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).

A Media Mentor’s Reading List

A media mentor:

  • supports children & their families in their media decisions & practice around media use.
  • has access to and shares recommendations for and research on children’s media use.*

In honor of the webinar I’ll be hosting today with Chip Donohue and Tamara Kaldor from the TEC Center at Erikson Institute and ALSC (Media Mentors and Libraries: Family Engagement in the 21st Century), I compiled a reading list for the aspiring media mentor. Many of the organizations listed alongside these resources are actively involved in research related to kids and digital media and you should follow them to hear the latest! Want to suggest a resource for the list? Add a comment below.

Becoming a Media Mentor: A Guide for Working with Families (2016) by Claudia Haines, Cen Campbell and ALSC

Born Reading: Bringing up Bookworms in a Digital Age- From Picture Books to eBooks and Everything in Between (2014) by Jason Boog 

Buckleitner’s Guide to Using Tablets with Young Children (2016) by Warren Buckleitner

Children, Adolescents, and the Media (2013) American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement- update due October, 201

Designing for Diverse Families (2015) by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center

Diversity Programming for Digital Youth: Promoting Cultural Competence in the Children’s Library (2014) by Jamie Campbell Naidoo

Early Connections: A Parent Education Toolkit for Early Childhood Providers

Family Engagement in the Digital Age (2016) edited by Chip Donohue

Family Time with Apps: A Guide to Using Apps with Your Kids (2014) Joan Ganz Cooney Center (This iBook can be downloaded through the iTunes store or as a non-interactive PDF from the link above.)

Giving Our Children A Fighting Chance: Poverty, Literacy and the Development of Information Capital (2012) by Susan B. Neuman and Donna C. Celano

Growing Up Digital Research Symposium Proceedings (2015) sponsored by American Academy of Pediatrics

Hour of Code by Code.org

Media Mentorship for Libraries Serving Youth (2015) by Cen Campbell, Claudia Haines, Amy Koester, and Dorothy Stoltz

Opportunity for All? Technology and Learning in Lower-Income Families by Victoria Rideout and Vikki Katz for Joan Ganz Cooney Center

Screen Sense: Setting the Record Straight by Zero to Three

Screen Time: How Electronic Media—From Baby Videos to Educational Software—Affects Your Young Child (2012) by Lisa Guernsey

Selective Examples of Effective Classroom Practice Involving Technology Tools and Interactive Media National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College

STEP into Storytime: Using StoryTime Effective Practice to Strengthen the Development of Newborns to Five-Year-Olds (2014) by Saroj Ghoting

Tap, Click, Read (2015) by Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine (also: tapclickread.org)

Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning (2014) edited by Chip Donohue

Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth to Age 8 (2012) National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College

The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens by Common Sense Media

The New Coviewing: Designing for Learning through Joint Media Engagement by Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the LIFE Center

Young Children, New Media, and Libraries: A Guide for Incorporating New Media into Library Collections, Services, and Programs for Families and Children Ages 0-5 edited by Amy Koester (LittleeLit)

Young Children and New Media in Libraries: Preliminary Survey Results Make Case for More Research (American Libraries Magazine, 2015)

Zero to Eight: Children’s Media Use In America Common Sense Media

*from Media Mentorship for Libraries Serving Youth by Cen Campbell, Claudia Haines, Amy Koester, and Dorothy Stoltz

*list updated 7/31/16

Homer’s Great Reading Adventure, part 1

A few summers ago I went searching for a digital log that teens and adults could use to log their reading time during our all ages summer reading program. I needed a digital log that was free, well-designed, and easy to manage. Well, anything that met all of that criteria was hard to come by. I tried Survey Monkey forms, website forms, and a simple, free digital platform- all with limited success. I felt like I was in our Maker Club getting more and more frustrated with a design that wasn’t working. But surely multiple iterations of an idea had to yield something one day, right?

About a year ago, I heard about the Great Reading Adventure and the great summer reading work being done by the Maricopa County Library District (Arizona). I was thrilled to see a library-created, open source tool that just might be what I needed. I watched the demo, sat through a great presentation, and discussed the idea of using with my library’s director, the city’s IT director and a coworker. Just as we were all set to go for it, we discovered that we needed a new server. We didn’t have the money. Then we connected with some other libraries in the state and tried to make it work as a partnership, but that fell through. Summer moved on and I got distracted by endless programs and exhaustion. The idea was put to rest.

Photo credit: Homer Public Library

Photo credit: Homer Public Library

Earlier this year, the idea of using the Great Reading Adventure at our library came back to life thanks to my coworker @hollyfromhomer. We got to work setting up a customized version in time for Summer, using another library’s server, with the idea that we would pilot the platform for other libraries in the state. Holly is the mastermind behind making the platform user-friendly while I’ve been working on the program’s content. So far so good! Details about how the platform works for us will come in part 2.

