Traditional Digital Musical Storytime, by Tom Schween

Digital technology is an exciting new tool in the magical storytime treasure chest that I may choose to take out and play with when the situation calls for it. I want to identify those opportunities and push storytime services forward into new territory.

Photo credit to Janice Gartin

Photo credit to Janice Gartin

My musical storytime today integrates edited soundtracks for each program, children’s sing/move/play-alongs, musical transitions, background music, sound effects, instruments, and theatrical props. I utilize new media tools such as my iPhone, iTunes playlists, wired and wireless speaker devices (bluetooth), Garage Band sound effects, and apps. I am also very keen on finding ways to seamlessly use screens and integrate visual technology.

Stories, songs, and serving up make believe to make learning delightful for children during their wonder years is what storytime is all about (at its core). I am conscious not to make the technology I use the focus. When technology interferes with keeping listeners engaged, it does them a disservice.

New media provides us with new vessels for tried and true early-literacy storytime practices, like reading-aloud, singing-along, and felt-board storytelling. Using technology also has the added benefit of cultivating family computer and media literacy. Storytime, with the addition of new audio-visual layers, has the potential to simultaneously cultivate multiple literacies through the imaginative delivery of both traditional and digital materials.

Photo credit to Ricardo Sfeir and Sandra Chow-Zhang

Photo credit to Ricardo Sfeir and Sandra Chow-Zhang

21st century technology not only offers exciting new options for my storytime repertoire, it’s also a powerful way to promote the benefits of library storytime and at-home reading routines to caregivers. Now is the time to utilize new media tools (such as ebooks, apps, audio playlists, and digital audio and video channels) to expand storytime into digital native turf.

In digital storytime, I can still root today’s young children in tradition. But by looking beyond storytime technophobia, I believe I may reach and teach them even better while cultivating the next generation of storytime devotees (who will undoubtedly take storytime to even greater heights).

Over the past eight years, Tom Schween has delivered more than a thousand musical storytime programs to pre-k classrooms across the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a graduate student studying the crossroads of children’s librarianship and technology at San Jose State University. Tom began volunteering as a certified story reader with Oakland Public Library’s “Books for Wider Horizons” in 2006. He became a licensed Kindermusik educator in 2009, currently works as a principle backstage technician at Steve Silver’s Beach Blanket Babylon in San Francisco, and wrote a free online guide to storytime called the Magic Carpet Handbook at
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.

iPad Apps in Storytime at Upper Hudson Library System

Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 10.04.34 PMThe Upper Hudson Library System in New York state is a regional/cooperative library system that includes 29 independent public libraries. UHLS Youth and Family Services Manager Mary Fellows opted to tackle the topic of young children and new media with these libraries by creating an excellent primer on using iPad apps in storytimes. This resource, which Mary has graciously allowed us to share in full, can serve as inspiration, motivation, and a model for youth services staff at these–and, truly, any–libraries to wade into using new media with intentionality in youth services. Bookmark this resource!

My Very Hungry Caterpillar: A Review, by Maggie Kutsunis

photo (1)App: My Very Hungry Caterpillar

Developer: StoryToys Entertainment Limited

App Store: $3.99 as of 10/30/14

Google Play: not available as of 10/30/14

In Brief:

  • Recommended for: toddlers, preschoolers
  • Reading required: no
  • Highlight: promotes active play as a part of everyday routine, beautiful clear graphics with white space, open-ended game play, familiar character
  • Problem area(s): high-level fine motor skills are required for some game objectives, which can make this game frustrating for young toddlers


Carle’s art translates into 3D computerized imagery quite well. Trees, fruit, flower pots, and toys are rendered against a background of white space that makes it easy to focus on the open-ended gameplay. There isn’t any directly educational content, e.g., 1-2-3s and shapes and sorting, but the objectives require fine motor and critical thinking skills that would challenge 2 year olds and be just right up until about kindergarten (every child is unique/your mileage may vary).

Every in-game day, you are in charge of feeding the caterpillar an increasing amount of fruits and playing with it until both health bars (one for feeding, one for playtime) are full. The concept of a video game health bar will be familiar to older children, but little ones may need a bit of instruction. When both bars are full, you can put the caterpillar to bed, where it will sleep for a few seconds and then wake up for another day with its health bars empty again. After a few days have passed, the caterpillar will form a chrysalis and change into a magnificent butterfly – then you start again with a new caterpillar.

