Blog Archives

Early Literacy Tips on Screen, by Anne Hicks

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

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 7.04.41 AM

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

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 7.04.50 AM

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

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

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

Make it Work! by Anne Hicks

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 8.02.22 PMSo I finally have the equipment to do digital storytelling! Thanks to a generous donation from our Friends group, we were able to purchase a 70-inch flat screen TV and an Apple TV. As with the implementation of any new technology I had a few kinks to work out.

I practiced mirroring to the TV before I tried to use it in storytime and found that when the library was closed, everything worked perfectly! However, when the public was in the building, my apps ran really slow and stuttered. We have a staff only, password-protected wi-fi network and a public network. My guess was that the stuttering was due to congestion on the network (full disclosure – I’m not a tech person so excuse me if my conjecture is way off!). I was on the staff network and didn’t understand why I was having trouble. We have a fairly small staff and besides cell phones, the staff network doesn’t get used too much.

After asking our network administrator some questions (and my husband who is a tech librarian!), it seems that while it appears that we have two networks, it is really just one network that is split. So the heavy traffic on the public network may have caused my issues with stuttering.

My solution was one that many Little eLit members have come to–using my phone as a personal hotspot. Everything works perfectly now! I should have just done that from the start.

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 8.02.09 PMMy next issue is one that I haven’t found a perfect solution to yet. After using an app, if I close the iPad, it will drop the connection to my personal hotspot. If I leave the iPad “open,” my home screen will be mirrored to the TV. That’s not a big deal, but I wanted a black screen on the TV when I’m not using an app. I just felt it would be less distracting for the kids and parents and would bring their attention to whatever I’m doing, i.e., reading a physical book , doing a felt board, etc…

My solution was to use the Keynote app. I basically created a presentation in Keynote that had a black slide, followed by a slide with the lyrics to the song we sang, followed by a black slide, followed by a slide with images I planned to show during the storytime, followed by a black slide, and so on… I just went through the presentation as we completed each activity. So when I wasn’t using the screen, it was black and everyone’s attention was on me.

I think Tim Gunn would be proud of me–I made it work–but if anyone knows how I can get the iPad to stay connected to my personal hotspot even when it’s closed, I would love to hear it!

Check out my blog, Anne’s Library Life, for a full outline of my Boat themed digital storytime.

Anne Hicks is a Children’s Librarian with the Henrietta Public Library.

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

iPads in Storytime: A Prezi by Anne Hicks

The Monroe County Library System’s Emerging Technology committee held their annual tech camp on February 7th. This year’s tech camp was devoted entirely to children’s and young adult services. I was invited to speak on the topic of incorporating apps and iPads into storytime. The audience included mostly children’s and young adult librarians as well as some library directors. I wasn’t sure how receptive the group would be but the response was overwhelmingly positive! The committee even shared the evaluations with me afterwards because they were so complimentary. Whoo-hoo! It was awesome getting a group of librarians excited about incorporating technology into youth services.

Check out my presentation (make sure the volume on your computer is on in order to hear the voice-over)!

Anne Hicks
Children’s Librarian
Henrietta Public Library

Tween Tech – Toontastic, by Anne Hicks

This fall I’ve been offering a once-a-month program for tweens that incorporates apps and iPads. We’ve had an augmented reality themed program, a digital light painting session, and this month we focused on the app Toontastic.

Toontastic is a wonderful storytelling app that allows children to create their own cartoons. The kids choose from a wide variety of different settings and characters. They then move the characters around the screen while narrating their stories.

There is a free version of the app available, but I would highly recommend splurging on the $19.99 full access pass. It’s expensive, but it’s a high-quality app and the large number of scenes and characters it unlocks really lets kids get creative. Check out this video to see the app in action:

Toontastic from Launchpad Toys on Vimeo.

I had four iPads and eight children in the program. The kids paired off and got to work. It was awesome to see them collaborate to create their stories, and I was really impressed with how easily they shared. I noticed kids both working together on each scene or taking turns with one child narrating one scene and the other child narrating the next.

I love that Toontastic really teaches the kids about the storytelling process. It guides them through creating the setting, to incorporating a conflict or challenge, and then finally introducing a resolution. They can even choose the background music for each scene based on the mood they want to create!

