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Most Successful Unsuccessful Program Ever

tablettaleslogoLast week was the most successful unsuccessful Tablet Tales program I’ve had yet. Only one family came to this pilot session at the Morgan Hill Library: a mom, a teenage girl, a 9ish year old boy and my most enthusiastic participant, a first grade girl. I had planned a family storytime, and what I did instead was sit on the floor next to my first grader and we looked at the huge books on the screen together and just read, talked and sang. We read Llama Llama. We sang and then read/sang the Itsy Bitsy Spider. We read a few Caldecotts from my recent Caldecott hunt. We guessed what the bunny would do next, we rhymed words, we made funny noises, I learned that she had lost a tooth recently, and she showed me how much she loved reading books.

After we’d run through all the books I’d planned, plus a whole handful more, I showed her the new Goodnight Moon app and then I told her and her family it was the end of storytime. As they were leaving the the teenage sister told me “I like how you sang the book instead of reading it.”

Once outside the storytime room, the mother started telling me about her youngest daughter, the first grader.

“She’s not a very good reader. She doesn’t like reading. We get books but she doesn’t like to read them. What can I give her to make her read?”

The girl was standing right there, between us.

I was speechless for a moment. This mother’s assessment of her daughter, though presumably well intentioned (after all, they WERE hanging out in the library as a family, asking a librarian for help), was so destructive. I took her over to the children’s area, showed her some high-interest books, gave her some book and app lists, and told her more about what services the library offers, but I’m not sure I gave her the answer she wanted to hear. I commented on how much her daughter did, in fact, enjoy reading and singing, and she had done a very good job of reading with me, and if she liked the format of the books we read together in storytime, the library offers some similar ones through Bookflix and Tumblebooks. I described how apps and eBooks can be a wonderfully motivating format for children (I avoid using phrases like “reluctant reader”), but the whole interaction made me so sad.

I wonder about their home life. It is dangerous to make assumptions about people, but after working with people for awhile, you begin to see patterns. I strongly suspect that those children live in a media-saturated environment (ie television) and that the mother may not have known that you can sit together and sing books (digital or paper) instead of reading them (hence the teenager being surprised that a librarian might do something like that in a library program), or talk about what you see in the pictures and make up your own stories. I also wonder if the mother’s feelings about her own language and literacy skills may have been a limiting factor in the family’s reading environment.

We children’s librarians often sit in our ivory towers recommending books and only books (and paper ones at that!) and it falls on deaf ears because a lot of children now grow up bombarded with multimedia experiences, and an old-fashioned book is just not able to hold their attention in the way it “should.” That little girl was incredibly jazzed about sitting with an adult, sharing some cool books (that just happened to be digital), singing, reading and talking. I wish I’d had an iPad full of high-quality apps to give them to take home, to motivate and invigorate their family, which is probably on the less fortunate side of the digital divide. If the mother doesn’t read to her kids because she’s not very “good” at reading herself, an app or an iBook with the narration setting turned on could provide them the cuddling/bonding opportunity that they may miss out on otherwise.

That child was learning with me. We shared the experience together, and the mother did seem to pay attention as I actively involved her daughter in a joint media engagement experience. This may not look like the literacy of 10, 50 or 100 years ago, but we need as children’s librarians to work with it and make it the best it can be. In some cases we have a lot of damage to undo, and using high quality media intelligently can be a very successful tool to reach children who have already been exposed to too much of the wrong kind of media.

Tablet Tales Pilot: Morgan Hill Library 1

The first in a series of 4 Tablet Tales programs at the Morgan Hill Library was small. Very small.  Like, 4 kids and 5 adults small.  I had prepared a killer program for the fancy library with the high-tech community room (built-in projector, screen and sound system), but my storytime plan went right out the window because my crowd was so small. My Eureka! Leadership Institute colleague Saralyn Otter helped me set up, made an announcement and passed around my booklist and survey, but I think given the recent time change and possibly the location of the library, the 7 o’clock time slot may not be the best for this program in this community. Mornings storytimes sessions at this library can have as many as 80 people in attendance, so they do have well-attended regular programs.  We’ll finish off the next 3 pilots, but if they decide to continue the program they may have to  carefully consider the time slot.

