so half-full isn’t bad for this rural library. I started by reading a few books. The “featured” book was Press Here by Herve Tullet. Kids love this book—it is so interactive, they love seeing the “magic” that happens. My only caution–when the book asks readers to blow on the dots, hold that book up and away from you, because little kids do not know how to blow without spitting.

dotsOur next activity was dot alphabet matching. I created a page of the alphabet—upper and lower case (see picture). Each child got a sheet of dots. We wrote their names, one letter per dot, and they got to search for the letter on the sheet. Then they pressed the dot over the letter. They wanted to do more than just their names, and I gave parents extra pages of letters and sheets of dots to do the activity at home. We tried another activity, which was to write their names on paper and put tiny dots along the letters, but this was too hard for the youngest ones and not as exciting as looking for letters.

Next up, the app Press Here. One thing I love about this app is that there are really no instructions. You just figure it out, and play. There are 15 different games, all involving dots. There’s a fireworks game which involves making, well, fireworks. There’s a music game, a sports game for 2 players called “Inside Goal,” a memory game, and more. I asked the parents to spend some time with their kids testing out this app, talking to them and working together. After they spent about 10 minutes with that app, they had free-play time. The kids did enjoy this app—though the youngest of them (3 years old) enjoyed it more. She played with it for quite a while, and I heard some good parent-child interaction going on.

One of the moms was looking for good apps for her son who is in speech therapy. He really enjoyed Alphabet Car and was even able to unlock a new level in the game–he was really enjoying saying the letter aloud when he ran it over with his bus.


The kids really enjoyed each having their own iPads, which is why I think I will keep this program small. When I tried this program before, we had 6 iPads for 20 people, and while they were really good about sharing, they much preferred this format of being able to really spend some time with the apps.

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.

Power to the Kiddie Apps! by Kelsey Cole

May I invite you to start humming the Mexican Hat Dance song:

I love my little app. *clap clap* My little app loves me. *clap clap* I play it with my friends *clap clap* and my friends play with me. Ole-ho-leho-leho!

Thank you, Old Town School of Folk Music’s Wiggleworms Love You for forever being stuck in my head. All singing aside (does that ever happen?), I recently offered a program called “Power to the Kiddie Apps!” for ages 2-8 with a caregiver. Eleven families attended, all toting their tablets as requested, and all were rip-roaring to go.

The energy of the Little eLit community is surging with ideas about app reference to families, providing appvisory alongside our traditional recommendations. This new outlet for librarians is a very powerful one, a niche that is not filled by many other sources, especially not ones that have such high acclaim in their communities as librarians do.

My library has been providing access to tablets inside the library for 8 months now. Librarians expertly choose new apps every month for ages 2-8, allowing parents and children to preview educational apps before they buy them and providing access to tablet technology for those that do not have it. We have had tremendous success and the iPads are always in use. But in use by both the child and the caregiver?

The power of educational apps is derived from a myriad of sources, the biggest being CO-PLAY and CO-ENGAGEMENT by child and adult. When I see adults talking and playing alongside their children, I get a burst of happiness and delight knowing that the adult is treating the tablet no different than a book or a hands-on activity. But this is not intuitive to all caregivers. Tablets have an ability to mesmerize and it can be easy to fall into the “pass-back” effect where an adult may give it to their child to pacify. This, ultimately, allows adults to immerse themselves in activities sans children.

Well, I needed to give my brain knowledge to the people. Program time!


Prep-Time & Setup: I researched the booty out of Little eLit, finding the presentations by Amanda Armstrong and Lindsay Huth & Holly Jin of particular help, especially with analyzing apps. I find that ECRR 2nd edition provides a really nice framework for presentations on early literacy, so I chose to organize this program as such, focusing on apps that emphasize talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing. I wanted to make sure that I included early literacy notes that were relevant to the apps so parents could see their practical use. I also included a few stretcher rhymes to get their blood flowing.

Before the program began, I emailed the registered adults and asked them to download two free apps: Sketch-a-Song (Android, iOs) and Scribble My Story. I wanted the apps to be offered across all platforms, free, and suitable for ages 2-8. This proved to be a very hard task. I found out the hard way that Scribble My Story was free, but only on the iPad. Live and learn, I say.