The program lasted 45 minutes but when I do it again I plan to extend that to an hour.  At the end of the program the kids were so excited to show their parents the cartoons they created. Here are a few pictures of the kids working on their cartoons:

October Challenge: Augmented Reality App Program for Tweens, by Anne Hicks

The idea for the October Challenge was tossed around a few months ago among the Little eLit-ers. This gave me sufficient time to plan a few programs I had been thinking about but was a little nervous to try out. At ALA this past June, I attended an awesome poster session done Alyson Krawczyk and Michael Campagna from the Barrington Area Library. Their poster session was titled “Connected Kids: Technology Programs to Inspire Creative Exploration.” It totally inspired me to create a once-a-month “Tween Tech Lab” at my library. I wanted to give kids the opportunity to be creative with technology. I wanted to offer access to technology that some kids in my community may not have access to. And last, but not least, I wanted to offer a really fun program!

My first Tween Tech Lab focused on Augmented Reality. I limited registration to 10 kids (ages 8-12) and had five iPads they could share amongst themselves. I began the program by explaining what augmented reality is, and since a picture (in this case a video) is worth a thousand words, I played a quick YouTube video that offers a really nice description.

Next we got ready to use our first augmented reality app. It’s called colAR Mix and it was developed by Puteko Limited. The app allows you to turn coloring pages into 3D animations. I had printed out the coloring pages from the colAR Mix website and let the kids color away. Once they had their pages colored, we launched the app and watched our creations come to life! Check out this video from the developer to see how it works:

The app was a huge hit, and some of the kids decided to continue coloring and use it for the duration of the program.

The next app we used is called ARBasketball developed by Augmented Pixels Co Ltd. It allows you to play basketball with just your mobile device and your fingers. To use the app, you need to print out the marker, aim the device at the marker, and then use your finger to shoot the basketball. Here’s a video of how the app works (note: in the video the marker is on a mug but I just printed the marker onto a sheet of paper for my program).

Onto the next augmented reality app. It’s called Fetch! Lunch Rush developed by PBS Kids. The app combines math, physical activity, and augmented reality. The challenge is to keep up with all the lunch orders from Ruff’s movie crew. I began by printing out the markers and spreading them out on the floor. Each marker has a number (1-10) on it. In the app, the kids are given a math problem to solve. Once they have completed the math problem, they aim the device at the corresponding marker. If they are correct, the appropriate number of sushi will appear in 3D on the screen. Here’s a video of some kids playing with the app:

Puppy Dog Fingers! by Useless Creations Pty Ltd: the name of the developer says it all–this app is completely useless, but who doesn’t love puppies?! Basically, you aim the device around the room and on the screen puppies appear everywhere! They jump around, fall asleep, even go…ahem…potty! If you put your finger on the screen the puppies come and “sniff it.” Here’s a couple screenshots of the puppies taking over my desk:

Useless Puppies Useless Puppies 2

The last app we tried is called ARSoccer by Laan Labs.With this app you aim the device at your feet and then “kick” the virtual soccer ball. The trick is to try to juggle the ball by just kicking gently. This is another great app if you want to combine physical activity with technology! Here’s a video.

The program went really well. I was definitely nervous because I had never tried anything like this before at my library. I reminded the kids to share the iPads, but I probably didn’t have to; they were really good about it. I also tested all the apps ahead of time to make sure they worked. I had envisioned all the kids using each app at the same time, but this didn’t happen. Some kids chose to use certain apps longer than others, but it all worked out in the end. Everyone had fun, including me, and I’m looking forward to my next Tween Tech Lab: Digital Light Painting (check out Bradley Jones’ awesome blog for more information on how to do this program).

Anne Hicks
Children’s Librarian
Henrietta Public Library

iPad Apps and Storytime at NYLA, by Anne Hicks


I will be doing a table talk at the NYLA Annual Conference in Niagara Falls on Saturday, September 28th.

The table talk will consist of three 20-minute informal sessions in which I will highlight some of the ways librarians have been successfully using iPads in their storytimes. I’ll also do some quick demonstrations of how I’ve incorporated apps into my storytimes. If you’ll be in attendance, please stop by and discuss storytimes, tablets, and technology with me!

