Blog Archives

Welcome to the Digital Neighborhood: A Fred Rogers Center and Little eLit Digital Literacy Symposium, by Claudia Haines

This was a week of collaboration. Librarians and early childhood education experts teamed up in Harford County, Maryland, to talk with more than 80 librarians and educators as part of a grant from Comcast to expand the Harford County Public Library system’s digital literacy efforts. We had two goals: to talk about what’s new and what’s still true in the world of new media and young children, and to train librarians in their evolving role as media mentors. The successful training included Tanya Smith from the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, Dorothy Stoltz and Kristen Bodvin from the Carroll County Public Library (Maryland), and myself, Claudia Haines, from the Homer Public Library (Alaska).

While in Harford County, Tanya and I also spent time with families of young children at the Abingdon and Bel Air branches to talk about what to consider when using digital media with young children, tips for choosing apps or any digital media, and then how to explore them with their children. Both the training for professionals and the discussions with families included rich conversations and thoughtful questions, demonstrating that collaborations leave us all better informed.

Here are the slides we shared at the training. The first set of slides are those used by Tanya and I to discuss research, the important NAEYC/Fred Rogers joint position statement on technology and young children, how to evaluate apps and other new media, the role digital media has in the library, and factors to consider when incorporating new media into storytime and other programs.

This second set of slides were used by Dorothy and Kristen to talk about Every Child Ready to Read and early literacy.

We discussed a variety of apps and resources that librarians and educators can use to guide their digital media use with young children and their families. We wanted to make those available here, as well as share the several handouts we brought.

Five Practices & Early Literacy Components Support Each Other
Homer Public Library’s new media brochure for families
Rubric for Evaluating New Media
NAEYC/Fred Rogers Position Statement- Key Messages


Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer 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.

Early Literacy, New Media & Young Children: A Pre-conference Recap by Claudia Haines

For me, being a children’s librarian and media mentor means supporting both the literacy needs of the families in my community as well as supporting my peers as we navigate through the still-murky waters of using new media with young children. Knowing about the latest research, understanding the technology and how to use it, and being able to sift through what’s good and what’s awful are essential skills for media mentors. Having opportunities to discuss what’s new, what works, and what we don’t yet know are important parts of our professional community’s bigger conversation about new media.

Recently I got a chance to share what’s new and the how-to’s with fellow librarians at the Alaska Library Association’s recent state conference, Channeling Our Voices, in Juneau, Alaska. It was exciting to share what has developed in the year since Cen and I led a similar pre-conference in Anchorage together. The group represented various urban and rural communities across the vast state of Alaska and came to the pre-conference with a variety of experience using new media. The early literacy and new media conversation during the conference was dynamic and thoughtful. I particularly loved discussing the many ways to be a media mentor regardless of budget, space, or community and what librarians/media mentors need in terms of support to be their community’s champions.

The slides from this year’s pre-conference are below. A list of resources that I provided can be found here and the list of apps we discussed can be found here. Please feel free to share your thoughts and contact me with any questions.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer 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.

Sago Mini Doodlecast, by Claudia Haines

Sometimes a familiar app used in a different context with children other than the intended audience can have surprisingly positive effects. Such is the case with the app Sago Mini Doodlecast and a recent library visit from a group of middle schoolers with special needs.

sagominidoodlecastSago Sago, a company full of talented app developers, targets young children, and Mini Doodlecast most often finds success with kids under 6 and their fun-loving families. It’s an open-ended app that offers users a blank slate on which they can draw images with a variety of tools. Sure, there are a lot of drawing apps and, really, paper and a pack of crayons can be entertaining, but Mini Doodlecast uses the digital format to make the drawing experience different and, in some cases, better.

As soon as iPad users begin drawing or writing within the Mini Doodlecast app, the process is recorded. It’s not just that you can save a final still image to the device’s photo library. In this app, the act of drawing and writing is recorded as video along with audio which might include intentional narration, music, or even chatter between a child and adult or multiple children. The explanation behind a budding artist’s green lines, the conversation about shared moments recreated with stick people, and questions about color choices are all saved. The three together–video, audio and final still image–offer a magical opportunity to bring a story, and the story making, to life.