The Program:

  1. Welcome & download apps
    1. Use email ahead of time to ask people to download free apps
  2. Navigating the tablet world with a young child
    1. Poll audience on ages
    2. What made you decide to come here today?
    3. “another sphere that parents feel they have to navigate in exactly the right way. On the one hand, parents want their children to swim expertly in the digital stream that they will have to navigate all their lives; on the other hand, they fear that too much digital media, too early, will sink them. Parents end up treating tablets like precision surgical instruments” Hanna Rosin, “The Touch-Screen Generation”
    4. Tablets have been out 4 years now—no significant research
    5. Active vs. passive media
      1. Not all screens are created equal
      2. Treat the tablet like you would a book
    6. “Educational apps” are not always educational
  3. Early Literacy Overview
    1. Talking, Playing, Singing, Reading, Writing
  4. READING App #1: Interactive Book (5 minutes)—Monster at the End of This Book
    1. Why it’s a good app: encourages participation, words appear as they are said illustrating a connection between verbal and written words, does not allow you to skip ahead or play with app while Grover is reading
    2. Early Literacy note: Touch the items on the screen after you finish reading to encourage listening skills so that they understand the story
  5. WRITING App #2: Writing App (5 minutes) – Scribble My Story (free), LetterSchool
    1. Why it’s a good app: Drawing is a precursor to writing (you might encourage them to use a stylist to draw), offers the ability to create, save, and share (builds confidence and pride in one’s work), offers tracking of child’s use, beauty in its simplicity, would encourage a child to create a longer book outside of screen time
    2. Early Literacy note: Encourage completion of a project so a child feels accomplished and encouraged to play (and secretly learn) more!
  6. Stretcher Rhyme: Itsy Bitsy Spider
  7. PLAYING App #3: Concept Skills/Brain Boosters (5 minutes) – Bugs & Buttons (Android & Apple)
    1. Why it’s a good app: Mini games explore early math topics such as patterns, counting, and sorting; Provides direction for games; Utilizes various tablet-specific skills (pressing, dragging, pinching), no in-app purchases
    2. Early Literacy note: Speak with your child! This helps process and express the information they are learning and it exposes them to more vocabulary
  8. TALKING App #4: Alphabet App (5 minutes) – Endless Alphabet (Apple)
    1. Why it’s a good app: Unique vocabulary, the sounds of the letters are fun and you’re encouraged to imitate them, definition provided by animation and narrator
    2. Early Literacy note: At this age, apps should be treated like books in that they are meant to be shared and the caregiver is meant to help a child slow down and process what they see through discussion and praise
  9. Stretcher Rhyme: Jim Gill’s List of Dances
  10. SINGING App #5: Music App (5 minutes): Sketch-a-Song (free, Android & Apple)
    1. Why it’s a good app: Co-creation and opportunity to take turns, ability to save songs
    2. Early Literacy note: Music is an excellent way to promote creation and open up a child’s exposure to world cultures.
  11. Family Media Plan
  12. Where to find good apps
    1. Your Librarian!
    2. Common Sense Media
    3. Digital Storytime

Evaluation: Overall, the parents left satisfied that they were more knowledgeable about using apps with their children. Many of them, interested in the material being presented, already had a general understanding of the best way to use apps with children, so they felt reinforced in their understanding. I highly encourage describing the apps’ great features while demonstrating them, keeping the interest of the children while giving educational notes to the parents.

The age range was wide and it was hard to provide apps for every interest and level so I focused on apps best suitable for the mid-range preschool age. However, I did stress that caregivers could still apply the tips and early literacy practices to older level apps.

All in all, this program really amped me up to include apps in storytime. Just like we demonstrate best practices for reading books with children and sharing rhymes, we can now demonstrate the best way to use apps—through talking, singing, reading, writing, and playing.

Kelsey Cole is the Youth Services Librarian at Fremont Public Library. She blogs at It’s a Library Bonanza!
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.

