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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

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

October Challenge: Trying an App in Storytime, by Catherine DiCristofaro

I got the chance to participate in the New Media in Storytime training sponsored by the Maryland Eastern Shore Regional Library. Cen Campbell provided everyone with fantastic information and insight into using picture book apps and other newer technology in a storytime and library setting. After seeing how successful her demonstrations were, I was determined to try a picture book app in my own storytime to see how my families would respond. I decided that I would have enough material for a “normal” storytime (i.e., no apps) but have one ready to go if the group I had that day was up for it. I decided to actually show the story directly from my iPad screen to keep it simple.

app in storytimeAfter we finished our story books, I had the children move closer to the front so that everyone could see. We used the “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive this App” on the iPad. If you are not familiar with this particular app, it features Mo Willems’s Pigeon asking to do something that the user denies. If a child is familiar with the Pigeon in book form, he or she will have no problem adapting to the app. There are three options that allow users to have different levels of control over the storytelling elements. The first level, “egg,” simply tells a story. Level two, “chick,” allows the user to pick different elements of the story from different lists. Finally, the third level, “Big Pigeon” allows the user to record his or her voice to add a personal creative element to the story. I used this app in two different storytimes, one with 18 children and one with 12. I decided to use the chick version so that we could add some creative ownership to the story by picking elements, but we wouldn’t have to try recording sound with that many young children trying to help.

Some of the children had trouble NOT touching the iPad. I could tell that they weren’t used to having a table present and not being able to touch it. However, once I explained that I would be pushing the buttons so that everyone could see, they understood and managed to keep their fingers in check. As each option for the story was presented (what is the smelliest – gym socks, kitty litter, or stinky fish), the children called out choices and I tapped the picture to add it to the story. Once all of the choices had been made, we were ready to hear the story we helped create. The kids were entranced. They listened intently and participated by yelling “No!” when the Pigeon made his request. After the storytime, I had a chance to talk to a parent to see what she thought about integrating apps and technology into storytime. She said that she liked it and that as long as it wasn’t the only thing we did in storytime, she thought it was a nice addition. Overall, I thought my first app in storytime experience was a success and I hope to try more in the future!

Catherine DiCristofaro is the youth services librarian at the Charlotte Hall Branch in the St. Mary’s County Library System. Catherine served on the 2012 Blue Crab committee for the Children’s Services Division of the Maryland Library Association. She is passionate about picture books and making sure that children and adults alike view reading as something that is fun and worth doing!

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?