As I was waiting for the middle schoolers to arrive for their visit, I was playing around with my iPad prepping some apps for other programs. I quickly realized that Mini Doodlecast’s storytelling features would appeal to many more than the youngest iPad users I already knew loved the app. I decided at the last minute to share it.

After I read a couple of stories, I brought out my iPad and showed each of the visiting students how the app worked. The small group of tweens each came with an accompanying adult, so together we were able to customize the iPad experience to each student’s abilities, which varied greatly. I sat with each pair so the iPad was up close where the student could easily reach the iPad and see their work. I’ve used apps with this group before during their annual visits, but this time I was sure to use Guided Access. As with lots of kids, the Guided Access kept the focus on the app instead of frustrating the app user because of accidental navigation away from their work in progress.

Each student was fascinated by the results of their finger movements, but everyone got something different out of the app. One girl in particular loved the playback feature. As she drew, her companion sang a song familiar to her which made her break out in giggles! Sago Mini Doodlecast recorded the whole thing; laughter, bright images, and even a soundtrack. The girl got to hear and see the whole thing and was clearly impressed when she recognized her own voice and her companion’s.

Everyone has a story to tell. Let’s give everyone an opportunity to share theirs.


Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer 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.

WePublish app review, by Claudia Haines

Two of the six early literacy skills I focus on in storytime are print awareness and print motivation. Like librarians everywhere, as we read, play, sing, talk, and write I want kids to see that print is everywhere and understand how a book works. I also want to get them hooked on stories, books and reading.

Along with print books, I’m always looking for early literacy boosting apps and other digital media that I can review, use in programs, and recommend to families. So when I had the opportunity to review the WePublish app recently, I was interested to see what it was all about. Oftentimes the way to connect a young child with reading is too share with them books that reflect their experience. So the idea behind WePublish, an easy to use app that helps families or multiple children make their own book together, intrigued me.

WePublish is an app that lets kids and adults design and publish an eight page book, creating a new story or retelling a favorite. The app is based on digital collage, an interesting choice.

When creating a new book, each of the eight black pages appears separately. While the bookmaker works on each page independently, all of the pages can be viewed in preview or imposition view with a tap of a button. Design tools include images of common textures that can be cropped and snipped to make shapes, along with a drawing tool (black or white) and multiple fonts. The combination of the new images, text, and accents blends to form a collage on each page. Instead of a bookmaking tool where the sky’s the limit, the few design tools in the WePublish app help keep things simple, allowing young book creators to focus on the elements of the story instead of the various tools.

Book creators can use the device’s camera to capture new images for the texture library. Kids and adults can find interesting textures, snap a picture, and then cut or crop the image to turn the texture of grass into a tree, for example, using one finger and budding fine motor skills. Kids can also make artwork to include in the book, again using the device’s camera and photo library. The artwork can be used as a texture to further manipulate with the design tools, or included as is. The finished book can be printed on A3 or A4 size paper or shared via email (via a parental gate). I used legal size paper (similar to A3) and it worked fine.

This app would fit nicely in an early literacy program for adults and kids that offers enough time to learn how the app works and time to create a book. I’m planning such a program for later this winter. Kids love telling stories and this app helps them share that story in a new way–in a book of their own making. An adult working with one or more young children would make a nice bookmaking team, each member adding to the collaborative project.

While English is the only language currently included, a wordless book could easily be created and have significant value for pre-readers and those who speak a language other than English. Creating images that prompt an oral story can strengthen bonds between family members and build a child’s narrative skills.

I, and a couple other reviewers, did find that editing is limited after a book has been created and stored in the app’s library. Imported images can be moved around, but not deleted. Drawn lines couldn’t be deleted or moved and text cannot be deleted by tapping on it. I was able to slide the text and a texture image off the page that I didn’t want and they didn’t appear in printing, but I figured that out through trial and error. In other cases I had to delete the page’s entire content and start over.