A Story Before Bed, by Carissa Christner

During my last semester of grad school, I did a project on “Mobile Apps for the Library” and in the course of my research, I discovered an app and online service called A Story Before Bed that allows users to create a video of themselves reading a book. They have hundreds of books in their collection, including both self-published titles and more familiar books available for physical check out in my own library. A Story Before Bed has taken care of all the copyright issues for the titles in their collection. Each recording is assigned a unique URL that doesn’t disappear even after your subscription expires. And they had just created an annual subscription model designed for library use. I couldn’t wait to try it out!


Finding funding
Because their pricing is calculated “per location” it seemed prudent to do a pilot project with only one branch before committing to subscriptions to all 9 of our library’s branches. I took the idea to our Friends of the Library, who like to fund new ventures like this, and they were quite excited by the idea as well and were willing to fund a year’s subscription.

Creating the recordings
Then, it was up to me to start creating the recordings. After experimenting with several different recording set-ups, we determined that the simplest set-up and the best results came from simply using my Apple laptop. A Story Before Bed isn’t equipped to use standard videocamera footage, so no editing is really possible. Each time I was ready to make a few recordings, I found a sunny window to set up near, hung a piece of fabric behind my head to create a neutral backdrop, and started recording! I chose titles based on which books my library owned because I wanted to make a connection between these “virtual” titles and the physical books on our shelves. During each recording session, I usually recorded 3-5 books. Because I wanted to do each one in a single “take” and occasionally something happened halfway through (like my backdrop falling down or an ambulance driving by outside), doing the recordings was more time-consuming than I’d originally thought.


Promoting the service
Once the recordings were complete, I posted them on our library’s website along with a link to finding the physical book in our online catalog. I created posters, bookmarks, and business cards directing people to the page that listed the recordings, along with instructions for how they could listen to the stories on their iPhones or iPads, and how (during our subscription year) patrons of our branch were allowed to create their own recordings for free! I also asked some “local celebrities” to create recordings to add to our website. Inside the front covers of the library books that had A Story Before Bed recordings, we pasted a QR code linking to the recording’s URL.


Results of the pilot project
After our year’s subscription expired, I realized that I had found time to record about 50 books which, after doing the math, wasn’t that much cheaper than buying individual titles would have been. Only a handful of patrons took advantage of the “record your own stories for free” option (perhaps because their recordings were then visible on the library’s A Story Before Bed account and potentially visible to the public?) and I had recorded most of the titles that our library owned, so I decided to end our subscription and switch to the pay-per-title model for now. Many patrons still tell me how much their kids love to watch me reading books to them on their iPad/iPhone/computer, and when I use those same books in library programs now, someone always says, “I have that book on my iPad!” I have also spoken to teachers who like the possibilities that their students who are learning English have a local source for hearing books read by a native speaker and can hear them being read over and over as often as they need to. I have really enjoyed this project and I’m very pleased with the results. Many thanks to A Story Before Bed and the Friends of the Alicia Ashman Library for making this all possible!

P.S. Looking for a more “live” experience? The developers at A Story Before Bed have also created a way to share their same video + book reading experience through Google+ Hangouts! Go try it out for free!!

Carissa Christner is a librarian with Madison Public Library.

Media Literacy Guidance, by Katrina Bergen

Recently, I went into a very rowdy kindergarten class to read Dr. Seuss.  Because of the class’s reputation I used the iPad for Green Eggs and Ham, thinking they would be transfixed by something moving on a screen.  I’m not sure how unrowdy it made the kids.    Lots of kids were yelling out – “How did you turn the pages?” and “What’s that Red thing?” (the red dot shows as an indicator on how and when to swipe across the page.)
The kids were asking for Media Literacy Guidance!  I’m afraid I missed this teachable moment.  Next time.

CATS Winter Workshop: APPles & Androids, by Stephen Tafoya

I had the opportunity to present at the CATS (Children and Teen Services) Winter Workshop in Colorado at the end of January. The program was called APPles & Androids, and I would like to highlight the points from the workshop for you here.

