Family Play: Curating and Sharing Apps in the Library

Holidays, especially those accompanied by a significant number of days off from school, are excellent opportunities to recommend family time activities for in and out of the library. Along with passive “programs” and early literacy toys for families to enjoy in the library, I recently pulled out books for a display which are great for sharing at bedtime, in the car, and any old time. I added to the display a sign with some of my favorite apps that are fun for the whole family and by design, encourage joint media engagement and coplay. Here are the apps I included in the Family Play Recommendations, many of which have been featured on our mounted iPad.

family-play-apps-for-kids

 

family-play-app

 

Sesame Street Family Play
Sesame Street

This is an app that sparks ideas for off-screen play. Even the most savvy parents and caregivers run out of ideas, especially in stressful situations when families are logging time in crowded doctors’ offices, at airports during flight delays, and inside during harsh weather. This app provides more than 150 ideas based on where the family is playing and how many will join in the fun. The familiar Sesame Street characters will appeal to both kids and adults who are fans of Sesame Street. The app is research-based and boost learning skills while promoting fun, family play. For librarians and teachers this app could be introduced to families during a program by letting children help choose an activity and then playing the game as a group. it might be used similar to a song cube.
iOS/Adroid
Paid
Ages: 3-6

Toca Hair Salon Me app

 

Toca Hair Salon Me
Toca Boca

This app is one of my favorite Toca Boca apps because of its broad age appeal. The idea is to cut, wash, color and style hair with multiple tools in this open-ended play app. The app uses a photo from the device and then with a few adjustments the image is ready to makeover. There are no gender preconceptions and the styling possibilities are only inhibited by imagination. The concept and the design invite onlookers to become participants and the repeat usage is high. I prefer this app over the other fun Toca Hair Salon apps, although they are also noteworthy, because of the ability to upload a photo instead of using the provided images and characters. There is just something disarming about seeing an adult’s goofy selfie being altered by a group of kids. I’ve used this with young children, tweens, and grandparents as a party game and program icebreaker. A quick introduction gets the group off and running quickly. Photos of the final product can be saved to the device.
iOS/Android
Paid
Ages: 3+

grandma-gourd

 

Grandma’s Great Gourd
Literary Safari

Grandma’s Great Gourd is a trickster tale, story app based on the award-winning picture book, Grandma and the Great Gourd by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Susy Pilgrim Waters. Reminiscent of classic stories like Little Riding Hood and The Three Billy Goats Gruff, this is the tale of a smart, adventurous grandmother off to visit her daughter on the other side of the perilous jungle.
The entertaining story is enriched with subtle, story-relevant interactive elements, an original musical score, friendly, almost familiar, narration, and sound effects which all bring the humorous, Bengali folktale to life. For example, readers help decide in which order Grandma negotiates with the three beasts in the jungle; a black bear, tiger, and fox. The paper book’s textile-like illustrations are digitized and slightly animated in the app, accentuating the layered effect envisioned in the original book.
Families can enjoy the story together in read-to-me or read-on-my-own mode from start to finish or the back button (once in the story) can be used to select favorite pages. The home and settings button can be found on the navigation panel also. A sound studio offers readers the opportunity to record personalized narration, in a particular home language for example, and new sound effects to become part of the story. The app also includes a physics based game featuring Grandma and a flying gourd and a way to learn more about the Bengali region of South Asia, Grandma’s World, through in-app, informational videos. Topics include wildlife, clothing, food, art and language. (This information was also included in Beanstack’s collection of media reviews.) Check out the Grownup guide for extension activities!
iOS/Android
Paid
Ages: 3-8

fairytale-play-theater-title
Fairytale Play Theater
Nosy Crow

Do your kids like dramatic play? This open-ended app lets children create their own retellings of 6 fairytales (featured in Nosy Crow’s story apps). Storytellers can change characters, backgrounds, storylines, and props from a select menu (again all featured in Nosy Crow’s story apps). They can even record narration and action which they can playback for an audience. Characters lip-sync along with the custom narration. This creativity app would be a lovely tool to extend book readings of fairytales to help kids learn the fundamentals of storytelling or a new way for families to create their own stories together and then present the final product as a show on a large monitor. The app is well-suited for multiple players either at home or in a classroom/library setting. The app is available in two versions- ‘standard’ with In-App Purchases and ‘complete’ with all of the available stories. If you want to try out the app before committing, go ahead with the standard version, but the complete version offers kids more flexibility.
iOS
Paid
Ages: 4-8 (Young children will experience a learn curve and may need initial help navigating the in’s and out’s of the app.)