One of the aspects I love about the Great Reading Adventure is perhaps one of the things that would give some pause; the log is digital. Up until now kids have used a small booklet filled with a place to track reading time, activity sheets and a calendar. I have wondered how families as a community would respond to an all digital log for kids specifically (as well as teens and adults). Wondering and questioning about technology isn’t a bad thing for a media mentor. It means that I am following my own advice and being intentional also. After careful consideration, as I recently discussed with a parent, using the digital log serves a few specific purposes:

  • It is a literacy tool that provides opportunities for families to talk about digital citizenship and how to use digital media in positive ways. Many families already have some kind of digital media plan and are using the digital log as a piece in the puzzle or as an example of digital media that supports learning. Intentional use of digital media is an important idea for kids and teens to learn. This tool has given me multiple opportunities to talk about digital media, kids and teens.
  • Unlike the expensive, multi-page, paper logs that we have created and printed in the past, the digital log platform is free and appeals to a broad range of ages. (We currently have over 400 kids, teens, and adults participating. Small by some standards, but a good size for our small budget and staff size.) The ultimate goal, while lofty, of the summer reading program is to encourage all kids to keep reading and prevent ‘summer slide’. We will be able to support more families each summer and, at the same time, save money to spend on the many free programs we offer.  This year, we will offer 50 programs in June and July including everything from storytime and puppet shows to author visits and the Maker Camp. These programs offer families, regardless of background and economic status, the chance to learn, play, and explore at the library. This is the first year we’ve used the digital platform and over time with families’ feedback, we will be able to further mold it to our community’s wants and needs.
  • Offering digital badges provides a way to recognize readers for their reading efforts as well as encourage kids to explore local parks or attend programs where they will find secret codes to redeem for specific badges. This piece has already been successful at connecting kids and their families with different parts of the community and offering no-cost incentives to stay active. Many families are looking for ways to support their children’s reading without focusing on the small incentives we gift for the first 10 hours of reading and the badges are a fun option. For families that spend at least some of the summer traveling or working remotely the digital log and badges provide a way for them to participate in our community’s program while they are out of town.
  • Over the past few years, families have asked us if we were going to offer a digital reading log. They were tired of losing the paper logs or trying to keep track of more than one in a house with multiple siblings. We are finally able to say yes, another way we remain responsive to community needs.

So far so good.

Details about the nuts and bolts of the Homer version of the Great Reading Adventure to follow in Part 2.

Summer@HPL 2016

Our summer learning program, Summer@HPL, began on May 23rd and I have been busy putting into action a robust schedule of events for kids, teens, and their families. At the same I’ve been collaborating with a fabulous coworker, @hollyfromhomer, to get the Homer version of the Great Reading Adventure up and running. We’re piloting the digital platform for other libraries in the state of Alaska. More on that soon.

It’s been a busy Spring!

Summer@HPL headerOur program, based on the Collaborative Summer Library Program‘s theme of On Your Mark, Get Set… Read!, is focusing on the concept of “healthy minds, healthy bodies” and runs from the Monday after school gets out until the end of July. Many families spend the few weeks in August before school starts traveling, so I schedule our program during the first 10 weeks of summer vacation. It works well for us and keeps the library hopping, especially when summer reading families are combined with the many summer visitors and seasonal workers who base out of Homer (for commercial fishing, etc.) and use the library regularly.

Here are the programs I have planned for kids and teens. There is mix of inside/outside and high tech/low tech events to keep families active and engaged with the library, the community, and each other. The blend involves lots of opportunities to learn, create, and share, reflecting the needs and interests of local families.

A note on adults- My library does offer a year round reading challenge for adults that we will continue to market during the summer, but I haven’t planned any specific events for adults this year beyond the occasional author readings sponsored by the Friends. With limited resources, I had to decide where to focus what I’ve got. I’m concentrating efforts on intentional, whole family engagement at many of our kid events. I was inspired by the conversations I’ve been having with library and research friends across the country as part of the Libraries for the 21st Century: It’s A Family Thing learning community (sponsored by PLA and the Harvard Family Research Project).

EXPLORE Family Storytimes (weekly): In the summer I expand the preschool storytimes’ targeted audience and include 6 & 7 year olds. I do this for a couple of reasons. Siblings are more likely to tag along and feel included with this age range so families will return each week. We also don’t have the capacity to have a lot of separate programs for each age group and this helps include these kids in a very conspicuous way- they feel included.

We include traditional elements in the storytime and several activity stations instead of the one or two art and craft projects we offer in the Winter. These storytimes are advertised as STEAM-injected and many families respond to the STEM connection. The STEAM elements might include open-ended art projects, pint-sized engineering problems, using apps and other digital tech, and of course developmentally appropriate math (counting, patterns, and computational thinking).

In June we’ll be reading and playing with themes that include: bodies (humans, monsters and other animals), re-engineered fairy tales, simple machines, travel, and play.

Small Fry Toddler/Baby Storytimes (weekly): This is a 20-30 minute storytime for ages 2 and under and their caregivers. It is a program we offer year round, but we include it in the schedule events to help connect families with babies and toddlers in the library-wide effort. Check out some of my toddler/baby storytimes for a complete details.