Before we got into the slides, we did our first APP-tivity. Using Endless Alphabet, I told the participants that I needed their help. “These rascally monsters just came through and messed up all my letters and I need you to help me put the letters back in order to build the word.” By asking choice/contrast questions, I had the participants tell me which letter was first, which one came next (or after) that first letter, and so on. As you may know, when you touch a letter in the game, it makes the letter sound. So, when I touched the letter, I had the participants make that letter sound with me, and told them they could even use their hands to show me what they think the letter sound looks or acts like. Once we put all the letters back in place, we cheered ourselves on a job well done, and then we listened to what the meaning of the word was. I shared with the participants some language I may tell parents. “By asking your child questions about which letters go where and having them repeat the silly sounds, you are helping them build letter and sound knowledge and the order sounds go in to make up a word. You can also have your child play and act out the word meaning to help build their vocabulary!” And that was our first APP-tivity.

Then we started in with the slides. I gave everyone the big picture of tablets in society. From there, we took a look at the different tablets that are available, and ones you may consider buying for programming use. Starting with the Kindle Fire, we discussed the different models, and how having access to Kindle Freetime Unlimited would make this tablet great for a digital literacy station. Going into Android, I highlighted the specialty “kid” tablets and spoke about Android tablets in general. Now that the newer Androids have the ability to create custom profiles this is a huge draw; however, they still don’t have the content that Apple does in their App Store, but they are growing. That led us into Windows 8. Not a whole lot to offer in terms of how we use them in libraries with children. Maybe someday.

From there, it was all about the iPad, the various models, the pluses of all the app content that is available, and how to evaluate apps in the App Store (I live demoed that piece). From there, the discussion led to how iPads can be used in the library with young children, the most common use being implementation in Storytime. I shared other ideas, things I’ve done or seen in other libraries, stuff that other libraries could potentially do. Then we went into the big picture of how and why the Librarian should be the media mentor (SPOILER: it’s so the PARENT in turn becomes the MEDIA MENTOR) 😀

I did another APP-tivity with everyone, using Sago Mini Forest Flyer and how to “think outside the app”. I taught everyone how to make a flying bird friend using their fingers and taught them this song:

I’m a little birdie,
Flapping through the forest,
Looking to see what I can see.

So they flapped along as I moved the bird on the screen and then placed her on one of the animation spots. When the bird started to interact, I would say, “What’s this? Our friend Bernadette (what they named the bird) smashed her face right into the cupcake! How silly, Bernadette! She must really love cupcakes!). Now, we are going to sing our song and fly again with our friend, but this time I want someone else to talk and tell me what Bernadette does.” And we did a few rounds of that.

At the end, I gave them language to tell parents like, “Through talk, singing our song, and play, you are helping your child build Vocabulary and Narrative Skills.”

We concluded our workshop with tips like Know Thy App (when you use it the first time, after each app update, to the point where you could do it in your sleep), Extra Tech Prep Time and Have a Backup Plan WHEN (not if) the tech does fail. And toIntegrate Naturally as it relates to their specific community (ie. slowly build it into storytime, survey parents first, etc.).

The workshop was well-received, questions throughout, and overall the CATS Workshop was a hit! Lots of great presenters, STEAM-related content, yummy food and friendly fellowship.

View the presentation slides here:–androids

Stephen Tafoya works as a Technology Trainer for a library district, and he partners with Youth Services Coordinators to engage kids and teens with technology in library programming.

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.

iPads in Your Kids’ Space

So you have new media in your storytimes and other library programming, but what about incorporating into your children’s spaces?

Since their first pilot in October 2012, Sacramento Public Library has installed early literacy iPads into the Kids’ Spaces at four library branches and in a pop-up library project cosponsored by the library and News10. With each pilot program we’ve learned new tips and tricks for getting the most out of tablet technology in our libraries.

Make A Difference Day 039Why put tablets into our libraries at all?

Digital literacy is part of early literacy. We have puppet theaters and writing tables, block bins and early literacy computer stations, so why not include iPads into the design for our children’s areas? A number of the programs that we use extensively in our early literacy programming, such as Every Child Ready to Read and Mother Goose on the Loose, are incorporating new media into their programs. The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media put out a joint position statement in January of 2012 with recommendations for using technology with young children. One of the key messages of that position statement was the need for “information and resources to effectively select, use, integrate, and evaluate technology and interactive media tools in intentional and developmentally appropriate ways.” Children today are increasingly more familiar with technology, whether libraries are a part of it or not. And we need to be part of it. Because providing information and resources to select content for children is central to what we do as children’s librarians.

