Blog Archives

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.

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.

Evaluating Storytime, by Angela Reynolds

This past Saturday I had my last Milk & Cookies Story Hour for the summer. Once a month on Saturday, I do a storytime for ages 3-6 that includes one app, with time at the end for play and iPad use.

dance EPFor the last one of the summer, I planned a Mo Willems Day. Lots of books, starting, of course, with Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus, because everyone loves that book. I used the new Mo Willems app, Mo on the Go. This app has 5 games sure to delight Mo Willems fans, but my favorite for storytime is the Dance-o-Rama game. You choose 3 dances each for Elephant and Piggie, then press DANCE, and, well, dance! Before storytime started I had each person in the room, adults included, choose either an elephant or a pig that I had laminated. When the app was projected, I had them dance like the character they had in their hand. We did this for 3 times, and then I had them switch to the other character one more time. They had a blast! I also tried to have them write a story in the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App” app, but for some reason halfway through the sound stopped working on the projector, so we abandoned it and the kids who wanted to write a story found the app on the iPads afterwards.

Other activities included a rousing round of “Who Stole the Cookies from the Cookie Jar,” which worked well for the intended age group but not so well for 2 year olds. (See evaluation results below). Games/play included “Toss Your Cookies” which were laminated cookie shapes tossed into Pigeon and Duckling cut-outs; learn to draw the Pigeon; and a game of “Watch Me Throw the Ball” which was throwing textured balls into a plastic tub. And of course, the iPads. The kids all know the rule now—iPad must be used with an adult and the adults know why (because co-viewing equals better learning).

ipadsI started this storytime as an experiment, and it is one that has gone really well. I’ve had a few technology snafus, but the kids don’t seem to mind, because that is not the main reason they are there. They are there to hear books read aloud, to play, to sing, to be silly, to listen to puppet stories and do fingerplays and shout NO! at just the right time. The technology is an added bonus and parents really appreciate time to explore. I asked parents to fill out evaluations – results are below. It looks like I need to continue this storytime!

Milk & Cookies Story Hour Evaluations:

7 Parents answered. Only one has a tablet of any sort at home.

Child ages: six 6YO; three 2YO; one 4YO, one 3YO. (Program is advertised for ages 3-6)

Liked Best: stories (4); getting good app ideas (this from the parent with an iPad); games, interaction (2)

Improvement: More info on how to use the tablet and apps for their ages; A few more songs (from a parent of a 2 YO)

Snacks: NOT important, but kids like them

Time: Good (Once a month on Saturday- one parent really likes that it is only once a month—they are really busy, but she can still squeeze in a library time when it is only once a month. Also, the program is drop-in, and there was a verbal comment that programs with registration add extra pressure to commit, making it less likely for them to sign up.)

Comments (written): Great to see the apps used as part of storytime to make it interactive and then letting the kids try for themselves, especially since we don’t have one at home. Love it (3) . Had fun today.

(Spoken): This is such a good chance for me to see how these things work. My son is in speech therapy and they use one with him there. I’ve never even had my hands on one and now I can see what it is all about.

Angela Reynolds
Head of Youth Services
Annapolis Valley Regional Library

Guerrilla Storytime at #ala2013 & the Storytime Underground Movement, by Angela Reynolds and Amy Koester