Here is what I planned

Hello Song
Early literacy tip: Music helps your kids learn!
Wiggle my fingers
Book: Click Clack Moo
Hey Diddle Diddle (Smoothie Felt Board App)
Book: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
Blow up your balloon
Shakers: Shake a Little Shaker
Book: Pete the Cat (iBook)
Movement song: Hot Potato
Here’s a little bunny
May there always be sunshine (Smoothie Felt Board App; image, then lyrics in Keynote)
Goodbye song: Blow a Kiss
Clap up high goodbye rhyme

What I actually did

Hello Song
Early literacy tip: Music helps your kids learn!
Wiggle my fingers
Book: Click Clack Moo
Hey Diddle Diddle (Smoothie Felt Board)
Book: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom
App: Wild About Books
App: Go Away, Big Green Monster
App: The Very Cranky Bear
Shakers: Shake a Little Shaker
Book: Pete the Cat (iBook)
Movement song: Hot Potato
The Going to Bed Book
Clap up high goodbye rhyme

Survey Results (2 surveys returned)

What is the age of your child/children that attend storytime?

1-2 years: 0
2-3 years: 1
3-4 years: 0
4-5 years: 1
5 + years: 2

What are the best days/times to attend programs at the library?

  • Mid-morning
  • Late afternoon

What did you like best about this program?

  • Lively
  • Pictures in the stories
  • Story host
  • Books, dancing etc

What did you like least about this program?

  • Small crowd; time of day perhaps?

Would you like to see this program continue at your library?

  • Yes: 2

Did you find it useful to learn about book-based apps and eBooks for young children?

  • Yes, very much so

Tablet Tales Pilot #3: Cupertino Library

I drove past Apple HQ to get to storytime tonight. How cool is that?! I did a few newbie-storyteller goofs that I should have known better about; queue the activity song up right at the beginning so it doesn’t start 5 seconds in, and get a colleague to help pass out shakers to avoid being mobbed by four dozen 4 year olds.  The crowd was HUGE: 56 kids and 47 adults, but they were very good participants and were good sports about the fact that I was not their regular storyteller (Hi Judith!) Many thanks to all the Cupertino Library Children’s Librarians for coming to Tablet Tales and giving me supportive feedback.

I’ve only gotten 4 surveys back so far, but if more come in I will update the results.

What is the age of your child/children that attend storytime?

1-2 years: 1
2-3 years: 1
3-4 years: 2
4-5 years: 1
5 + years: 2

What are the best days/times to attend programs at the library?

  • After School
  • 7 PM
  • Tuesdays and Thursdays

What did you like best about this program?

  • Reading (that one was written by a child: What’s cool about this comment is that in this almost entirely digital storytime, she still understood that we were reading; not playing a game or watching a movie)
  • Visibility
  • When they were doing the story on the tablet my daughter got excited
  • Everyone can see clearly
  • Teacher
  • Use of technology

What did you like least about this program?

  • When you were doing head, shoulders knees and toes
  • I don’t like that the program is not available again
  • All good (this was written by a child: what tickles me is that we read Pete the Cat.  And Pete’s moral is: “No matter what you step in, just keep walking along, singing your song. Because it’s all good!” She totally got it!)
  • Less activities, less involvement, tradition

Would you like to see this program continue at your library?

  • Yes: 2
  • No: 2

Did you find it useful to learn about book-based apps and eBooks for young children?

  • Yes: 3
  • No: 1

Additional comments

  • Keep it print
  • Good job!
  • Have this program and TEACHER every week (I didn’t add the all caps- that’s what it says!  I swear!)
  • This program is useful, but my kids like the regular way of storytime.  You can do this monthly.  Once.