Tips, sample books, and a short video on how to fold your printed, finished book (origami!) are included in the app. The app is free of in-app ads and purchases.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer 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.

LEGO Week at Homer Public Library, by Claudia Haines

Last week was LEGO week at our library! The popular, iconic building bricks have many fans of all ages in Homer. To celebrate the interest and skills of our community builders, we held our 4th Annual LEGO Contest and included a building session in our weekly summer series of Maker Mondays for kids and teens.

LEGO® Contest

The LEGO Contest for ages 18 and under has the same basic format each year, but we tie the contest to our summer reading program by incorporating an element of the program’s theme. For example, this year our theme was Fizz, Boom, READ and we focused on all aspects of science, so the contest had two categories for each age group: open and new species. The open category included the varied interests and abilities of builders, and the new species category gave some kids and teens a starting point for designing their entry or pushed them to think beyond their usual building focus.

The contest is divided into three age groups. Prizes, donated by our Friends group, were awarded to 1st and 2nd place individuals and teams of two in each age group and category. Three community members volunteered to judge the entries, using this basic rubric, and the entries were displayed at the library for one week. We also let the public choose the People’s Choice Award with a ballot box at the library.

You can see this year’s 37 entries here:

Maker Monday: LEGO®

Each of the ten Maker Monday programs we offered this summer were designed to give kids and teens the chance to create, build, and make at the library. Each program was two hours long, giving the makers time to really explore the activity and concepts at hand, and was led by me or a community artist or expert. We featured programs on electricity, the forces of flight, making wood fired pizza, a sweater chop shop, 3-D printing, multimedia art, and of course, LEGO®. No registration was required for all but one of the programs, and an average of 35 makers attended. The series was designed for ages 8-18, but most of the makers were between the ages of 6 and 14. (The younger kids came to some of the programs like the Maker Monday LEGO®, with caregivers in tow, and we made it work as long as they were genuinely interested.)

Maker Monday: LEGO® was held the same week as the LEGO® Contest and was divided into two parts. The first half of the program was modeled after the LEGO® programs I offer periodically throughout the year. I provided the LEGO® bricks, figures, and other elements and then posed building challenges inspired or borrowed from the LEGO Quest Kids blog. I had the builders work on their own or as teams, depending on the challenge. Many libraries host successful LEGO® programs and their lots of resources online.
How to Host a LEGO® Club
LEGO® Day at the Library
Block Party: Legos in the Library
LEGO® Librarian Toolkit

After a snack break, the second half of the program was devoted to building a LEGO® story. I explained that we were going to make short videos using stop motion animation with LEGOs® and the LEGO® Movie Maker app. After I showed them the very short movie I made as a demo, I then introduced the concept of a story board and we talked about the elements of a story. (I won’t link to my demo, because as the makers all pointed out, it was really short and not very good. It’s always good to demo something that makes kids feel they can do better.)

I provided post-it notes for the movie makers to use as they designed their story in teams, but most kids didn’t use them. The building challenges warmed them up to building and most were natural storytellers when using LEGO®. If kids needed a starting point, I, or the summer teen volunteer helping me, worked with them until they were confidently moving ahead with their idea.

As makers were ready, they brought their story pieces to one of the simple movie making stations (table against a wall near good lighting). Every team or individual had a building plate on which to stage their story and then we used a couple of extra plates for the backdrop of the scenes. One maker and I built stands out of LEGO® for both my iPhone and the iPad we used for filming (we had two filming stations) to reduce the jiggle that happens with handheld filming. Here are a couple examples of the seven short movies that were made during the program.

Crashing by Jonathan (filmed with iPhone)

Black Knight by Colten (filmed with iPad)

After the program, I emailed the final products to kids or their families or posted a couple on my library’s YouTube channel. Many kids were instantly hooked on the idea of making simple movies with LEGO® and have since kept creating on their own. To me, that’s a sign of a successful program.

