Evaluating Kids’ Media (of all kinds)

If you could see my office and house these days you would immediately recognize that I IMG_0943have a deep interest, okay maybe a passion, for illustrated books. This year the picture books, graphic novels, biographies, and illustrated nonfiction, each with colorful sticky notes peeking out like antennae, are piling up in even greater numbers than usual. The tall stacks and long rows of large and small books may seem half-hazard, but the spreadsheet and notebook that go along with them tell a different tale.

This year my work reviewing and evaluating books has taken on a new significance. I’m honored to serve on ALSC’s 2018 Caldecott Award Committee and that means I not only have to believe a book is exceptional, but I have to be able to talk about why the book and, in particular, the illustrations are worthy of the prestigious award. Those sticky notes have purpose! Each book in my growing collection is methodically evaluated using a rubric of sorts that draws on award criteria, research, and my experience working with children and teens.

My work evaluating media doesn’t stop with the paper book. While my book shelves and almost every nook and cranny of my office and home are filling up with Caldecott submissions, I continue to reserve space, virtual and real, for the apps, movies, video games, and programmable robots that all play a role in the daily lives of my community’s kids. As a media mentor, finding high quality media, in all of these formats, is an essential part of my work supporting the information, literacy, and media needs of my community’s families.

Along with serving on the Caldecott Committee, I have been collaborating with KIDMAP (Kids’ Inclusive & Diverse Media Action Project) this winter on a new checklist for evaluating children’s digital media. KIDMAP is a coalition “of media creators, producers, researchers, educators, and parents (that) support the creation of diverse and inclusive children’s media through research, best practices, and collaboration.”

KIDMAP DIG Checklist Overview

KIDMAP DIG Checklist Overview

The KIDMAP Checklist is designed to help reviewers, educators, librarians, and caregivers find and create digital media that is high quality and relevant to families with a variety of experiences. And while being glitch-free, entertaining, and age-appropriate is important, high quality also means being inclusive and rich in diversity. As with paper books for kids, digital media should provide a mirror, window, and sliding glass door; allowing kids to see themselves reflected in the stories told and learn about worlds beyond their own.

The extensive checklist, made possible with the financial support of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, includes sections addressing digital media’s content, art, audio, audience, purpose, functionality/navigation, support materials, and creative teams. The checklist can be used as a rubric or guide in both selecting digital media and designing it. New media is, well, new, but many elements of high quality traditional media can be applied to digital content and formats. Traditional media’s slow progress to broaden diversity and be inclusive does not need to be replicated however.

As with any rubric or evaluation tool, a specific app may not meet every criterion on the KIDMAP checklist and that is ok. Some elements may not apply to every type of media or title. The checklist is meant to be as all-encompassing as possible so that families, educators, designers, and decisions makers can consider inclusion and diversity alongside other elements of high quality digital media.  Each question draws attention to an aspect of digital media that impacts both kids’ ability to access the content and how positive the learning experience will be once they delve into it.

The checklist will eventually be available as a download and we expect to update it. Please use the checklist as you evaluate, select, and create digital media for kids and feel free to send your comments and questions about the checklist to KIDMAP.

Note: As a librarian and media mentor, I am especially excited by the ALSC Board of Directors decision in 2016 to recognize high quality digital media for young children (Excellence for Early Learning Digital Media) and I look forward to seeing the product of their first year’s work!

The checklist was inspired by the work of many including Nova Scotia’s Bias Evaluation Instrument (Canada), Reading Diversity (from the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance), Joan Ganz Cooney Center’s The New Coviewing, Tap, Click, Read by Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine, the Bias Screening Instrument for Interactive Media crafted by Warren Buckleitner (Children’s Technology Review) and Kevin Clark (Center for Digital Media, Innovation and Diversity), and Evaluating Apps and New Media for Young Children: A Rubric.

Thanks go out to Sandhya Nankani (Literary Safari), Amy Kraft (Monkey Bar Collective), J. Elizabeth Mills (University of Washington), Tamara Kaldor (TEC Center at Erikson Institute), Kevin Clark, Ph.D. (Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity, George Mason University), Chip Donohue, Ph.D. (TEC Center at Erikson Institute), Warren Buckleitner (Children’s Technology Review), Carissa Christner (Madison Public Library), and Daryl Grabarek (School Library Journal).

Toddler Storytime: The Snowy Day

I share a lot of new books in storytime to highlight what has been recently added to the library’s collection, but this past week I wanted to share a classic with families, many of whom are new parents. With snow on the ground, a good mix of play and stories planned and a small dose of storytime magic, it was time to include Ezra Jack Keats’ The Snowy Day (along with Nicola Smee’s Jingle Jingle) in the toddler/baby storytime line up. The clear, colorful images, the kid perspective, the gentle flow of the story, and the wintertime theme made the book a good fit for the slightly older, mostly 20-30 month old, crowd that showed up. The book also includes a few features that demonstrate how books can be both mirrors and windows (or doors) for children. Including books with a variety of characters that reflect diverse families and their experiences helps create an inclusive storytime environment.