me-app
Me
Tinybop

Me is a playful, digital storytelling tool in which kids and their families design personalized avatars and then create self-portraits, of sorts, using the app’s prompts and the digital device’s microphone, keyboard, touchscreen, and camera. Multiple kids, or kids and adults, can each craft their own story with drawings, photos, and words. The prompts pop up on the screen like thought bubbles and a quick tap reveals a question or direction which encourages kids to share their likes, dislikes, and feelings. Kids document their world and answer the ultimate question, ‘who are you?’ Imagination is strongly encouraged so kids can easily create a story for a pet or imaginary friend. Unanswered prompts can be saved for later and more options will appear. All of the pieces of each creation are kept in one place – perfect for sharing with friends and family – but nothing is shared outside of the app. The prompts are silly, interesting, and even peculiar, but all are well-suited for the whole family. Me successfully uses fun activities and thoughtful technical design to help kids find their voice and share it with others. (This information was also included in a monthly article I write for the Homer News about early literacy and children’s media.)
iOS
Paid
Ages: 4+ (younger with help)

Miximal App
Miximal
Yatatoy

Miximal mimics what singing does for language development in a silly literacy app that invites families to mix animals and sounds. To play this flipbook-inspired app, families switch the three sections of a handcrafted animal illustration by swiping on the screen to the left or right until a picture of an animal is complete. Tapping on the arrow at the bottom switches the display to a screen listing the three syllables of the animal’s name- for example, ‘go-ril-la’. If the name and animal represent an actual animal, versus an imaginary one, then the illustration animates and the animal does a little dance. While the goal is to make a whole gorilla or penguin, for example, the fun is in finding out what a mixed up animal looks like. Try the app to see a ‘fla-qui-saur’! (Hint: flamingo-mosquito-dinosaur.) The app supports five languages. (This information was also included in a monthly article I previously wrote for the Homer Tribune about early literacy and children’s media.)
iOS
Paid
Ages: 3-7

dipdap-winter
Dipdap Winter
Cube Interactive

Dipdap Winter is one of two drawing apps by this developer that lets kids contribute to short video stories. I like to share this one at my library because it’s very relevant to the local experience. Snow is covering the ground and kids will be familiar with the activities. For kids in other regions this might be a nice intro to life in colder climates.

The app’s idea is basic, but offers lots of opportunity for conversation. Kids draw a missing element to complete one of multiple short stories featuring the character Dipdap. Kids are given a prompt and pulsating dotted lines to follow if they choose. Creating the missing elements supports early writing practice whatever they ultimately draw for the missing element is acknowledged and used in the story- very rewarding for young children just beginning to write and draw.  In the creation mode, kids watch the complete story first to give them context for their drawing and then they get to work. In play mode, they watch the short video story without adding their own drawings. It is easy to move back and forth. The stories are winter related and feature everything from snow play and baking activities to waking a bear from hibernation.
iOS
Paid
Ages: 3-6

Simple Media Advisory in the Library

I’m always looking for better ways to provide media advisory that incorporate paper and digital resources, but that can be tricky. My library is small, has only limited resources, and is remote in comparison to many. We don’t have large monitors to project images or even good enough WiFi to keep an iPad connected 24/7. So I have to be creative. If you are a librarian or teacher, you probably know all about that.

So here is what I am doing lately. I am creating ‘Learn More’ themed signs, and accompanying displays, to provide media advisory (not just reader advisory) in simple ways wherever families look- throughout the children’s library landscape, on our website, and on social media. This isn’t a particularly new or innovative idea, but I wanted to highlight a simple example of media mentorship.

I start with the weekly storytime themes, pull in a broader array of library materials for kids 12 and under, and add high quality digital resources that relate to the theme but families might not know, or think, about. The idea is to connect families with information in multiple formats and encourage them to extend learning experiences with picture books, nonfiction books, audiobooks, movies, websites, apps, and more. The lists are not exhaustive by any means, but are a taste of what’s out there. The ‘Learn More: Penguins’ sign is part of a display in the library and is posted on our social media accounts. Again, it’s not super fancy, but media mentorship doesn’t need to be.

What does media mentorship look like in your library or classroom?

Learn More: Penguins display sign

Note: I love Jory John and Lane Smith’s latest book Penguin Problems for many reasons, but the inclusion of a walrus, an Arctic animal, in this obviously Antarctic tale was unfortunate. Alaskan kids are familiar with walrus since much of our state is above the Arctic circle, so when I read this book with kids I made sure to explain that walrus don’t actually live in the same parts of the world as penguins. Maybe that’s part of the humor? I’ve emailed Jory John to find out.

Storytime and Beyond on the Joan Ganz Cooney Center blog

On any given day, all across the country, something amazing happens. Herds of young children, caregivers in tow, tumble through the front doors of their local public libraries. In big cities and small villages, library storytimes are highly valued and hugely popular community programs. Storytime, like the public library itself, is iconic. Ask any adult about their relationship to their local library and many will begin with their own fond memories of storytime.

Cen Campbell I recently co-wrote a blog post about media mentorship and storytimeCollaborative Art at Storytime 2016 for the Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s blog. Check out the post here and read the follow up post I wrote about libraries, families, and information equity here. Be sure to sign up for their e-newsletter which is always full of valuable information!