My review of the app (also published in the Alaska State Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums’ Friday Bulletin on 8/8/14):

LEGO® Movie Maker
iOS 5+ (iPhone, iPad, iTouch)
Ages 5+

The LEGO® Movie Maker app is a user-friendly introductory tool for kids and teens who want to use stop motion animation as a storytelling tool, but have little or no experience with video production. Captured still images are stitched together by the app to create a short video with the click of the save button. The app includes title screen templates and the ability to customize both the title and director name(s). It also offers several background music choices and the option to add music from the device’s music collection. There is no narration function so movie makers will rely on action or strategically placed text in the scene to tell the story. The app’s overall ease of use would make this an excellent addition to a LEGO program in which young builders write a story, create the necessary elements of the story, and film it.

Once the video is deemed finished, the final product can be downloaded to the device’s camera roll and then shared with family and friends through email or posted online. While the app’s developer intends for the videos to feature the extremely popular LEGO bricks, videos with any props or actors could be created. Technical notes: The app does not contain any online links or in-app marketing. Currently there is only a landscape option for the title screen, so the still images are best captured in landscape mode also to offer a smooth viewing experience.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer 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.

Dot: A Book Review by Claudia Haines

by Randi Zuckerberg
illustrated by Joe Berger
32 pages
Harper Collins, 2013
ISBN: 978-0062287519
Hardcover, $17.99

Young Dot knows her electronic devices. She navigates tablets, desktops, laptops, and smartphones with ease. She’s not just tech-savvy, she is in fact obsessed with all things digital and spends her days researching, exploring, and communicating online. Eventually, Dot is seen on a double page spread laying on the floor with frazzled eyes. She’s had enough of her excessive digital media diet. Dot’s mom comes to the rescue and sends her outside to reconnect with her friends face to face and with outdoor play. The last page of the story reveals the balance of the virtual and real, with Dot using her phone to record her friends as they all enjoy the outdoors.

In creating Dot, her debut picture book, Randi Zuckerberg has done several things right. With the help of well-known illustrator Joe Berger, she portrays Dot as a tech-savvy girl contrary to the traditional images of men and boys often seen at the center of digital media use and creation. She models a world where a healthy media diet prevails and kids, at least, use media jointly. She chooses words that flow when read aloud and, with the help of the book’s designer, lays nicely amongst Berger’s whimsical illustrations created using both traditional media and Photoshop.

Dot falls short though in a way that may overshadow its value in the discussion about kids and media. Like many other picture books, Dot’s intended audience is 4-8 year olds. While many children this age use, or at least know about digital media, few of them tweet, tag, or share on their own as Dot does. In fact social media sites that employ these elements are for users 13 years old and up in accordance with COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Many, if not most, young children would not be able to manage these tasks or manage the social implications of their decisions without the help of an adult because of their developmental stages. This may ultimately confuse the book’s readers. Perhaps Dot’s real message is that kids need parental engagement and guidance.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Librarian
Homer Public Library

How do I find apps for free? by Carisa Kluver and Claudia Haines

Here at Little eLit, we get asked about free apps a lot. While we consider an app’s content, design, technical features, and age appropriateness before we look at price, the reality is that, just like librarians and teachers everywhere, we know money is a factor. In fact, some of you can’t get apps unless they are free. Not to worry! Little eLit to the rescue! If you want to know how to find quality apps for free, and always-free apps, here is the post you’ve been waiting for.

The 5 Types of Free Apps

First of all, what are we talking about when we say “free app”? There are actually five different categories of free apps.

1. Free apps: These are apps that are always free. While some free apps may not meet the criteria we use when choosing apps for storytime or for recommending to families for anytime use, there are some high quality apps out there that are actually meant to be free. The Exploratorium’s Color Uncovered and Sound Uncovered apps, Software Smoothie’s Felt Board – Mother Goose on the Loose, and the Calgary Public Library’s Grow a Reader are good examples.

