Blog Archives

Apps for (your) Kids – informational session

apps for kidsI’ve created an informational session for parents at the Annapolis Valley Regional Library called Apps for (your) Kids. My first presentation of it was actually a good lesson for me, even though I only had one person show up. I co-presented with Geoff, who volunteers a few times a month at one of our libraries giving advice on all things Apple. Since he usually gets paid quite well to do this, we are lucky to have him on board as a volunteer! It was great to have him there in case of technical difficulties and also to answer questions not related to the apps I was there to demonstrate.  So, the basic outline of my session is this: I divided the apps I would share into eight areas: Books, Drawing & Writing, ABC  & 123, Storytelling, Vocabulary & Grammar, Sounds, Games- young, Games- older.  I’ve put the powerpoint I made for it here on SlideShare.  For each app I share, I include price, platform, educational use, recommended age, and “Why I like this one”.

My plan was to see who showed up, and then tailor the session to them – we only allowed up to 10 sign up so I knew it would be a small group. (1 is a very small group indeed).  So I planned to ask how old their kids were and what sorts of things they were interested in, and then demo the related apps. I had the iPad mirrored via an adapter, HDMI cable, and projector. The hardest bit was figuring out how to control the volume on the projector! Plus I had one app that would not show up and made everything else black out (and I forgot to make a note of which one that was).  I also had an extra iPad mini on hand loaded with the more pricey apps in case someone wanted to test-drive an app before purchase.  This session was good practise for me, and it showed me that librarians DO have a better grip on this whole app thing than a lot of parents do.  They NEED us, folks!

So, even though there was only one mom there, I was able to turn her on to a couple of apps and give her a bit of advice. I also emailed her my complete APPS FOR KIDS list as a PDF.  I was able to explain to her about in-app purchases and show her some free apps and some apps that while not free, are low-cost and aren’t trying to sell gold coins to her children. I’ve got it scheduled at a few more branches in April, so I can keep spreading the word.

Lessons learned: be flexible, be prepared for anything, be ok with saying “I can’t really help you with that, but I can show you this”, take notes for yourself, bask in your area of expertise, and be confident!

Angela Reynolds
Youth Services Manager
Annapolis Valley Regional Library


Community Storytime

I’ve been asked to provide some advice for a husband/wife storytelling team in a church setting. JoMarie posted the following question, and I’ve brought the whole conversation into an official post because I think it might be useful for others to read.


I’m planning to start a story time club in my neighborhood. If I have a group of 10 kids, would it be nice to have an ipad to tell the story? I understand that as a parent is is easier because it is a one-on-one situation, but with 10 kids (and no infocus aid) can an ipad take the place of a real book? Feedback appreciated :)


Hi! I’d love to hear more about your program! Are you working with an organization (library, non-profit etc)? iPads can certainly be used in a group setting to tell stories, but they do not usually take the place of physical books (unless you WANT that to be the point of the progam). I think of iPads as another storytelling tool, just like felt boards, puppets, shakers and music can all be storytelling tools. What age are the kids you will be working with, and will their caregivers be present for the program? Where will the proposed program take place?


Thank you so much for your reply! :) I am planning to start the program at my church (I plan to make is in Spanish also, since the school in our parish has the Spanish immersion program I think it might be a good idea). This might take place at the school church’s library. I believe the age group can be 2-9 (if in the future we see that we have a big audience and can be divided in 2 groups, we’d divide it in two groups without a doubt). My husband and I are planning to present this program to our parish director to start it in January 2013, we plan for caregivers to be present in the program while it takes place (so they won’t think about it as a daycare in case some kids get bored, they can leave with no problem). I am planning to work also with some resources from Amazon (using amazon kindle) they have some pretty nice picture books, which I think kids will love. So, the program we are planning will follow something like this:

1- Introduction: we’ll ask the kids to guess about the story, if it is about an animal or character, I plan my husband to wear a mask/dress like and mimic the character.

2- Conversation: I’ll talk to our “character” and kids can ask him questions too.

3- Vocabulary: I’ll show the kids flashcards or realia of the main words of the story (we can do a matching game, puzzle or some fun activity for this one).

4- Story: We read the story

5- Song: I’ll try my best to find a song depending on the story for kids to sing.

6- Crafts: We do some crafty activity kids can take home

Please let me know what you think about this, I am working on this to present it to our director, we plan to make it Sundays 3pm.



I love how interactive your storytelling plan is! This will be very useful with your crowd because of the huge age differences. Normally I’d say that you should be really careful trying to tackle an age group as varied as 2-9, but since your group is so small, and the kids are already part of your church group and presumably know each other, it may work just fine.

You mentioned using both an iPad and Kindle (I assume it’s a Kindle Fire- do not use a black and white Kindle in a storytime). The iPad can work hand-held for a group this size, but you’d have to be very careful about that kind of apps or eBooks you choose. I use an AppleTV to mirror everything on my iPad to a screen. The Kindle Fire will NOT work hand held because of the size of the screen and the interface of the books. I do not have any experience with mirroring technology for Android based devices (like the Kindle Fire) but they do exist (take a look at this one). You could also access Kindle books through the Kindle app on your iPad if the content you want is not available through iTunes (and this is entirely possible; in a recent project I did on Digital Caldecotts, sometimes the books are inexplicably available in one format and not in another).

