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Meeting with Fred Rogers, TEC Center at Erikson, ALSC, Children’s Technology Review, LittleeLit &


On October 3 & 4, 2013, a small group of individuals representing a few mighty organizations met at the Technology in Early Childhood Center at the Erikson Institute in Chicago, IL. The group (above) included Iara Fuenmayor (TEC Center),  Joanna Ison & Aimee Strittmatter (ALSC), Rita Catalano & Mike Robb (Fred Rogers Center), Carisa Kluver (, Cen Campbell (, Chip Donohue & Amanda Armstrong (TEC Center) and Warren Buckleitner (Children’s Technology Review, though Warren joined us remotely). The group got together to discuss an idea that we’ve been working on at LittleeLit for some time now; unified, wide-scale librarian involvement in the children’s digital publishing marketplace. Chip Donohue offered to facilitate our little convention after meeting with Carisa Kluver, Starr Latronica (ALSC President) & me at ALA Annual in Chicago right after the A to Zoo for Apps conversation starter, and during our 2 day meeting in October we discussed the need for children’s librarians to be much more actively involved in developing resources and programming that include new media.

Initially my plan was to develop a comprehensive app evaluation, curation and aggregation tool similar to A to Zoo but for digital media, but the emphasis of the project has shifted away from the tool and more toward the training. I do think there is a pressing need for a tool that is populated with data (and metadata!) by children’s librarians, but the development of a large piece of software with buy-in from many different parties seems to require more bandwidth than most of us can handle right now, and there are concerns that the marketplace is changing so quickly, and there are many other “recommendation” projects in existence, that the resources and time it would take to build a truly comprehensive tool may not pay off as well in the long run as the training. I’m working on ways to build the development of a tool into the training materials themselves, though, even if it makes use of existing tools or takes more time to build than we’d initially hoped.

The working title for the project is Access, Content & Engagement: Media Mentors @ Your Library and the vision for the project is as follows:

In every community library there will be a media mentor who develops early childhood programming that models the intentional, appropriate and healthy use of mobile technology with young children and recommends high quality, age-appropriate digital media as a part of normal reference & reader’s advisory services.

The plan right now is to go for an IMLS planning grant to expand on the work we’ve been doing through (like individual consulting projects and New Media in Storytime workshops), trainings with Carisa Kluver and the California State Library, as well as Betsy Diamant-Cohen and Mother Goose on the Loose. Through all of these projects we’ve been working toward the development of training resources, the training workshops themselves, and early literacy technology projects within public libraries. For the planning grant we’re seeking partners to both guide the development of the training tools, and partners to act as pilot sites.

The cast of characters who are lending their resources and guidance to this initiative is impressive, and I am humbled by the continued outlay of support for what we’re attempting to do. Not only are the aforementioned institutions lending themselves to the project in an advisory capacity, we also have representatives from the Every Child Ready to Read Oversight Committee, the New America Foundation (Lisa Guernsey, who put the “media mentor” idea in my head in the first place) and representatives from other State Libraries and library systems all around the continent offering their institutions and services.

I have a few months of heavy-duty grant writing ahead of me, but I have a whole team of experienced and enthusiastic people from libraryland and beyond who see the need for guidance in this area, and who realize the potential of the public library to provide that guidance to families and educators who are struggling with managing and using new media with their young charges. The project is still in its infancy and I am working on details about who is going to do what. All we know is that librarians are finally stepping up to fill a very big void, and if we get funded, we’re going to do it nationally.

Many thanks to everyone who joined us in Chicago, especially to Chip & Amanada, our gracious hosts. I look forward to future discussions, preferably where no one gets sick!


New Media in Libraries: ALSC Community Forum Archives

If you were unable to attend one or both of last week’s ALSC Community Forums–the topic was “New Media in Libraries,” and Cen spoke on this topic at the beginning of each session–I’m glad to share that the archived forums are available via the ALSC website. Please note: you will only be able to access these archives by logging in with your ALA username and password.