Parents, teachers, and even app developers are looking for guidance. There are so many “educational” apps out there for children, it can be completely overwhelming.  Immediately after we installed the first iPads at South Natomas, we had parents asking for information on the app being featured. There are parents who care about what content they’re giving their children, and they’re looking for recommendations. Librarians are already giving quality advice about which board books or picture books are appropriate for their young children, and we can be just as comfortable giving a great app recommendation. Parents will put their smartphones and tablets into the hands of their young children. Having iPads in the library gives us credibility to recommend good content and best practices for the use of that technology.

Having early literacy iPads in our library supports our goals of promoting literacy. The iPads, like the AWE early literacy stations, are engaging. They attract families to the language-rich early literacy spaces that we’re creating and encourage children to engage with each other, with the technology, and with their caregivers. By loading high quality, developmentally appropriate apps we encourage children to engage in talking, reading, writing, singing, and playing – the behaviors that will help them build a strong foundation for learning to read later in life. When they touch a balloon in “Make It Pop,” it increases their awareness of the alphabet. When they trace a letter in “LetterSchool” it prepares them to be able to write their own name.

By installing early literacy iPads with librarian-selected content in the library, we’re also providing access to all of our families, not just those who can afford to have an iPad at home. With the increased likelihood that children will encounter tablet technology in educational settings, there is a need to address the “digital divide” between children from higher-income and lower-income families.

Whether you’re looking to update your existing children’s area, or designing a new language-rich kids’ learning space, consider incorporating interactive technology to encourage early literacy and digital literacy for all your families.

Amanda Foulk is a Youth Services Librarian at Sacramento Public Library. She became passionate about children and technology when her branch was chosen to pilot early literacy iPads for the Sacramento Public Library system, and has always been opinionated about quality content for children in any format. She can be reached with questions or comments at


October Challenge: Trying an App in Storytime, by Catherine DiCristofaro

I got the chance to participate in the New Media in Storytime training sponsored by the Maryland Eastern Shore Regional Library. Cen Campbell provided everyone with fantastic information and insight into using picture book apps and other newer technology in a storytime and library setting. After seeing how successful her demonstrations were, I was determined to try a picture book app in my own storytime to see how my families would respond. I decided that I would have enough material for a “normal” storytime (i.e., no apps) but have one ready to go if the group I had that day was up for it. I decided to actually show the story directly from my iPad screen to keep it simple.

app in storytimeAfter we finished our story books, I had the children move closer to the front so that everyone could see. We used the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive this App” on the iPad. If you are not familiar with this particular app, it features Mo Willems’s Pigeon asking to do something that the user denies. If a child is familiar with the Pigeon in book form, he or she will have no problem adapting to the app. There are three options that allow users to have different levels of control over the storytelling elements. The first level, “egg,” simply tells a story. Level two, “chick,” allows the user to pick different elements of the story from different lists. Finally, the third level, “Big Pigeon” allows the user to record his or her voice to add a personal creative element to the story. I used this app in two different storytimes, one with 18 children and one with 12. I decided to use the chick version so that we could add some creative ownership to the story by picking elements, but we wouldn’t have to try recording sound with that many young children trying to help.

Some of the children had trouble NOT touching the iPad. I could tell that they weren’t used to having a table present and not being able to touch it. However, once I explained that I would be pushing the buttons so that everyone could see, they understood and managed to keep their fingers in check. As each option for the story was presented (what is the smelliest – gym socks, kitty litter, or stinky fish), the children called out choices and I tapped the picture to add it to the story. Once all of the choices had been made, we were ready to hear the story we helped create. The kids were entranced. They listened intently and participated by yelling “No!” when the Pigeon made his request. After the storytime, I had a chance to talk to a parent to see what she thought about integrating apps and technology into storytime. She said that she liked it and that as long as it wasn’t the only thing we did in storytime, she thought it was a nice addition. Overall, I thought my first app in storytime experience was a success and I hope to try more in the future!

Catherine DiCristofaro is the youth services librarian at the Charlotte Hall Branch in the St. Mary’s County Library System. Catherine served on the 2012 Blue Crab committee for the Children’s Services Division of the Maryland Library Association. She is passionate about picture books and making sure that children and adults alike view reading as something that is fun and worth doing!