Storytime UndergroundWhen I looked at my schedule for the ALA Annual Conference, I felt like I needed to borrow Hermione Granger’s Time-turner. So many great sessions to go to, and they were happening at the same time. But one that I really made sure I got to was one that wasn’t even on the official list of sessions. It was held in the “Uncommons,” a big room just outside the exhibit hall. This session was Guerrilla Storytime, put together by some smart young librarians who seem to have met on Twitter. Because I am somewhat of a Twitter addict, I knew all about it. My non-tweeting librarian pals had not heard of it. I tried to convince them how awesome it would be, but they had other things to do. Not me, I wanted to hang with this vivacious gang of young whippersnappers. Now, I’m not ancient, but I have been around libraries for a long time. Degreed in 1996 and working in libraries for at least 3 years before that, I’ve done my share of storytimes. The ideas that are shared on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Flannel Fridays, and blogs by these younger librarians are so incredibly inspiring. So inspiring that I am now doing storytime again once a month, just to try out some of these amazing early literacy techniques that have evolved in the past few years. These folks have great ideas and they bounce them around off one another and share and borrow and expand and make the World of Storytime one of the most awesome places on the planet. As a seasoned librarian, I am amazed and excited on a regular basis by these Early Literacy Warriors. Storytime Guerrillas unite! Next time I go to a local conference, you can bet I’ll be taking over a space for my own version of Guerrilla Storytime. I might even have to rent a gorilla suit for the occasion.

What is this all about? How did it start? What exactly IS a Guerrilla Storytime and why does it matter? I think I’ll let Amy, a Joint Chief, fill you in on that.


Thanks for that introduction, Angela! The idea for Guerrilla Storytime was born of librarian Cory Eckert, idea-genius, in response to a whole bunch of factors. One factor: the discussion online over the past year about youth librarians not getting proper recognition for their hard, specialized work. Too many of our libraryland colleagues don’t quite “get” what goes on at storytime, and if they don’t recognize the vital service storytime provides, they’ll never be able to advocate for it to the families we need to serve. A second factor: storytime practitioners the world over are bona fide experts at what they do. We’re all experts, but we don’t all know everything, so it follows that we have lots we can learn from one another. Thus Guerrilla Storytime.

Guerrilla Storytime is a public forum of sorts at which storytime librarians can ask questions and seek advice of their peers, and the collective community steps up to share their expertise. A librarian may not be well versed in parachute songs and asks for storytime guerrillas’ favorite go-tos; those guerrillas oblige, sharing what works for them and why. Along with all of the learning (and fun!) that naturally follows, Guerrilla Storytime raises professional awareness for the very real, very important contributions that youth librarians bring to their libraries. Since it takes place in a public space, Guerrilla Storytime has a way of drawing attention to itself and its participants; after all, if you heard a group of people shouting about “going bananas,” wouldn’t you stop to see what was going on?

Happily, Guerrilla Storytime was not a one-off event at ALA. In fact, it’s developed into a larger movement, the Storytime Underground. The Storytime Underground website aims to be a resource for all those best practices, all those tips and tricks that you can forget over time. Participants will be able to pose their storytime questions using the Ask a Storytime Ninja feature; to get details on hosting a Guerrilla Storytime, then add their own Guerrilla Storytimes to the master calendar; and to learn from colleagues across the world through Storytime Guerrilla of the Month profiles and links to amazing online content in the Armory of Awesome. Just as Little eLit aims to be a go-to site for librarians interested in new media with children, the Storytime Underground aims to be a grassroots effort to share the storytime love and skills.

APPy Hour for Teens, by Angela Reynolds

My CrazyHair makeover

My Crazy Hair Studio app makeover

Appetizers and iPads, what could be more fun? In our small town, the teens who attended the APPy Hour program would say, “Not MUCH!”

APPy Hour was born from an idea that the local RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or Mounties for those non-Canadian readers) brought to me. After a much-publicized online bullying incident that resulted in a tragic suicide, Nova Scotians were shocked into getting behind the idea of pro-active lessons for teens. We decided to start them off right when they are young, before they even think about doing something thoughtless and hurtful. So we put together a program that would be fun but also had a learning component.

We started APPy Hour with an ice-breaker, then had teens team up in pairs to do Crazy Hair makeovers with the Crazy Hair app. Then a quick demo of an app called BSafe, which makes a very loud alarm and can send a GPS location text to pre-set “guardians.” One boy downloaded the app immediately when reminded that his parents might let him be out a bit later if he could prove he knew how to be safe! Then we set out the appetizers, and while we chowed down on garlic fingers and rolled tortillas & cream cheese, the teens took turns playing songs from their iPods.