9:30am – 12:15pm
Cascades Ballroom 2
Niagara Falls Convention Center

Hope to see you there!

Anne Hicks
Children’s Librarian
Henrietta Public Library

Tech in Storytime: In response to an #ala2013 question, by Anne Hicks

During the Conversation Starter at ALA, an audience member asked how librarians have been integrating technology into their storytimes. That’s a great “conversation starter” on its own, so I thought I’d take a moment to highlight some of the ways contributors to Little eLit have been incorporating digital media into their work.

Digital Storytelling:

One way to incorporate technology into storytimes is to project eBooks onto a screen for all the participants at your storytimes to view.  Using a mirroring device such as an Apple TV with your iPad allows you to operate the tablet while the image is projected.  You are then able to seamlessly share high quality eBooks and apps in combination with traditional storytime methods.

Typical Equipment Used:


Digital Storytelling is a wonderful way to provide a storytime for a very large audience.  Projecting onto a screen enables even the participants at the back of the room to appreciate the illustrations of the eBooks.  You can also scan and project lyrics to songs and the words to fingerplays.  This encourages the adults in the room to participate in the fun!  One of the most valuable benefits of this type of storytelling is that it allows the librarian to promote quality eBooks and also model to caregivers how to interact with children while sharing digital media.  As Cen Campbell puts it, “using high quality digital media in storytime is one way we can expose parents to good quality book-based or educational apps. This is just a fun new kind of reader’s advisory!”

For more details on Digital Storytelling, check out these posts from Cen Campbell, Bradley Jones, and Holly Southern.

Apps as Storytime Extensions:

Another way technology can be integrated into storytimes is to use apps as an extension of your storytime theme, the same way you would use a flannel board or a puppet.  The librarian holds the iPad and does the tapping and swiping while interacting with the children.  This works best for groups of about 20 or less. There are a large number of apps on the market that can be easily used by the librarian to engage with children.  For example, you can use an animal sounds app or a vehicle sounds app and have the kids guess which animal/vehicle they are hearing.  You can use a robot-building app and have the kids help you design a robot.  You could also create a “felt board” using the Felt Board app developed by Software Smoothie.

Typical Equipment Used:

  •  iPad
  • Various Apps


The only equipment needed is the tablet, so this is a very easy way for librarians to test the waters as far as integrating technology into storytime. Also, using apps in storytime allows you to promote high quality apps to caregivers.  Often, parents think of the iPad as a means of solitary play for the child, a “babysitter.”   Encouraging them to engage in play with their child is an important aspect of what we do as Children’s Librarians. By promoting the apps in storytime you are also allowing an opportunity for the caregiver to extend the storytime at home.  I doubt many parents have the time and supplies needed to recreate a flannel board at home, but they can easily download an app and play with their child.

For more examples of how to use apps in your storytime check out the following posts from Anne Hicks: Animal Sounds, Vehicle Sounds.

Fleet of Tablets

Providing tablets for each family to use during storytime is yet another way some librarians have included new media in their storytimes.  You can preload the devices with the eBooks and apps you will be using during storytime and guide the participants to use them throughout the storytime.  This is not a replacement of traditional storytime activities (songs, fingerplays, print books…), but rather another tool to engage young readers and their caregivers.

Typical Equipment Used:

  • Multiple tablets (typically iPads)
  • Various Apps/eBooks
  • Headphones with splitters (optional)


This type of storytime is the perfect way to encourage caregivers to engage with their little ones as they use digital media.  It allows the adult and child to “cuddle up” while using a tablet (the same way we encourage them to do with print books). It also makes using the device, and the storytime at large, a truly shared experience.  And as with the other methods mentioned in this post, it allows the librarian to promote high quality media.  Lastly, it provides access to technology that some patrons may not otherwise have access to.  Using a fleet of tablets is a wonderful way to provide access and guidance while also promoting engagement.

For more on this type of storytime, check out these posts by Angela Reynolds, Emily Miranda, and Bradley Jones.