Did you attend either forum or view the archived sessions? What topics most piqued your interest? Sound off in the comments. And don’t forget: if you have a new media program plan, anecdote, or other story you’d like to share here on Little eLit, let us know!

A Month’s Worth of Education Apps: An App List from alsc-l

Not too long ago, librarian Karen Newberry posted a query to the ALSC listserv: “I’m preparing to share some apps with media specialists. Does anyone have a great suggestion to add to my list?”

She received responses from fellow librarians and folks in academia, and she compiled those responses with a list she received at the ISTE conference. Here’s the resulting list.

A Month’s Worth of Education Apps

Key: W=wifi needed O=can be used offline


Facts, photos and views. Interactive info graphs. Beautiful!
Pandas, tigers, turtles, elephants, 15 total animals

2 Urban dictionary
Slang dictionary for all of us old folk. Graphic content* meant as resource for teachers to know what kids are really talking about and not for kids….although they probably know it anyway.

3 Tinkerbox
Logistical placement of components to make motion devices like dominos or ball into basket.

4 Socrative
Allows you to pose questions to the class and get instant feedback about their understanding level. Teacher and student apps*

5 Garfield’s online safety
Comic book format lesson about Internet safety for kids. Includes quizzes and nemonic cues to help them remember

6 Apps Gone Free
Just what it says. A daily dose of apps that you can get for free. Utilies, games, education as in a grab bag and all for free.

7/8 NASA and NASA TV
Watch live feed from the ISS. NASA launches etc or browse through the on demand banked videos through the tv app. The NASA app offers informative lessons about missions, ISS, satellite technology and space in general.

9 Math Zombies
Answer math problems to change zombies back into humans. Can choose math function and playing level

10 Micro DJ
Remix songs from your own music with a simple console. Free version has limited function.

11 Magic Plan
Design tool for space layout. Can design homes, offices or stores. Even allows you to capture your room virtually with your camera.

12 Science 360
Produced by NSF tons if 2-5 minute videos about science , animals the environment and more. Great self-exploration app.

13 My Reps and My Congress
Lets you locate bibliographic info on you elected officials as well as all the state level offices.
Lets you follow along with proceedings on the floor. Has a schedule of when various hears and votes are to happen.

14 Kidblog
Allows you to set up and control a blog for your students or peers. You have authority to allow posts or deny them. It is a closed group that you control the access for. Would be a great virtual book discussion format

15 Educreations
Record lessons to use later. Great for booktalks?

16 Animals 360
Identifies the animals by written name, sound and habitat. Quizzes to match sound with picture and shuffles photo puzzles for younger user.

17 BigOven
Recipes access to thousands of recipes, leftover helper and a component to let you scan your own recipes in.

18 Adobe Reader
Allows you to open PDF documents on your iPhone, touch or pad.

19 Mango Reader
Read along, ereader of record the story in your own voice. Great for fluency.

20 Khan Academy
Video lessons from various disciples. Has transcripts of the spoken lesson.
Junior high and up

21 Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton
Read along interactive book of sB’s fun stories. I splurged on this one… $3

22 Spring Pad
An organizing tool. Think about if Pinterest married your todo list.

23 Slate Math K-1 (can download at different levels)
Busy work math games sorting, counting etc. interactive

24 See Touch Learn
Interactive learning game. The computer voice asks you to select the correct letter out of a bank of choices. Not the best computer generated voice but a teacher could direct the students to do the same thing.

25 Collage
Lets you put together up to four photos, choose background and add text. Pro version allows more photos for 1.99

26 Discover Poetry
Spin to choose a random theme, browse by mood, subject, poet, audio versions. Cool tool

27 PBS Play and Learn
Tracing shapes, letters. Suggested literacy activities for baby through pre-k

28 Nearpod
Allows for devices to be synced together via the website or app. The teacher can control the view of the other devices in the pod. Polls, lessons etc. *Teacher and students all need app or access.

29 Schoology
Allows for posting from the various members of a group. Great to be used for classroom events or group project coordination.