One of the active play scenes involves putting the caterpillar on a little boat and floating around with some rubber ducks. I found the boat very difficult to control and it was almost impossible to land it on the shore and then get the caterpillar to jump off – it’s unclear whether this is user error (hey, I’m not perfect) or just bad design, but it looks to me like a stopping point for child players.

Maggie Kutsunis is a children’s librarian in the Chicago suburbs. She blogs at and tweets @maggiekuts. She also reblogs feminist rants, jokes about art history, and gifsets from Disney films at

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.

Osmo at the Library, by Rachel Sharpe

A few months ago, someone posted about the Osmo that was ready for pre-order. I convinced my library’s Friends to purchase one and have been anxiously awaiting a chance to debut it in a program. (The Osmo is awesome, and I love it!) One of the reasons we bought it is so that we can use it at our annual math nights and literacy nights that we host for our local Title I elementary schools.

There are three apps for the Osmo right now. One of the apps, Words, has kids competing or working together to spell words based on the picture on the screen. Luckily, right before our literacy night, the developers released an update that allowed users to create a custom word list. What better way to promote literacy and the library than with a customized library-themed word list? I spent an afternoon running around the library taking pictures to build the list, and I’m really happy with the results.

Ridge Elementary Family Literacy Night %40 TU 001At the night of the program, I set up the Osmo station, just one iPad with two sets of letters and the Osmo. Kids had to take turns using the Osmo and could play two words in a row before they had to switch. If no one was waiting, they could keep playing.

Some kids were really competitive, but it was really wonderful and heartwarming to see some of the older kids helping the younger ones spell the words. If a child hadn’t gotten a right letter in a while, some of the older ones would hand them a letter and show them what to do. I didn’t even have to say anything!

While the kids were playing, I had a chance to speak (well, shout, really) with parents about screen time and what resources the library offers for them.

The whole experience went so well that we’re bringing the iPad and Osmo back for Math Night in the spring, and the local teachers all want one for their classrooms. All in all, it was a huge success!

Rachel Sharpe
Library Assistant II
Henrico County 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.

Sago Mini Monsters, an app review by Carissa Christner

Screen Shot 2014-10-25 at 9.07.34 PM

Sago Mini has created many delightful toy-apps for young children. Last week, I had an opportunity to use Sago Mini Monsters in storytime at my library and everyone loved it!  Gameplay is simple:

1.  Drag a monster silhouette up from the primordial goo at the bottom of the screen.

2. Decorate the monster using your finger to draw in one of 5 colors.

3. Tap on the checkmark to tell the game you’re done drawing on the monster and your monster will grow eyes, horns and a mouth (although if you don’t like those, you can pluck them off and different features will grow in their place).

4. Feed the monster foods that pop up from the goo (could be cake, could be a boot…)

5. After the monster has eaten, its teeth look quite dirty, so it’s time to brush!

6. Pull more accessories up from the goo (a hat! a bandaid! a lightning bolt! the options are vast.) and finish designing your monster.

7. Take a picture (or don’t) and tap on the checkmark when you’re ready to meet a new monster.

I love this app for the open-ended (but not overwhelmingly option-heavy) art play and for the silliness factor that makes users of all ages giggle. The storytime kids loved telling me how to design the monster (What color should we choose next? Should we draw spots? Stripes? Squiggles? Where should we put this mustache? Do you like these eyeballs?) and they loved watching it eat crazy food and brushing its teeth.  One mom told me that her daughter loves to use the app and then go into the bathroom and brush her own teeth.  Every time. Hooray for the sneaky health lesson!

For a limited time, it’s free in the app store (all decked out for Halloween!), so grab it while you can. Read about the other monster apps I used in my storytime here. Make your own Sago Mini Monster finger puppets by downloading the pdf’s here (then printing them at 25% and adding a strip of paper at the bottom to wrap around your finger).

Finger Paint with Sounds app review, by Awnali Mills

fingerpaint 001Finger painting is a tremendous amount of fun. But let’s face it. It’s messy. Some kids hate getting their fingers dirty, and most adults hate cleaning up. Now the Finger Paint with Sounds app (iPad/Android) by Inclusive Technology Ltd. not only allows kids to finger paint without getting dirty, but also throws in the fun of music or sound effects.