Next up: Time for the serious stuff—the RCMP officer gave a flashy 10 minute presentation about online safety, texting, and gaming which lead to a very interesting discussion and the handing out of “Bags of Awesome,” which were grab-bags from the RCMP officer. These 12, 13, and 14 year olds were either really thinking about this stuff, or they knew how to answer the questions Just Right (interestingly, none of them had phones yet, but they all had iPods, tablets, or computers).

Our next activity was iPads. I have 6 iPad minis loaded with apps for teens & kids. They got to test out new apps, play new games, and generally mess about with the iPads. I had to set a timer to let them know when we were going to put them away, because they really wanted to keep going. Best comment, from a 13 year old boy: “You should do this every week. No, wait, Every DAY!” Kid, if I had unlimited resources, I would. I would have staff and iPads to do this every day. But the real world limits me, so I am thinking of planning a monthly fall program where I partner with a local restaurant to bring in the fixings to teach them how to make an easy, healthy appetizer, then they can spend the rest of the time with the iPads. Easy-peasy, and they even asked for it. I get to model some fun apps that they may not have heard of (Angry Birds is NOT on my iPads), and they get to hang out and do what they enjoy doing. And I might even be able to entice them into a book now and then.

Angela Reynolds
Head of Youth Services
Annapolis Valley Regional Library

What Apps Do That I Can’t: Responses to Questions from #ala2013, by Angela Reynolds

At our Conversation Starter at the ALA Annual Conference in Chicago, an attendee posed the question, “What advantages do apps have over other traditional formats?” In response, I’d like to share one really good example from my own experience.

mzl.pgmshncs.480x480-75In my Milk & Cookies Storytime, I used the Rosemary Wells app “Bunny Fun: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Now, I know the song perfectly well in English, and so do the kids at storytime and all their parents. But I DO NOT know it in French (though some of our patrons did), nor do I know it in Spanish or Japanese (one little girl did know the Japanese! ). But in this storytime, because I had the app projected onto the screen, we learned the words for “head,” “shoulders,” “knees,” “toes,” “eyes,” “ears,” “mouth,” and “nose” in 3 other languages, and tried to sing the song in those languages, too. The kids loved it. The parents loved it. And it only took about 5 minutes total of storytime. Not only was it a language and cultural experience, it was physically active. We were singing and dancing the whole time, and all because of an app. Not the passive, sit and stare at a screen experience AT ALL.

These are the kind of app experiences I am looking for—the ones that add a richness to storytime and model for parents that there are fun learning opportunities on those little devices they are all so fond of. During storytime, I quickly tell the parents the name of the app and where they can find it on the iPads that they can use after storytime, so that they can explore it even more and decide if they want to download it for their own collection. Modeling, sharing fun educational experiences, and helping parents find and use early literacy apps for use at home are some of the great ways we can enrich the lives of the families that willingly step through our doors!

Angela J. Reynolds
Youth Services Manager
Annapolis Valley Regional Library

Welcome Angela!

Angela Reynolds, the manager of Youth Services at the Annapolis Valley Regional Library (where I had my first grown-up librarian job!), has joined Little eLit and is going to help develop some virtual storytelling programs.  Welcome, Angela!

Angela Reynolds
Youth Services Manager
Annapolis Valley Regional Library

The fabulous Angela Reynolds has been a children’s/youth librarian for over 15 years. Angela has worked as a librarian in Kentucky, Oregon, and now, in Nova Scotia. She has served on several ALSC committees, including the 2011 Laura Ingalls Wilder Committee, the Carnegie Committee, and spent two years under headphones on the Notable Recordings for Children committee. She writes book reviews for School Library Journal and audio reviews forHorn Book. You can find her writings on the ALSC blog and on ValleyStorytime.