30 Goodreads
Rate your books and have the option of writing reviews. Keep shelves of books by genre, classes or any out taxonomy. Allows you to share with friends if you want to.

31 Sock Puppets
Lets kids record their own 30 second puppet shows for replay. Can change out props and sock puppets.

Picture Books, Children, and Technology: A Book List from alsc-l

A few weeks back, a post was shared on alsc-l (the list serv of the Association for Library Service to Children) requesting suggestions of print picture books that deal with the topic of children and technology. Many librarians chimed in to help build a great book list. Here’s the complete list in all of its crowd-sourced glory, courtesy of the folks on alsc-l, and with links to WorldCat.

Picture Books about Children and Technology from alsc-l

Doug Unplugged by Dan YaccarinoDoug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino
Hello! Hello! by Mathew Cordell
Chloe by Peter McCarty
Black Out by John Rocco
Brownie and Pearl Made Good by Cynthia Rylant
Unplugged: Ella Gets Her Family Back by Laura Pedersen
Arthur’s Dream Boat by Polly Dunbar
When Charlie McButton Lost Power by Suzanne Collins
Mouse TV by Matt Novak
Amelia Makes a Movie by David Milgrim
Miss Malarkey Leaves No Reader Behind by Judy Finchler
Hello: Is this Grandma? by Ian Whybrow
Return of the Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy
The Berenstain Bears’ Computer Trouble by Jan and Mike Berenstain
Arthur’s Computer Disaster by Marc Brown
Franklin and the Computer by Sharon Jennings
Press Here by Herve Tulle
It’s a Book! by Lane SmithIt's a Book by Lane Smith
Patrick’s Dinosaurs on the Internet by Carol Carrick
Chip, the Little Computer = (Chip, el pequeno computador) by Dr. Hope
Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd
Penny Lee and Her TV by Glenn McCoy
Turn it Off! By David F. Marx
Bedtime is Canceled by Cece Meng
Get Happy by Malachy Doyle
Yes, Let’s by Galen Goodwin Longstreth

Saddle Up, Colleagues! Apps in Storytime Open Invitation

Ok, well, I’m rousing the troops again.  Here’s what I posted today to get some conversation going about establishing best practices for using apps with kids in libraries.

Hi Everyone,

I am so glad to see that there’s a lot of discussion going on about using apps in storytimes. There are differing opinions on this topic, but the fact remains that the technology is already here, and that it is our professional responsibility as experts in content for kids (regardless of format) to develop some best practices. We need to do this both to guide the use of technology in our programs and collections, and also for communicating effectively to parents and caregivers about the pros and cons of using mobile technology with young children.

Trista recently posted a call for apps that folks have already been using in their storytimes on the pubyav listserv, and I responded with some information about the apps-in-storytime work we’ve been doing at Many of us children’s librarians are already experimenting with using apps in our programs, but there is currently no centralized resource for tips and tricks in this area, though I am working with PLA, ALSC, InfoPeople and a few other organizations to develop some standardized professional development materials (think ECRR or MGOL with apps).

The children’s library community is WAY behind ECE educators, researchers and administrators in making use of mobile tech with young kids; we are not trailblazing here, we are catching up to the rest of the world’s current media use. Young children are already exposed to digital media; there is no question of that, and frankly, any personal opinions on that matter are irrelevant to this discussion. What can we do, as a profession, to give parents and caregivers the best information about HOW (not IF) to use their smart phones and tablets with their kids in the most positive, literacy-supporting way possible?

We are in the middle of a format-based sea-change that spans far beyond libraryland and into publishing, pedagogy, multi-literacies, special needs education, diversity and federal and state policy. It’s a much bigger phenomenon than many librarians realize, yet there is no better profession to step in and make recommendations on the intelligent use of book-based and educational apps with children.

I’d like to invite those of you who are already using apps in your programs, or who would LIKE to use apps in your programs, to contact me off-list or through to discuss working together to develop a community of knowledge in this area. We don’t all need to be re-inventing the wheel on this one, and there are plans already in the works to develop a librarian-curated recommendation service (think Goodreads but for kids apps with recommendations for using apps in programs).

