Category Archives: YouTube

Becoming a Storytime Producer, by Tom Schween

My name is Tom Schween and I have always been fascinated with musical television commercials and music videos (so YouTube playlists make me very happy). I also began collecting children’s picture books when I was a toddler. I got my undergraduate degree in advertising from Loyola and had the good fortune to work on Madison Avenue (as an Account Executive at BBDO) and in Times Square (as a Promo Producer at MTV) in my twenties.

In my thirties I left New York to go west. I took a job working behind the scenes with a musical theater company and studied recreation/leisure at San Francisco State. During this course I was given the greatest academic assignment ever, to volunteer at doing anything I wanted to do for fun. I wanted to read to kids.

During my story reader training for the Oakland Public Library’s Books for Wider Horizons program I was bitten by the storytime bug. Through storytime, I realized I could use my expertise as an advertising and promo producer to promote the values found in children’s picture books and music (versus promoting soft drinks and MTV values). Over the past ten years I have conducted over a thousand storytime enrichment programs in classrooms across the Bay Area.

I look at storytime through the eyes of a producer. Producing musical storytime is a lot like producing musical commercials, musical theater, and music television. You do it in layers: script, visuals, actions, music, and special (magical) effects. It’s your job to find and employ the best tools for each of these layers. By looking at storytime beat by beat, you can weave a program that transfixes your audience. You combine these layers in a live setting to create a dynamic and highly textured sensory (story, music, and movement) experience that ebbs and flows in response to your audience’s needs (check out my Magic Carpet Handbook for how I do this). As Irving Mills wrote, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing!”

Once I realized that I could help others produce entertaining children’s programs, I enrolled in SJSU’s School of Library and Information Science. At SJSU I am now working toward becoming a “go to” expert on producing effective and relevant storytime programs for young children in the digital age. I look at storytime first through the eyes of a producer and a showman, and second as a student of child development and new media. I am interested in producing: 1) programs that entertain and engage audiences; 2) programs that are effective because they take into account the whole child; and 3) programs that employ digital tools in a healthy and appropriate way.

I recently co-authored a presentation that I want to share with the Little eLit community along with my thanks to Cen Campbell and the Little eLit team for their pioneering work in digital storytime. I hope you find it helpful and informative. The presentation is entitled “Digital Storytime: A New Frontier in Early Literacy.”

For my digital storytime music video recommendations, check out the Children’s MusicVideoWOW collection at You can find blog posts about each of these videos in the sidebar menu.

Finally, here’s a bit of fun for you. It’s my “great musical commercials” YouTube playlist. Enjoy!


Libraries. We lend books. Don’t ask us to do anything else or we might just do it.

A lesson in giving people what they want. Or maybe not.

This is a fabulous little ditty which can serve as digital flair in storytime, or as a staff training conversation starter at your next in-service. And there’s a t-shirt, too.

Kent State University SLIS. Been There. Done That. Got the T-shirt in the Mail.

A few weeks ago I put this video together for Dr. Marianne Martens at Kent State SLIS as a guest lecture. I realize it was a little goofy of me to point out how I usually turn off sound etc in any apps I use in storytime and then extol the virtues of Dame Edna’s narration of Olivia, but as a very first Youtube video, I suppose it’s not COMPLETELY horrible. I’m new to this “having anything to say about anything” gig and my public speaking/webinar/guest lecture skills will only get better as I keep talking… and talking…….. and talking about children’s librarians and eBooks. So anyway, today I got a lovely thank-you card and a Kent State T-shirt in the mail.

Thank you, Marianne! Please let me know if there’s anything else I can to for you or your students!


walk like an egyptian


Duck! Rabbit!

Classic optical illusion.  Also a great tree book for storytime.

A Toddler’s YouTube Playlist

Take a look at Tara Gill Studios!  I met Tara at an eBooks and Apps for Young Children program that I put on at Blossom Birth Services a few months ago. We spent quite some time sharing the apps that we share with our boys.  Tara is a photographer, artist and tech geek and she is truly creative in her use of digital technology with her young son.  She has put together a YouTube playlist especially for Little eLit, and written a little post about us on her blog.

A Toddler’s Playlist

We may see more reviews and cool stuff from Tara in the future.  Welcome to Little eLit, Tara!

Pete the Cat

No matter what you step in, keep walking along, singing your song.

eBook Review: Fire Truck

Fire Truck by Ivan Ulz has been a favourite in our house for quite some time.  It only occurred to me recently that it could be considered an eBook. Slippery things, these eBooks, aren’t they?  It was part of a series of  tree books  called “Sing and Read Storybooks” published by Scholastic.  This particular book is out of print, but there are others in the serious that are still available. (On a side note, the Scholastic website is TERRIBLE for searching.  And there is no link for this series of books.  They have got to get some librarians to work on that.)

The illustrations are great and contain all the requisite parts that make preschoolers go wild: ladders, hoses, spotted canines, wheels, bells and sirens.  There’s a reason this video has been watched nearly 3 million times- the little dudes dig it.

The song sounds monotonous on first listen, but once you’ve heard it a few times, it gets kinda groovy.  And you know what’s even groovier?  When you’re driving in your car, and a firetruck drives by, and your kid starts belting it out from the back seat.

My heart’s an iPod

We listen to a LOT of music in our house.  Little J is very fond of the Decemberists, Charlotte Diamond, Europe, Laurie Berkner, Tom Waits, and Gym Class Heroes.  He will ask to listen to them.

“We can have my heart a stereo?”
“Sure baby! How do you want to listen to my heart’s a stereo?”
“On iPod! No, on pomputer.  Yes! pomputer!”

So we fire up the pomputer and find some quality YouTubeage for him to dance around the living room to.  At times he will ask to have music on the “eBook” (that’s what he calls the Galaxy Tab), so we use the YouTube App to find music there.  My digital native knows there are different ways to access the same digital content, and depending on his mood, he can choose just audio or audio and video.  This too, ladies and gentlemen, is media literacy in action.

All in the Family with Media Literacy

I don’t know why, but it floored me when my 3 year old niece efficiently navigated her way through YouTube on an iMac to find her favourite song.  Not only was I impressed by her impeccable taste in music, but also the ease with which she used the Magic Trackpad and keyboard.  She wasn’t zoning out in front of a TV; she was actively using her technological knowhow to fill an information need.  She found what she wanted, grooved a little, moved away from the computer and proceeded to sit on her brother and play with some marbles.
This is media literacy!  This is where success starts!  At a very young age, in the home.  It got me thinking about kids who DON’T have new fangled technology in their homes. Libraries have to get on board and find a way to make these gadgets accessible to everyone.  How do we do that?  Music, books, videos, then homework, bus schedules, job applications and driver’s licenses… it’s all on the interwebs.  
We have to get some have to the have nots.