Everyday Early Literacy Fair

Early Literacy Fair flyer

Part of my role as Youth Services Librarian is to develop community partnerships in support of families and literacy. One partnership I love, although it meets somewhat infrequently, is the Language and Literacy Task Force. We’re a group of professionals from local early childhood organizations that meet to discuss ideas, strategies, issues, challenges and potential collaborative projects. One of the projects we developed together was the Early Literacy Fair which was held at the library in the Fall of 2015. I’m writing about it now, because we are in the planning stages of the 2nd annual event.

The fair came to be after talking to families about what early literacy support they needed and wanted beyond what I share in storytime, in the monthly Growing Readers newspaper column, and brochures, handouts, etc. What I heard from multiple parents with older children (K+), was that when their kids were little they felt like they knew a lot about early literacy, but in actuality, they discovered later, they did not. Sone parent recommended targeting kids and whole families- proposing that the kid-focused approach to the event would be more effective than a parent education class or workshop. We took that advice to heart and felt we could design an event that would include parents that were already confident, but might benefit from more information and strategies, as well as families who might be intimidated by the class or workshop format and need a lot of information. The partnership aspect also helped us target families new to the library but familiar with other community organizations and services.

We designed the successful event based on Every Child Ready to Read’s five early literacy practices and created five associated stations. Four different organizations managed the five stations (2 representatives from one organzation were included). The event took place on a Saturday in the children’s library so anyone dropping by could also participate if they wanted. Most of our programs for young children happen during the week because of limited staffing, so this was a great opportunity to support families who can’t make it Monday through Friday.

At each station, families found tips on how to support one aspect of early literacy at home. They collected the tips, printed on cards, and took home a set of five to help them remember what they learned. And more importantly to the under 8 crowd, each station also had a fun, hands-on activity for young children related to the early literacy practice.

The Stations

Reading station image #1

Reading Station 2 image

Reading Station 3 image

Reading: I organized the reading station and featured great books, in all formats. I also featured one of my “10 Ways to Explore a Book” posters . I talked about different ways to read a book to young children, depending on the child, the context, and the content. (Yes- it should remind you of Lisa Guernsey’s 3 C’s for digital media use with young children.) Caregivers could take information about getting a library card, our storytime programs, accessing the library’s digital library, and digital media with young children. Kids could play with a tray full of magnetic letters and create words, spell their name, etc. We offered free books while supplies lasted. We had some funds to purchase a small amount of books from the local bookstore and the rest were donated.

Talking Station 1 image

Talking Station 2 image

Talking: Kids were able to build a snack bag at this table and a local speech therapist modeled for families how to build a conversation around everyday activities and add vocabulary to make for rich conversation by talking about what foods they were adding to the bag, for example. We also included a sensory bin full of dried beans and an assortment of plastic fruits and vegetables. I made laminated cards with the name and image of the same fruits and vegetables found in the bins so families could play a find game and match the plastic version with the photo/word version. I’ve used these sensory bins in a food storytime as well.

Playing: A local educator from a community environmental organization brought puppets and a variety of natural history materials to play with in a dramatic play station. I forgot to take a picture of this station, but it was a nice tie-in for the many families in our community who are outdoor-oriented.

Singing Station 1

Singing Station 2 image

Singing: This station was a hit with young makers! It featured homemade shakers and a representative from the local early childhood services organization supplied plastic eggs, dried beans and rice, and colorful duct tape for the musical instruments. She provided tips on why singing is important for early literacy and shared musical books that are fun to read and might interest families. She included lyrics to fun rhymes and songs in the take home tips and featured some of the CDs from the library’s children’s music collection.

Writing Station 1 image

Writing Station 2 image

Writing: A woman from the ELL program at the local college with many years experience in early literacy and family engagement provided tips on incorporating writing into everyday activities. She talked with families on a one-to-one basis about what writing looks like at different ages and stages. She was near the library’s windows so she provided kids with window markers to draw on the windows (washes off easily), small notebooks for kids to write and draw in at the library and then take home, and a variety of coloring/writing tools like gel pens, markers, and crayons pencils.

Becoming a Media Mentor: The Book is Here!

Becoming a Media Mentor book cover

We just got word that our book, Becoming a Media Mentor: A Guide for Working with Children and Families is now ready to ship! Cen Campbell, the Association for Library Service to Children, and I are happy to finally be able share the book with you.

Librarians are lifelong learners, experienced researchers, and excellent communicators- all skills we can use to mentor families as they navigate media and literacy in the digital age. The book is full of useful information that will help library staff as we evolve our roles as children’s librarians and continue to support families in new ways.

Are you interested in a recent webinar, Media Mentorship and Family Engagement in the Digital Age, that I led with Chip Donohue from the TEC Center at Erikson Institute and ALSC ? Find the link to the webinar and resources we discussed here. Find my Media Mentor’s Reading List here.

You can find out more about the book here, order it here, or contact me to ask questions, comment about the book, etc.