The app provides clear directions for use; choices for no sound, music, or sound effects; multi-touch and single touch options; and contains no in-app purchases.

The blank screen has seven half-circles of color on the edges. Touch one of these and every touch on the screen after that is that color and has that individual sound until you touch another color. A double tap in the corner allows you to exit the screen or clear it. It’s that simple! Preschoolers adore this app, and the single touch selection lets them practice the fine motor skills they need for writing in kindergarten. It’s an Early Literacy Skills builder cleverly disguised as a lot of fun. Shhhhh—don’t tell!

fingerpaint 002During playtime after stories last week, I pulled this app out and let the kids go to town.  Oh.  My.  Gosh.  I had it on multi-touch so that more than one child could play at a time.  I sat down on the floor to hold the tablet, since we don’t yet have kid-friendly holders.  Immediately, I had kids crawling all over me, making various parts of my body lose circulation.  They were utterly glued to the screen, creating, making the sounds, exploring—it was a thing of beauty.  Then, I looked up to find parents clustered around us, too, and they promptly demanded to know what this fabulous app was and where they could get it.

I love that!

I used the app as a general playtime app, but it would also work great with a color storytime, or a music storytime.  Comment if you dream up any other uses!

Awnali Mills works in the Children’s Dept. of a public library and she gets the snot scared out of her by sudden loud sounds coming out of apps she’s trying out. She blogs at The Librarian is on the Loose.
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.

Western Maryland Regional Library: Transforming Preschool Storytime Plugged & Unplugged

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting Maryland again to present Transforming Preschool Storytime: Plugged & Unplugged (it was our pilot session) with my good friend Dr. Betsy Diamant-Cohen. Our presentation included some new information from her new book Transforming Preschool Storytime: A Modern Vision and a Year of Programs (co-written with Melanie A. Hetrick & Celia Yitzhak). We worked with an amazing group of librarians from Western Maryland (thank you, Julie Zamostny for having us!) and then also got to spend some time with Carroll County & Baltimore County (MD) librarians. Many thanks to Marisa Conner & Dorothy Stoltz for taking such good care of me while I was there, and for facilitating such a fruitful & inspiring conversation! Here is our resource list, which includes all media mentioned in the session, plus our slides. Many, many thanks to Carly Reighard and Stephanie Long for letting me put them on the spot about their amazing programs. Carly has shared some of her app guides with us. App Guide- Fall 2014 Core Apps Frosty Fun Apps Music Apps

Digital Storytime Training Resources, by April Mazza

In my role as an Advisor for Youth & School Library Services at the Massachusetts Library System, I like to highlight innovative programming and services to the libraries in our state. One way to do this is by having our own local talent present for their peers. When I saw Clara Hendricks’ post on Little eLit back in December, I immediately asked her if she would be willing to do a training for us at her home library. She enthusiastically said “yes” and even let us record the presentation! You can view the videos and grab Clara’s handouts at our MLS Guide:

We’ve also added all sorts of resources for using tablets in your library, from accessibility issues to app review sources, and of course we feature Little eLit!

Clara’s program was so popular we offered it again this fall to rave reviews. People really like to see the use of storytime apps and eBooks in action. Clara also does an amazing job of explaining the librarians’ role as model and mentor for children and families as they navigate using this technology. We are so thrilled to share this with our libraries, so I hope it helps to share it with an even wider audience!


April Mazza is Advisory for Youth & School Library Services at the Massachusetts Library System.
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.

New Media in Youth Librarianship: Chapter One of the Little eLit Book

Today, we here at Little eLit are happy to release the first chapter of our book, Young Children, New Media, and Libraries. This chapter, entitled “New Media in Youth Librarianship,” was written by Cen Campbell and myself. It’s available by clicking here, or on the image below.

New Media in Youth Librarianship

This project has been a work in progress for some time, with many contributing authors. Subsequent chapters will be released once per month, on the 15th, until all chapters have been published here. At that point, the entire work will be put into a single PDF ebook document, including appendices and other additional materials.

Creative Commons License
This work, including this and subsequent chapters and any appendices, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.