2. Free with in-app purchases, ads, and links to full versions: These apps are free but come with strings attached, including links to other apps and even inappropriate content in some cases. However, all of the apps in this category are fully functional at the free level. When we review these apps for programs or for recommendation, we look at the content and how the purchase elements display and are accessed, particularly by kids. In storytime, an ad displayed on the screen is distracting. In-app purchases that are easy for kids to access can get expensive quickly, and they can possibly be purchased without parent or teacher permission. On the positive side, for parents, librarians, and teachers, some of these apps might offer a great opportunity to see how an app works before buying the full version. Note: Most devices have a setting that can be activated to require a password before authorizing in-app purchases. Be sure to know your device and where to find settings like these.

3. Free and it’s just a teaser: These apps are free, but the content of the free version is so limited that the app is not usable without an additional in-app purchase. As usual, be sure to read the app’s description carefully and review the app before using with children or incorporating into a program or classroom so you know what you’re getting.

4. Free temporarily: It costs money to make apps, especially high-quality apps, so some of our favorite apps come with a price tag usually between $.99 and $5.99. If you’re looking for a favorite app, but you can’t buy apps or just want to get the app for free or at a reduced cost, a temporary price reduction is what you’re looking for. Finding apps that are free for a short time does require research and knowing where to find them.

5. Promo codes: A 5th category is also useful to consider when seeking apps, especially for professionals who work with children, families and the community. For every app on iTunes, developers get 50-100 codes that allow users to download an app for free. This system is only in place for Apple, but other formats like Android can also give copies to individuals if you contact the developer directly. These codes are intended for reviewers of apps, journalists and other media outlets, but with frequent updates, especially after a major change to the operating system (e.g. iOS 7), developers often have extra codes that they use for consumer giveaways. They will usually be delighted to hear from a teacher or librarian asking for a free code because of the exposure you can offer their app. The process can also make it possible for you to influence future changes to apps, since the feedback from users is very valuable to independent app developers.

How to Find Temporarily Free Apps

Most app developers reduce an app’s price or make it temporarily free at some point during a six-month period. Traditionally, if developers are going to drop the price of apps, they will do so Wednesday through Friday, or around major holidays like Christmas Day or New Year’s Day, for example. Weekly price drops are usually offered with Thursday evening through Friday evening being the timeframe in which you are most likely to see price changes. With over a million apps in the various markets (Apple, Google Play, Amazon, Nook), it can be difficult to sift through the free apps or reduced-price apps every Thursday and Friday if you don’t have specific apps in mind.

To make the search easier, there are a few sites that can help you keep track of price fluctuations, and some even give you app update notifications. Digital-Storytime, EdApps4Sale (all free, curated for kids apps by Digital-Storytime founder Carisa Kluver), App Shopper, Smart Apps for Kids (+ for Android, for Special Needs), the iMums, App Abled and App Friday are easy-to-navigate sources for price information. We have a full list here, but over time this industry moves fast, so please keep an eye out for new resources and double check to make sure these sites are still active over time:

Recommended Review Sites

– This list is updated on Carisa’s blog & is on the sidebar of every page of her site:

For example, if after searching through the Little eLit Pinterest Apps for Preschool Storytime board you come up with a list of apps you want for your iPad, go to App Shopper and create a wish list. When that app’s price is reduced, you’ll get an email announcing the change. The email will include a link back to App Shopper or to iTunes directly.

Several sources of app price changes can also be found on Twitter and Facebook. Check out @momswithapps or your favorite app developer to see what we mean.

If you need more information about apps, including reviews and storytime, program, or curriculum uses, check out our list of suggested sites.

Carisa Kluver created and operates Digital Storytime, a review site for children’s apps; EdApps4Sale, a site that tracks deals on children’s apps; and The Digital Media Diet, a blog exploring new media with a focus on young children. Claudia Haines is the Curation Coordinator for Little eLit and Youth Services Librarian at Homer Public Library.