Lessons learned

  • It is so hard coming into a brand new community and doing a brand-new program (any change is hard!) It’s hard for the staff, parents, kids AND the interloper.  Trust the local librarians to understand the wants and needs of their community. Provide information and support if they seek it, and be grateful for their graciousness.
  • Mute the TV
  • Music gets people’s attention.  Play an instrument, sing or make a beat.  Technology will never replace the power of a person making a song.
  • Queue music
  • Have a plan for handing out shakers

What I did

Come and follow me (fife)
Hello song
Early literacy skill: Phonological Awareness
Wiggle my fingers
Book: Click Clack Moo
Book: Peas Porridge Hot (from Here Comes Mother Goose, pg 74)
Book: Pete the Cat (iBook)
Shake a little shaker
Movement song: Hot Potato
Balloon calm-down rhyme
Book: The Very Cranky Bear (app)
Head shoulders knees and toes
Book: Going to Bed Book (app)
Clap up high goodbye rhyme

Tablet Tales Pilot #2

Last night was the second in my series of Tablet Tales pilot projects at the Santa Clara County Library District.  Once again I was working with the fabulous Jennifer Weeks at the Campbell Library. There were 14 kids and 12 adults, and 4 surveys were returned with the following results:

What is the age of your child/children that attend storytime?

1-2 years: 1
2-3 years: 0
3-4 years: 2
5 + years: 2

What are the best days/times to attend programs at the library?

Saturdays

What did you like best about this program?

  • The songs
  • Simple stories
  • I like the tablet story
  • Good Stories
  • Easy to see
  • Interaction with teacher for children

What did you like least about this program?

  • None
  • N/A

Would you like to see this program continue at your library?

  • Yes: 4
  • No: 0

Did you find it useful to learn about book-based apps and eBooks for young children?

  • Yes: 4
  • No: 0

Additional comments

  • It is better having a storytime where the book is on a large screen so everyone can see.

Lessons learned

You can’t do airplay/mirroring between the iPad and AppleTV, and pair the iPad with bluetooth speakers at the same time.  This came up because I wanted to turn off all sound from my apps and iBooks, but wanted to play an action song mid-program. Luckily I have about nineteen million devices and different ways to connect them to nineteen million other devices, and I had the choice of either using my Nexus S or New iPad (in addition to the iPad 2, which I was using with the AppleTV), both with the Spotify app, with the Mini Boom Box.  I realize I could have also just used the speakers on the TV, but I didn’t have the remote on me and I like doing things the hard way because it builds character.

Changes implemented based on last week’s survey results

  1. I did another Sandra Boynton app (The Going to Bed Book) without getting the kids to actually touch the iPad.  Other than one older child asking to touch, it worked much better this week.
  2. I used Smoothie Felt Board images saved to Keynote for 5 Green and Speckled Frogs (which I operated while Jennifer sang the words and did the hand motions); as well as for Bluebird and included just the lyrics in large type on the next slide (instead of notation).

Tablet Tales #2 (10/16/2012)
Theme: Animals
Walk in Music: Come and Follow me (Fife)
Opening Song: It’s time for storytime (welcome slide)
Storytime Introduction:
Fingerplay: Wiggle my fingers
Story: My heart is like a zoo (Book)
Story: Wild About Books (App)
Fingerplays:

  • Five little monkeys
  • Bears eat honey
  • Five green and speckled frogs (felt board)

Story: Bear’s Loose Tooth (iBook)
Fingerplays:

  • Boom chicka boom
  • I eat my peas with honey
  • Blue Bird (Felt Board App)

Action Music: Hot Potato (iPod)
Story: Animal Alphabet (App)
Story: Class two at the zoo or chickens to the rescue Jennifer
Story: Going to bed book (App)
Book: Dear Zoo
Goodbye Fingerplay: Clap up high (goodbye slide/list of resources)

Tablet Tales at SCCLD

My digital storytelling initiative is ready to launch into the world! On October 9th, 2012 we begin piloting Tablet Tales in 4 of the Santa Clara County Library District‘s community libraries.

Campbell Library 10/9, 10/16, 10/30 at 7:15
Morgan Hill Library 11/28, 12/5, 12/12, 12/19 at 7:00
Cupertino Library 10/23 at 7:00
Los Altos Library 11/8 at 7:00

View my app/booklist here: tablettalestrifold

View the poster here: tablettalescampbell

Ephemera prettified by the fabulous Julie Mount.