Saddle up, colleagues!


Children’s Librarians Curating Apps

Children’s Librarians! We need to build a mechanism by which we can work together to evaluate and recommend apps for kids on a large scale, and I know how we can do it.

Yesterday I spoke with Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime for the first time. She is full of wonderful information, is incredibly well spoken and knows the kids’ app world better than anyone else I know.  She told me that it’s the highest compliment she can receive when someone asks if she’s a children’s librarian (she’s not) because her area of expertise is book-based apps for kids. She told me how in 2010, when she went into her local library to get recommendations for book based apps to share with her son, she was given the cold shoulder by the children’s librarian and told to read a paper book instead. So she took it upon herself to take her background in teacher training and social work and become an expert in digital media for kids.  “If librarians are not going to supervise this new playground of [digital] children’s literature to make sure the equipment is safe, then I am.”  Compared to Carisa’s work, Little eLit is in the dark ages.  She saw a need for this way before I did, and I see the need for this way before most other children’s librarians do.  Colleagues; we have some catching up to do.

I told Carissa about a recent conversation on the ALSC listserv and blog where some librarians were recommending that we as children’s librarians should stick our collective heads in the sand, pretend the technology doesn’t exist and only recommend paper books. She and I agreed that the long-term studies that will support the inclusion of digital media in literacy programming for kids is at least a decade off. Does that mean that we AREN’T going to begin to develop best practices around using this new format with kids?  NO! Tablet technology is pervasive and parents are using it anyway. Abstinence-only education doesn’t work.  Telling parents that they shouldn’t use technology with their less-than-five-year old child is not an acceptable course of action for professionals who pride themselves on evaluating, curating and recommending high quality media for children.

So what can we do?  Carisa had an amazing idea. What if children’s librarians work together to build a tool for evaluating and recommending apps?  Sure there are review sites like SLJHorn BookKirkusAppiticCommon Sense Media and Digital Storytime, but even these only scratch the surface of book based and educational apps for kids.  It’s time we started working together to apply our collection development and programming expertise to the ever-expanding, dynamic, and useful world of children’s interactive media. Carisa has offered to help us build a system by which we can tag, comment on, organize and curate apps that we discover that are high quality, safe, educational and well-designed. All we have to do is tell her what kind of information we’d want in there, and she’ll see what she can do about building the database.

Here are some more specifics from Carisa:

We could set up a test server for you & anyone else from ALSC to test it out. It would be based on the software we built to show price drops on kids apps, with curated ‘tabs’, although most of the elements & visual look of the page can be changed, this give you an idea:
We can customize it quite a bit & remove the price-tracking feature and/or add in other types of categorization, maybe based on a group of at least 6 people willing to act as a steering committee and committed to beta testing before the software is opened to a larger group of librarians (and to help handle technical questions as it launches). Initially I can simply have a version of the blank database set up at one of the url’s we use for testing, just for you to log in and play with it. We can host it, or if you have technical folks who are willing to step-up, we can simply give you the code.

Children’s librarians! Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff in the app world for kids.  Let’s bring those evaluation skills into the digital age. Comment below, contact me on Twitter, or fill out my contact form to start this conversation.

ReBlog: Tiny Tips for Library Fun

From Tiny Tips for Library Fun by 

Stop Making a Divide!

It has been a rambunctious few weeks on the alsc-l listserv and then followed up on the ALSC blog. What is ruffling feathers and raising tempers?  The basic question of how we as youth librarians incorporate and curate digital content for kids – including very young kids.

A simple request to share thoughts with an app developer passed on to the listserv by Cen Campbell over at Little eLit blog elicited more action than I’ve seen on alscl in a while.  Some people got quite off topic with flame-worthy insistence that digital content had no place in the library lives of kids between 0-5. The ALSC blog guest posts followed – herehere and here.

