At the invitation-only eBooks in Early Literacy: Science, Design, Decision conference in Tempe, Arizona on September 27-28, a group of researchers, policy makers, teachers, administrators, content developers, child development and literacy specialists gathered to discuss eBooks in early literacy. Big research names like Adriana Bus, Jackie Marsh and Kathy Roskos shared their work (holy intimidation, batman!) and after each session the group had a “what, so what, now what” discussion about the different frames for considering the state of digital literacy in early childhood.
I was the only librarian presenting (and one of very few present), and I was both surprised and disappointed by how novel the idea was that early childhood educators, researchers and content developers could harness the resources and partnership capabilities of their local libraries. By the end of the conference, nearly half of the “now what?” steps the panelists reported back included bringing children’s librarians on board with their work. It felt like a small victory to represent librarians well enough to get everyone so excited about working with us, but ultimately I realized it was a wide-scale libraryland failure that academics and educators don’t associate libraries with emerging formats of children’s literature. It underscored for me the immediate need to get children’s librarians much more savvy about digital reading with young children, and the need that educators, researchers and the general public alike have for authoritative, objective recommendations in the app and digital publishing space.
Two themes that arose over and over again were the need for professional development (mostly in the case of early childhood educators) around the use of new media with young children, and the aforementioned lack of trusted recommendation sources. I presented about how librarians are ideally positioned in storytime to fill both of these chasms, and how we’re already beginning to mobilize to provide the kind of services our communities need around the use of new media with young children. I reported back on Mother Goose on the Loose with New Media, and also the use of Every Child Ready to Read as an ideal frame for supporting parents in their quest to provide a healthy media environment for their children. I also announced the upcoming partnership that I’m developing with the Fred Rogers Center, the TEC Center at Erikson, ALSC, the California State Library, the New American Foundation & Digital_Storytime.com (details to follow!)
One thing I worry about whenever I present at these kinds of events is over-promising what individual libraries and librarians can realistically offer. I wax poetic about how librarians are now offering services and recommendations for new media use, but the reality is that librarian tech competencies are all over the map, and many libraries don’t have the budgets to offer wide-scale access to devices. My end goal, however, it to get people to associate the library with digital books and publishing just as much as they do with traditional publishing, even if there are a few blank (or even hostile!) stares from librarians as we all get on board with offering support to families and institutions who need guidance with digital reading and young children.
My presentation slides are below, but they’re not much use without narration. I’ll narrate the presentation once I have my voice back (going to piles of conferences and meetings is fun and all, but getting pneumonia from running around too much isn’t!)