Victoria Jamieson is on her way to Homer (and then Anchorage) as I write for a fun visit! We’re excited to have an amazing author/illustrator come to town, a rarity in Homer. She’ll do a program for younger kids around her book Olympig! (Dial Books, 2012), a timely tale that works well with the summer theme and the 2016 Olympic Games. In the afternoon, Victoria will lead a comic workshop for kids and teens ages 10-15. We have lots of Roller Girl (Dial Books, 2015) fans in Homer, even without a roller derby team.

Summer Maker Camp (weekly): Maker programs have been an annual summer feature for four years. We don’t have the physical space for a permanent makerspace, so we integrate a pop-up makerspace once a week and include the maker concept in many of our other other programs. We were able to expand on this popular summer series during the school year thanks to an ALSC Curiosity Creates grant and kids 8-15 are excited to hang out again. We’ll meet every Thursday starting later this month.

We’re focusing on game design (digital and board) in June and video in July to give everyone time to work on their projects instead of focusing on a new tool or skill each week. We had a chance to better understand how these young makers wanted to work over the school year and we think this will be a good fit.

To kick off the June maker sessions we’ll be Skyping with two different game designers so we can talk about what makes a great game and how games are made. We’ll chat with Brian Alspach of E-Line Media (one of the creators of Never Alone, a beautiful digital game made in partnership with Alaskan elders) and Jens Peter de Pedro of Little Frogs (a founding team member of Toca Boca and leader in the world of kids’ interactive media). I love connecting mentors and our community of young makers! Skype is our friend!

Yoga for Kids (series): We are teaming up with a local yoga instructor to offer a series of four one hour classes for 5-8 year olds. This ties in nicely with our program theme. many of our programs and events don’t require any registration, but this one does because of space.

Dog Jog (with the Kachemak Bay Running Club): We’ve teamed up with the local running club for an all ages 5K beach run during a particularly low tide. They club’s volunteers are adding a 1 mile route for Summer@HPL families to walk or run. Any families who participate will get a secret code to redeem in the reading log for a digital badge, one of many kids, teens, and adults can earn this summer. (Other secret codes are available at library programs and at city parks around town.)

Stone Soup Puppet Show: The Krambambuli Puppet Theatre will present a show and string puppet family workshop for ages 3-10. Our families love puppet shows, so we’re excited to offer not one, but two, puppet shows this summer and get kids making from a young age!

Teen Read What You Want Graphic Novel Book Club: Back for a second summer, this book club is casual! Teens ages 12-17 meet me at the library to talk about what they’re reading over pizza. The group isn’t huge, but it’s a good way to hang out and talk about books, movies and anything else on our minds.

Country Fried Puppet-Palooka: Our second puppet show will be presented by the zany puppeteers and storytellers at Mcmazing Tales who are visiting Alaska again this summer. The family show will be silly and Alaskans will recognize the puppet designs from the Moose: the Movie, created by Tundra Comics maker Chad Carpenter.

Movies: We’ll offer three movie showings at the library this summer. One for younger kids and their families and two for teens.

Scientific Illustration for Kids: National Geographic Kids author/illustrator Hannah Bonner will be visiting a friend in town and offered to be part of a program for kids ages 8-13 who love to draw and/or who are fascinated by dinosaurs and prehistoric life.

Roustabout Circus: An active summer has to include the circus! The Roustabout Circus duo is visiting Homer and making a stop at the library to entertain local families. Their shows and workshops are always a hit!

Pool Party: Instead of pool passes, this year were hosting a pool party for ages 11 and under (and their adults) at the community pool inside the local high school. Kids are SO excited for this event! Swim club kids even asked if I could make a special swim challenge at the event. We’ll have to give out tickets for this event, but we’ll include a lot of families.

Minecraft Challenge: We’ll be playing Minecraft with teens at the Chippewa River District Library! The four hour challenge is always exciting, and also a bit dramatic. This event brings a lot of kids and teens to the library that we rarely see at other summer program events.

2016 LEGO Contest: We are sponsoring the 6th annual LEGO contest this summer for kids and teens. We regularly get 50+ entries which we display at the library or a week. Local judges choose winners in three age categories and the public votes on a people’s choice winner.

Ice Cream Celebration: We conclude our summer program for kids with a big celebration that includes carnival type games, ice cream, and prize drawings. 

Becoming a Media Mentor

MediaMentor_FinalCVR.inddTo quote Mo Willem’s Elephant and Piggie, “We’re in a Book!”

Cen Campbell (LittleeLit) and I have been busy this winter. Sandwiched in between our day jobs, parenting, and what-not, we’ve been writing a book- Becoming a Media Mentor: A Guide for Working With Families! Cen and I created the cookbook of sorts on how to be a media mentor with the intention of continuing the conversation moved forward by the 2015 ALSC white paper, Media Mentorship in Libraries Serving Youth, which we coauthored with our friends Amy Koester and Dorothy Stoltz. With 12 excellent examples of ‘media mentors in action,’ current research, and incites from experts inside libraryland and beyond, we’re hoping the book will help make it easier for children’s librarians and advocates to become, and see themselves as, media mentors.

The book is working its way through the publication process and should be ready for delivery in late August, although it is available in the ALA Editions Spring Catalog now. Stay tuned!

We look forward to hearing what you think of it!