October Challenge: Digital Storytime, by Claudia Haines

I have introduced and successfully integrated apps into several of my library’s weekly preschool storytimes. However, there are some apps and digital media I have not used but wished I could. Our storytimes are held in our children’s library instead of a separate storytime space, and the beautiful design does not easily accommodate media tools like large screens. When the space was designed and built, new media was not part of the storytime conversation. Without a large screen on which to project book apps and other new media, some are too difficult to use or be seen by large groups on the smaller iPad screen. In fact, ability to be easily seen on the iPad screen and used by groups are two of the criteria I use for selecting apps for storytime.

Innovation, as always, requires creativity! So, with my director’s support and interest, I designed a new, digital storytime using our meeting room with its large monitor and space for comfortable seating. (We removed the meeting tables before the event and brought in the beanbags from the children’s library.) We decided to not only alter the media format for the pilot program, but to also host it on a Saturday, another first for our library.

The digital storytime seemed like a perfect fit for Little eLit’s October Tech Challenge, in which we try something new and a even little bit nerve-wracking in honor of the “scary” month. Here are the details of my challenge-to-me program.

Digital Storytime: App-ily Ever After

16 kids and caregivers attended the program. Kids were ages 2-9. Two teachers brought their kids. Only three of the kids had ever been to a storytime at the library (or outreach program) before this one. The group size was perfect for a pilot program in our room size and with the devices we had on-hand.

I divided the one-hour program into two parts. The first half was a storytime similar in format to the weekly preschool programs. We sang, moved, and read together. This format was used with the idea of offering some familiarity to families while at the same time letting me highlight apps that demonstrate the tips I planned to share with parents. The kids had fun while the parents saw the apps in action.

The second half of storytime was dedicated to letting kids and caregivers try out apps I had preloaded on four iPads and share information with each other about apps they like. I also took the opportunity to talk with families about what to look for when searching for apps.

This type of storytime needs tools just like any other storytime program, but sometimes the tools are just a bit different. I stated that iPads would be used in this program, but many of the apps I used or mentioned are available on multiple platforms. The equipment I used for this program included:

  • Large monitor
  • Apple TV (This connected the iPad to the monitor wirelessly, allowing for more movement as I used the iPad.)
  • Wireless Router (We created a hot spot in the meeting room so families could download apps with ease during the program without competing with the whole library for bandwidth.)
  • 4 iPads (I used my personal iPad to present the storytime elements and then had the library’s iPad and a city-owned iPad on hand–both preloaded with a collection of 20 apps I selected–for kids and caregivers to try out. My director also brought her iPad loaded with apps she wanted to share. It turned out that all but one family brought their own iPad, which I encouraged on the flyer for the program.)
  • 20 apps for storytime program and for families to try out
  • Beanbags and chairs for families
  • paper copies of Sandra Boynton‘s Blue Hat, Green Hat and Mo Willems‘s Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (two apps used in the program are based on the popular paper books)


Welcome song: Open Shut Them (a classic storytime song we sing regularly on Wednesdays)

Song: Are you ready for a story? (Clap Your hands)

Parent Tip: I explained the difference between a book app and an e-book.

Book app: Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boyton and Loud Crow (2011)
$3.99 :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store, and Nook Color

This app is so silly that even the adults were laughing! It quickly helped the group relax and caught their attention.

Parent Tips:

    • The value of meaningful Interactivity: In this app the reader taps animals and objects to animate them. The actions closely relate to the story, as do the sounds, which extend the story. Early readers can tap on the individual words to hear them read aloud even with the read-to-me function turned off.
    • App’s early literacy value: phonological awareness
    • Choosing book apps: This is an engaging story with entertaining characters, not just lots of interactivity. Plus it has simple, uncluttered pages with quality images and easy-to-read text.

Toy App: Peekaboo Barn by Night & Day Studios (2011)
$1.99 (free lite version is available) :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store

After seeing all of the silly, farm animals in Boynton’s app, we played a game identifying farm animals in this one. When the app is started, a barn appears and an animal’s sound is heard. Tapping on the barn opens the doors to reveal the animal making the sound. The name of the animal also appears on the screen. The barn doors then close and a new animal sound is heard. While this app works well with groups because there are multiple opportunities for kids to participate, I actually prefer another farm animal app I have used in the weekly storytime. The game format I use with it would not work with the large screen.