I never weighed in on this brouhaha except in comments. I will tell you, though, I was dismayed at some of the attitudes displayed and the arguments made against including digital content for young kids. Although we haven’t made much of a leap at our library, it is a direction I expect our team will be going much sooner rather than later.  Again, Cen pointed the way in her Wrestling Your Bear post at the beginning of November. That  coupled with the provocative thinking in the Libraries and Transliteracy blog (now finished) really informed my thinking.

Cen’s thoughts dovetail with mine. This semester I have been teaching a graduate level Children’s and YA Services course for UW-Madison.  One of our textbooks, Adele Fasick’s From Boardbook to Facebook, published in 2011, makes the case for the direction youth libraries will inevitably be moving in. It’s a direction that seamlessly blends traditional print with digital content to meet the needs of our families. I would be remiss as an instructor – and as a practicing librarian – not to look further and more deeply into the future that is truly happening right now. My students need to be open to the possibilities they will experience at the beginning – as well as at the end – of their careers.

While I appreciate the hesitation and worry about screen time expressed by people, I also think it is incredibly short-sighted and darn near dereliction of duty not to stand-up, research-up, read-up, learn-up, understand-up AND change-up for positive support and curation of digital content for kids. Arguing as Luddites that screens time is a no-no below a certain age ignores the rich (and sometimes stupid and banal) content that parents are tapping into already. As youth librarians we need to understand and lead, model and recommend to help our families find the best for their kids.

I hope people stop thinking of why not and start thinking of why and how. We serve our communities best when we add to our knowledge base, bridge the divides – and change and evolve with the times. By learning from and collaborating with each other we all gain.

Little eLit on the ALSC Blog!

Check out this guest blog post I wrote for the ALSC Blog about a particularly hair-pulling conversation on the ALSC listserv. Every day I am more convinced that we need to launch some wide-scale training for children’s librarians so they know the hows, whys and whats of digital programming and services for kids in libraries. It’s our job now. Let’s talk about it, find or develop the resources we need, and get on the same page so that we can all begin offering services and content that is relevant to our communities in this digital age.

Listserv rudeness

I posted something yesterday on the ALSC general listserv, asking people to “like” readImagine‘s Education Nation pitch (Go do it, now, if you haven’t already! Closes tomorrow!)

I got this rude response from someone:

Hi Cen,

I think that replacing the experience of reading a book with a child with an audio/video feed, in solitude, is a bad idea.

I think that kids (and families) want and need the slow pace, the interactions, the bonding,  the physicality, the challenge and the adaptability of reading a  book together.  I think that what you call “crazily-brilliant” might be destructive to writing and story and more dumbing down.  I don’t think technology is a solution for everything, especially when it comes to the emotional, social and intellectual development of children.

My values don’t leave much room for tech (“media”) companies like yours to make much money.  But I think it would be crazily-brilliant if everyone put kids ahead of money, all the time, every time.

So I responded with the following:

Hi [person]!

I agree with you completely that replacing reading with “an audio/video feed, in solitude” is a bad idea.

readImagine, the group of students from Stanford that I’m helping (I am a librarian at a public library, not an employee of a “media company”) is developing a tool within a number of California library systems, plus the California Library Association, to bring kids back to the library. They are developing good quality digital books (we NEED something better than BookFlix and Tumblebooks to compete with the content that’s available through the App store!), integrating ILS systems so kids can see what’s on the shelf at their local libraries, bringing in off-copyright content to be accessed directly through the portal, establishing teacher/parent/child analytics with a COPPA compliant social media and content creation platform, and working with libraries and schools to do educational research on the reading habits of children. Paper books are included in this project, and readImagine is signing authors to create original and adapted content, because frankly, publishers don’t know how to play nicely anymore with public libraries.

The more the child (aged 5-10 for now) reads, from whatever the source, the better. There will be back-end access for librarians to localize the content and provide reader’s advisory and highly details statistics about how a child is improving in their reading skills. The monetary gain ($100,000 from Education Nation if they win) that comes from this contest will go to ILS integration, content creation and pedagogical research with the partner libraries. They are working with a number of library systems already and are giving the product away for free because it’s an innovative research project, not a money making project. They are even developing an algorithm that can calculate the child’s reading level according to their interaction with the app, and corresponding adaptive text.