One Laptop Per Child: An experiment with library connections, by Anne Hicks

One Laptop Per Child is a non-profit organization whose stated goal is to “empower the world’s poorest children through education.” They provide children with durable and low cost laptops in the hopes that they will be engaged in their own education and will benefit from self-promoted learning.

OLPC is currently in the midst of a two year experiment in which they have given 40 tablets to the children of two remote Ethiopian villages. The research experiment, titled the Reading Project, looks to see how the children will learn solely through the use of the tablets. With no access to qualified teachers, the hope is that these illiterate children (all of whom have had no exposure to the written word) will gain literacy skills through self-directed exploration of the tablets.

Each device is preloaded with literacy themed apps, eBooks, and educational games. The adults in the village were taught how to recharge the tablets using a solar powered charging system. Once a week technicians return to the village to exchange memory cards that allow the researchers to track how the devices have been used.

At MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Conference held in October of 2012, OLPC’s founder, Nicholas Negroponte provided some early results:

After several months, the kids in both villages were still heavily engaged in using and recharging the machines, and had been observed reciting the “alphabet song,” and even spelling words. One boy, exposed to literacy games with animal pictures, opened up a paint program and wrote the word “Lion.”

Let me remind you that these children had never even seen print before. Ever. Now they are spelling!

The study is ongoing and Negroponte himself says it’s too early to tell if the children will actually be able to teach themselves how to read. It is promising that in a part of the world where children do not have access to schooling, they are able to gain valuable literacy skills.

How does this relate to what we do as Children’s Librarians? Don’t worry, I’m not suggesting we recommend parents and caregivers just hand a child an iPad and expect it to instill a love of reading. I believe that the OLPC experiment demonstrates that tablets can be powerful tools for promoting literacy. Imagine how much more powerful they would be with a librarian recommending high quality apps and eBooks and demonstrating how best to use these devices with children. We should feel inspired by these new possibilities, not scared of them.

Curious to see some video of the children using their devices?

To read more about the Reading Project, visit MIT Technology Review and the OLPC blog.

For some ideas on how to incorporate apps into your storytimes, visit my blog Anne’s Library Life.

Anne Hicks
Children’s Librarian
Henrietta Public Library

Apps in Storytime by Anne Hicks: Park Math HD

Using the iPad in storytime can be a very simple way to promote STEM.

Park Math iconSTEM Storytime App: Park Math HD by Duck Duck Moose

Duck Duck Moose is one of my favorite app developers, and this is a great app that promotes math skills for the very young. There are a number of cute activities included in the app, but the one that could be used in storytime to emphasize pattern recognition is activated by tapping on the green kite (unfortunately, the activities are not labeled).

Park Math screenshot 1

The screen displays a pattern made up of a number of everyday objects. There is one object missing from the pattern, and at the bottom of the screen there are four choices of objects that can be used to complete the pattern. Here are some screen shots:

Park Math screenshot 2

Park Math screenshot 3

You can hold the iPad facing the children (or project it/mirror it on a screen if you have the required equipment) and discuss the pattern that is displayed on the top half of the screen. Then ask the children to tell you what object would complete the pattern. The app starts out with simple patterns like the ones above, but there are slightly more difficult patterns included as well.

For more ideas on how to incorporate apps into your storytimes, check out my blog, Anne’s Library Life.

Anne Hicks
Children’s Librarian
Henrietta Public Library

Apps in Storytime by Anne Hicks: Peekaboo Vehicles

peekabooThis cute app is easy to use as a guessing game during storytime. It shows an image of clouds and plays the sound of a specific vehicle (a train, a firetruck, a helicopter, ….). When you tap on the clouds they disappear to reveal an animated image of the vehicle. I held the iPad facing the kids and had them guess each vehicle by its sound. I also gave them clues. For example, with the airplane sound I told the kids: “this vehicle has great big wings and flies in the sky.” Once they shouted out their guesses, I taped the iPad to reveal the vehicle. We played until we guessed all the vehicles but I think the kids would have loved to keep going.

Here’s a screenshot of the fire truck:


Check out my blog Anne’s Library Life for my full transportation-themed storytime.

Anne Hicks
Children’s Librarian
Henrietta Public Library