  • Snow, which is on the ground here in Homer, is a very relevant concept for Homer kiddos and helps them connect the story with the world around them.
  • The family is African-American, an underrepresented group in children’s books.
  • The young boy lives in an apartment, instead of the stand alone house often found in stories, and represents one of the many types of loving homes.

I talked about the idea of windows and mirrors in storytime and in the December installment of monthly early literacy article I write for a local newspaper. The article is part of a broad outreach effort to connect families with literacy information wherever they are.

Have you seen the animated, digital version of the book on the Ezra Jack Keats site, the animated short video (Amazon Prime) based on the book, or Andrea Davis Pinckney’s new book about Ezra jack Keats and  the creation of The Snowy Day neighborhood, A Poem for Peter?

The storytime line up (approximately 25 minutes)

Early Literacy Tip:

Books can act as windows and mirrors. The variety of stories, characters, and settings found in books can show that your child’s story matters and help your child learn about and appreciate the experiences of others.

Welcome Song: The More We Get (Read) Together

Book: Jingle Jingle by Nicola Smee

Jingle Jingle by Nicola Smee

Source: Amazon.com

Action Song: Bumping Up and Down In My Little Blue Sled

Bumping up and down in my little blue sled
Bumping up and down in my little blue sled
Bumping up and down in my little blue sled
Won’t you be my darling.

Snow’s coming down on my little blue sled
Snow’s coming down on my little blue sled
Snow’s coming down on my little blue sled
Won’t you be my darling.

Waving to my friends on my little blue sled
Waving to my friends on my little blue sled
Waving to my friends on my little blue sled
Won’t you be my darling.
Source: Jbrary

Book: The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Source: mhpbooks.com

Source: mhpbooks.com

Bubble Break!

Fingerplay: Three Little Snowmen

Three little snowmen, all in a row.
Each with a hat and a big red bow.
Out came the sun and it shone all day,
One little snowman melted all away.
(two and one little…)

Closing Song: If You’re Happy and You Know It

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands
If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.

…twirl around
…jump up high

Activity: Indoor Snow Exploration Bins

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!

Reorganizing the Picture Books- Finally!

picture-book-bin-descriptions-image

This summer was BUSY! Sure we had the usual summer program hustle and bustle, but we also reorganized, or genre-fied, our picture book collection! I’ve wanted to to do this for a few years, but with limited staff it was impossible. Enter, the state library!

This year, my library welcomed one of three MLIS interns who came to Alaska for eight weeks, thanks to funding from the Alaska State Library. (Our Friends group pitched in housing.) The internship made this program happen. Period.

Families tell me they are thrilled with the reorganization because they can more easily browse the picture book collection. Some have already discovered new-to-them books as they were looking for books about Alaska and the North, for example. Kids are happy too, and quickly adopted the new system. Just the other day, a little boy, age 2, came into the children’s library and said “Claudia, where are the macheeen (machine) books?” Together we walked to the browsing bins tagged with gold stickers and the word “Go” where families can find books about things that go (trucks, cars, airplanes, hot air balloons, bicycles, etc.).

Why did we make the change

I first heard about libraries’ efforts to reorganize their picture book collections at ALA Annual in 2012 when I attended a session called “I Want a Truck Book! Reorganizing Your Picture Book Collection” led by Gretchen Caserotti, Deborah Cooper, and Tali Balas Kaplan. I agreed with all three presenters that kids, especially the youngest, struggle with the systems we’ve traditionally set up for organizing books. We make it easy for adults, not young children, when we organize books by the first letter of an author’s last name, as in our case. I want little ones to confidently select books, find ones they love, and come back for more! I also want them to help me put books away in the right bin when they are done with them. We’ll teach them the DDC and how to find books by author as they grow.

I flew home from California ready to start moving picture books! But, alas, the realities of time and staffing settled in.

What now?

Over the next few years, my library’s director and I talked about the idea of reorganizing our picture books frequently and discussed how families searched and how we could also make finding picture books pretty easy for staff and volunteer shelvers once the reorganization happened. We also needed to figure out what we needed to make the transition happen without closing the library, making staff work long weekends, or removing all of the picture books at one time.

In terms of a plan, we already had a few things going for us.