This endeavor is akin to the ebook hosting/distribution efforts of Library Renewal, Califa and Douglas County, only it’s for interactive media for children (in fact, many of the active players in those projects are also assisting in this project: Michael Porter, Sarah Houghton, Paul Sims and Derek Wolfgram are all helping in some capacity).

This is innovation, creative collaboration and technology used intelligently. That’s what libraries are about these days.

Please vote for readImagine’s pitch if you think any of this is a great idea! It closes tonight!!!


Special Needs Digital Storytime Conference Proposal

A few weeks ago I received an email from ALSC asking if I was interested in partnering with a Tess Prendergast, a doctoral student from the University of British Columbia‘s Department of Language and Literacy Education, and a children’s librarian and the Vancouver Public Library. Tess’ expertise is in Special Needs Early Childhood Education.  I told her about my Digital Storytelling project at Santa Clara County Library District with Megan Wong. We corresponded a little bit about our areas of interest and decided to create a panel discussion with Carrie Banks from the Brooklyn Public Library.  Carrie is the founder of The Child’s Place at BPL and a 2012 Library Journal Mover and Shaker.  I love this quote about her from the Mover and Shaker article:

Carrie understands that it is not enough simply to open the doors to the branch and hope people drop by. Rather, it is closer to an imperative of the public library to ensure that people receive services no matter where they happen to be.

Tess put together an awesome panel proposal for ALA 2013 in Chicago. The program will be sponsored in name only by the Association for Library Services to Children (ALSC) and the Association of Specialized and Cooperative Library Agencies (ASCLA)

Digital Early Literacy for Everyone: How Digital Tech Supports Inclusion for All Young Literacy Learners

Far from predicting the dreaded end of print and paper, four presenters will explore different facets of digital early childhood literacy. Digital technology will be placed in a context from which children’s librarians can make good decisions on behalf of the young children and families in their own communities. Participants will learn how digital technology has been enthusiastically embraced by libraries to help meet the literacy development needs of young children, especially those with disabilities.


The general goal of this program is to present current research and practice about digital early literacy in the context of children’s library service to all young children, including those with disabilities who have been underserved in the past.

  • Participants will be presented with an overview of digital early literacy learning research with emphasis placed on the role of digital technology in the literacy development of children with disabilities
  • Participants will hear from three children’s services librarians who will share their experience and insight on how digital tools (e-books, apps etc.) can be integrated into existing programs, services and collections for all children in their communities.
  • Participants will be encouraged to thinking critically and creatively about how digital tools can be used in inclusive children’s library programs, services and collections
  • Participants will be provided with extensive resources from which to adapt and build their own programs, services and collections that meet the needs of the young children in their communities, including those with disabilities.
  • Participants will be encouraged to consider the possibilities inherent in digital literacies that can lead to participation and inclusion of those whose needs have not been met in the past.


Our target audience is children’s services practitioners/children’s librarians in both public and school libraries, children’s services coordinators, branch heads and library managers and directors, and library school students.


Carrie Banks has been the Director of Brooklyn Public Library’s (BPL) The Child’s Place for Children with Special Needs since 1997. Carrie has written about and presented on the topic of services for people with disabilities for many years and most recently began using assistive technology in inclusive family programs at BPL.

Cen Campbell has been designing and implementing storytimes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers since 2007. She serves on the Association of Library Services to Children’s Children and Technology committee and runs

Tess Prendergast is a children’s librarian at the Vancouver Public Library as well as a PhD student at the University of British Columbia where she is investigating early literacy in the lives of children with disabilities. Her research interests include parents’ thoughts about their children’s engagement with early literacy and how communities, especially libraries, can best support these families.

Megan Wong is the Virtual Library Manager for the Santa Clara County Library (SCCL) located in the heart of the Silicon Valley.  Megan manages SCCL’s online presence and resources and is leading the library’s web redesign project. She is specifically interested in eReaders and gadgets and how these things can move libraries forward.