Parent Tips:

    • Joint Engagement: A child could navigate this app on his/her own, but it is more fun when children and caregivers or children and other children play it together. Joint Engagement offers great opportunities for learning!
    • Early literacy value: phonological awareness and print awareness
    • Choosing apps: Look for apps that are age appropriate and can be played over again. Be sure to review an app before introducing it to your young child.

Song: Are you ready for a story? (Tap your toes)

Book App: A Frog Thing by Eric Drachman and Oceanhouse Media
$2.99 :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store and Nook Color

Frog is a frog who has dreams. He wants to fly, even if it isn’t a frog thing. In this gentle story, again with meaningful interactivity, frog saves the day, realizes a dream, and inspires his family and friends. I picked this book app because it demonstrates another way book apps can still be effective and engaging without being silly.

Parent Tips:

    • Early literacy value: This book offers new vocabulary, like the word “aerodynamic,” as well as opportunities to build narrative skills. This is also a good choice for STEAM storytimes focusing on frogs.
    • Choosing apps: Look for uncluttered pages with easy-to-read text. I pointed out the read to me, read to myself, and auto play options and the button to turn music on or off, all features which I look for.

Toy app: Felt Board by Software Smoothie

We used this digital feltboard to act out the song Five Green and Speckled Frogs (demonstrated here by the Jbrary librarians). Many librarians have talked about using this app and this felt story before. Instead of using screenshots of each movement in the story and projecting them with keynote, I saved my story (a new update) and physically moved the frogs as the story progresses in the song. This worked perfectly and mimicked one of the great aspects of traditional felt boards. I was comfortable doing the actions with my hands and moving the frogs on the iPad. Almost everyone sang along with this song.

With multiple backgrounds and a zillion characters and features to choose from, this toy is perfect for kids of multiple ages and for playing together.

Parent Tips:

    • Choosing apps: Select apps that encourage open-ended play and creativity.
    • Early literacy value: This app is great for building narrative skills.

Toy app: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive This App by Mo Willems and Disney
$5.99 :: App available from Apple only

This app is based on the popular book Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The app does not include the book, but it extends the story by offering kids a chance to create and play using the beloved characters from the book. As a group we recorded a story directed by the bus driver. We were asked a series of questions and took turns saying silly answers, which were then incorporated into a story that was played back and acted out by the bus driver and the pigeon. This was a great transition into the second portion of the program.

Parent Tips:

    • Early literacy value: Strengthens narrative skills and helps build vocabulary. This also provides a nice introduction to creating digital stories.
    • Choosing apps: This app has no in-app purchases or ads, what I look for especially for use in storytime.

For the rest of the time, we looked at and explored apps informally. Caregivers shared apps they have used and liked. Kids and caregivers had lots of questions about app suggestions, even for specific purposes like strengthening math skills, and how to select apps. Several of the adults also asked if we were going to offer a similar storytime again!

I gave every caregiver a double sided information sheet about kids and digital media which included app suggestions, developer suggestions, early literacy information, and resources for learning more. This kind of program offers a lot to think about, so something to take home was important.

This was a successful pilot program that showed us two things. One is that a program like this one can be successful and is important to families. Secondly, it helped us assess the need for Saturday storytimes. We hope to host similar programs again as resources allow.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Coordinator
Homer Public Library

Take the Little eLit October Challenge!

New can be exciting, but let’s face it. New can be scary, even ghoulishly scary. Injecting new technology into traditional library programs, like storytime, comes with challenges. Sorting through the logistics of projecting digital content, choosing which media to use, finding the funds to acquire devices and apps, and learning how to use the new tools can give even the most savvy librarian nightmares. Those dark circles and blood shot eyes aren’t part of a zombie costume!

Don’t worry. Little eLit is here to help!

The Little eLit site is full of field notes, presentation slides, and how-to’s for librarians looking to use book apps in storytime or creating new programs around digital media and tablets. We even have collections of apps field tested by librarians with valuable metadata on Pinterest boards to help you choose media for your next program. This month, we’ve got a special treat for you.