In any digital storytime, I recommend getting the image as big as you can. If you have a TV or projector, try to use it. If you need specific help figuring out what cables you need, please don’t hesitate to ask!

You could try using more than one story, unless you really feel you want to keep the program very short, and expand on specific themes within that story. Many storytellers design their programs around themes and choose related supporting storytelling tools (music included!)

I recommend reaching out to your local library, too, and telling them what you are trying to develop. They may not have app/eBook-specific skills to offer (send them straight to me if they don’t!) but they WILL have a lot of knowledge to share with you about developing a storytime, and they may have some outreach resources that you may be able to take advantage of.

Sharing my iPad

reflectionFinally, I have figured out how to project my iPad at the Annapolis Valley Regional Library! It really was very easy. All I had to do was hook up my iPad 2 with an adapter and an HDMI cable to mirror my iPad through the projector (or an HDMI enabled TV) to share apps, books etc with an audience. If you don’t want to pay the $45 or so for the adaptor, (plus a few bucks for an HDMI cable if you don’t already have one) and you already have a laptop and projector, you can pay $14.99 for this cool app: Reflection. Then you’ll be hooking your projector up to the laptop. I decided to go the adapter and cable route so I don’t have to carry around the laptop as well as the iPad and projector. The beauty of the Reflection app is that you can move around the room with your iPad, since it is using WiFi to connect to the laptop. I am tethered with the cable, but my cable is 10 feet long, so I am going this way for now!

My first plan is to offer an App Class for parents to show them some of the cool apps I’ve gotten for free and for very cheap, so that they can get good stuff for their kids. With the iPad Mini available this holiday season, I hope to share some quality stuff with parents so that their kids can have good eBook and app experiences, and I can share some tips and suggested uses at the same time!

Angela Reynolds
Youth Services Manager
Annapolis Valley Regional Library

Creating a Slideshare Felt Board story

If you have a really large group at storytime, you might consider using
Slideshare  for your felt board stories. You can project them from your laptop, and everyone can see! You could do the same in Powerpoint; I’m using Slideshare here so that I can, well, share it with others – you don’t even need an account to see the presentations, only to create. I did find a Slideshare app for iPad that is free, but I find it a bit slow – but if you want to try it, it is called Slide by Slide and hooks up with SlideShare.

This one is The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I made this one with a whole lot of help from Judy Sierra’s fabulous book, The flannel board storytelling book. Sierra introduces the amazingly easy technique of using interfacing for the figures– you make a photocopy of the pieces, pop a piece of medium-weight interfacing over top of that, trace it with a sharpie pen, color in with pencils or markers, cut out, and there you have it. I highly recommend this book for Felt Board storytellers! Once I have my story created, I just prop
up my board and take a photograph of each “scene.” This one has a lot of movement of pieces, so it has more shots than some might. Then, put your photos in order into SlideShare, and Bob’s your uncle. Please feel free to use The 3 Billy Goats Gruff in your next storytime. Another use for this could be to share the links to your felt board with parents– they could go home and tell the stories with their kids!

Angela Reynolds
Youth Services Manager
Annapolis Valley Regional Library

App Review: Charley Harper’s Peekaboo Forest

Charley Harper’s Peekaboo Forest
Night & Day Studios, Inc.
Available from iTunes store
For iPhone or iPad

This simple but visually stunning app is a great choice for young toddlers. Four seasonal backgrounds hide several animals each. Small movements (a nose peeping out, or a waving tail) hint at a hidden animal, but the creature doesn’t reveal itself fully until the child taps where he sees the movement.

When the animal comes out of its hiding place it makes a sound, then the name appears in the upper corner and is read by the narrator. The animal stays on the screen until the child taps it again, then it hides and the next animal movement is revealed.

Options allow you to turn the narration and the animal sounds on or off, and to switch the narration between an adult or a child’s voice. The activity is a bit limited especially for older children, and I could wish for more pictures, but the Charley Harper illustrations are gorgeous and this is a good choice for young children.

App Review: Eric Carle’s My Very First App

Eric Carle’s My Very First App
Night & Day Studios
Available from iTunes Store
$1.99, with 4 expansion packs available for $.99 each
For iPhone or iPad

This app has been very popular with my three-year-old. Eric Carle illustrations and textures are used to create memory and matching games with varying difficulty levels. It comes with two sets of illustrations: colors and animal homes. Additional sets (shapes, numbers, food, and animals sounds) can be purchased for $.99 each, but are definitely not necessary.

In the Easy level, the child swipes to move colors or pictures, and matches the picture with its dominant color, or the animal with its home.  Medium level is a standard, flip-the-cards memory matching game. The Hard level combines the two; using memory card-style of play to match a color and picture, or animal and home.

The illustrations will be familiar to Eric Carle fans, and the app has a nice, clean design. My son goes back to it again and again without getting bored, so I haven’t found it necessary to add more sets to play. If your child is a fan of Eric Carle books, this app is a good complement and a solid addition to your app library.