  • Our picture books (about 2,500) lived in browsing bins. We liked this arrangement because it already made the books (face-out) more accessible for pre-readers and readers than if they were on shelves, spine-out. In fact, we also bought face-out bins for our beginning readers a few years ago which makes for a friendly transition for emerging readers moving from one part of the children’s collection to the other.
  • We used a colored dot system for the picture book collection and wanted to stick with it. The colored dots helped pre-readers find sections of the collection (and the colors provide a literacy talking point for families). Although the problem we had with the colored dot system was that some parts of the alphabetically-organized collection had grown to include 16 sections of books, T-Z for example,  with 20-25 books per section and this was an unwieldy number of bins to search through for 1 or 2 books.
  • We were a stand-alone library, so we only had one picture book collection to transition.
  • Other staff members were supportive and were willing to help with the process.
  • Other libraries had transitioned their collections, shared their process in blogs and presentations, and were willing to answer my questions (thanks Mel!).

What did we do next?

Wait.

Then we found out about the internship, came up with a real plan, and applied. Our plan included a draft schedule of categories, the who, what, and when of changing spine labels, what we wanted on the spine labels, and how we were going to remove parts of the picture book collection during one of the busiest parts of the year. (The internship was only offered during the summer.)

Once William, our intern, arrived, learned about book processing, practiced assigning categories with me, and got the appropriate permissions in our ILS, we got to work. The process took about 6 weeks to complete. We did this project while the library was open, picture books were still circulating, and our summer program was in full swing. At no time were all of the bins empty and during this whole process we had good circulation numbers at the library!

Picture Book Bins and New Book section image

Reorganized picture book bins with ‘New Books’ and storytime area in background. Board books now live on bottom shelf of ‘New Books’ area (left side).

Categories

As you can see from the schedule at the top of the post, we ended up with 16 categories. We identified categories we liked (many are similar to other libraries’ categories) based on families’ search behavior and sections we wanted to highlight (Alaska & the North). Then we figured out how many bins we had and estimated how many books would be in each category. Again, there are about 20-25 books per section/bin. In this calculation, we also figured two extra pieces: we moved the board books from some of the lower sections so we had more space to work with and brought many of the folk, fairy, and traditional tales from the 398’s to the picture bins if we thought they were a better fit there. A few of the categories changed in some way (grew, changed name, etc) through the process which in our situation was pretty easy because we’re small.

Each category included at least 4 bins (2 bins on the top and two right beneath). The maximum number of bins was capped at 10, versus 16 previously. We wanted that number to be even smaller to make searching for specific titles easier, but we made this work. So far it has been fine and is much easier to find specific books than before the move. Here are the final categories and the number of bins filled with books in that category. The total number of picture book bins is 114.

  • Adventures = 4
  • Alaska = 4
  • Animals = 8
  • Celebrate = 10
  • Concepts = 10
  • Families = 10
  • Favorites = 8
  • Friends = 8
  • Go = 8
  • Growing = 10
  • Movement = 4
  • Nature = 6
  • Rhythm = 6
  • School = 4
  • Tales = 10
  • Wordless = 4

A couple of things to consider:

  • We place books in categories based on the central idea of the book, starting with the LoC Subject Headings associated with the book. Those are so handy, aren’t they?
  • We did NOT include a multicultural section. We incorporate diverse characters, settings, authors, illustrators, and topics throughout the collection.
  • We did not include a miscellaneous category. We wanted to be very intentional about the books and their placement so nothing got lost in a catch all bin.
  • We wanted the categories to be general enough to capture a wide variety of books related to the topic.
  • We did include a ‘Favorites’ category because some characters are just popular and need to be in one place (Curious George, for example).
  • We can plainly see which categories of the collection need more books and which categories have plenty or need to be weeded! The ‘Go’ category is always empty (books are always checked out) and we need more books with things that go. The ‘Families’ and ‘Celebrate’ categories have plenty for now!

Sticker, Stickers, and More Stickers

Homer, Alaska is not the place to buy a variety of dot stickers. We had a bunch on hand that we repurposed
from the previous system, but we needed more. We had to order the new colors and then had to order more. This took time and made us a bit nervous, but some colors just didn’t look as good in hand and some were too similar, less distinguishable on the books. Gold and silver were too similar, for example.

You will see on the spine label that we kept the 3 first three letters of author’s last name. This was something we wanted in case we need to fiddle with the organization at some point without having to redo spine labels. With limited staffing, we didn’t want to spend resources on reprocessing books en masse. The ‘P’ stands for Picture Books which refers to the section and replaced the ‘E’ that was there before

Weeding

A coworker and I weeded the collection pretty heavily last Spring in anticipation of the big move. However, during the move we weeded even more! It felt good to freshen up the collection. I am still ordering replacements for tried and true books that were beyond repair.

Reorganizing Picture Books Sign imageSigns

Throughout the process we posted signs, talked to families at storytime, and chatted with families as we met them in the children’s library about the move. We added “coming soon!” signs to empty bins, especially when we removed a lot of books at one time.

The schedule of categories is now posted on the end of each row of book bins for families’ reference. The colorful dots are eye-catching and often make families pause before starting their search. The signs and the reorganization are another step towards supporting successful independent searching and finding.