During the month of October, we’re challenging ourselves and you to take on new media ghosts and try something new. All of us here at Little eLit come from a variety of libraries with different resources, so we’ll be scaring up new programs or new ways to use digital media that are doable in a library like yours. From digital storytimes and digital media workshops for parents to an augmented reality lab for tweens, we’ll share our ghoulish tales and sweet successes. No candy coating here, we promise!

We’ll also be adding an app a day to our Pinterest boards during the month of October (Monday-Friday) to help you find just the right app for your next program. From toddlers to Teens, we’ll reveal what’s behind the book and game apps that we think are good for STORYtime or ANYtime.

What will be your digital media challenge this month?

iPads in the Library: a book review, by Claudia Haines

51pDQpTlxnL._SY300_iPads in the Library: Using Tablet Technology to Enhance Programs for All Ages.
by Joel A. Nichols
Libraries Unlimited
136 pp
Paper: 978-1-61069-347-9
Ebook: 978-1-61069-348-6
(Paper edition reviewed)

For librarians looking to integrate iPads and apps (also known as new media) into their library’s programming, there are no how-to guides. Most librarians getting started with iPads scour blog posts, presentations, and listserv comments, or rely on word of mouth for advice. Many librarians are forced to “reinvent the wheel” over and over again or decide to postpone their tablet-inclusive plans, not knowing where to start.

With the publication of his recent book, iPads in the Library, Joel Nichols is filling the void. Nichols, manager of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Techmobile, draws on his experience to effectively make the case for iPads and other tablets in the library, and he provides tested recipes for successful programs.

The essence of the book is the number of detailed program plans designed for a variety of group sizes and ages including children under five, elementary age children, teens, and adults. These plans, and many of the technical details, provide the necessary tips to empower librarians getting started with iPads in their library programs. The 48 fully adaptable program plans, with names like LEGO Self-Portrait, Afterschool Research Orientation, English Conversation Practice, and Interview Workshop, vary in complexity, and each feature:

  • Goals
  • Specific apps (and app substitutions) which are also included in an annotated list of the book’s 100 apps in two appendices
  • Planning notes
  • Suggested complimentary materials (new media and traditional)
  • Step-by-step instructions for using each app in the specific program
  • Images (some of low quality)
  • Suggestions for program series

Librarians looking to move beyond Nichols’ suggestions, however, may struggle to identify quality apps on their own as they expand their program offerings. The chapter on “App Selection Criteria” lacks detailed guidance on how to select apps beyond what’s offered in the program plans. As Nichols’ acknowledges reviewing apps in professional literature is “in its infancy,” so this reflects more the nature of ”apps in libraries” rather than his book. Unlike other media with long histories of evaluation by prestigious committees like the Newbery and Caldecott, for apps and new media there is little agreement on what makes a good app or book app, for program use or use anytime. As with other media, librarians need evaluation criteria that they can apply as they review apps and develop additional programming.

iPads in the Library also includes only a limited list of current review sources, making the search for other program-appropriate apps daunting for some. Without an online element to the book that can be easily updated, readers will have to rely on their own research for other review sources as they come available.

The other area not completely addressed in Nichols’ book is device management. While the chapter “Device Management Best Practices” does well to give specifics about using iTunes with several devices and setting up an umbrella iTunes account, librarians, especially those with limited IT staff or those proposing new iPad programs to supervisors or grantors, may have more questions about managing fleets of iPads. Information about how to manage multiple devices with Configurator or other software and how to purchase apps using the Apple Volume App Purchasing Program is not included.

The publication of Nichols’ valuable how-to guide is a welcome addition to the librarian’s toolbox. It is written at a time when the new media landscape is rapidly evolving and librarians need resources like this one to get started. Because of the dynamic nature of new media and use of iPads, Nichols’ book will hopefully be the first of many resources for librarians using new media in the library.

Claudia Haines, Little eLit Curation Coordinator
Youth Services Coordinator
Homer Public Library