Dot: A Book Review by Claudia Haines

Today I’m over at Little eLit reviewing Randi Zuckerberg’s debut picture book, Dot, illustrated by Joe Berger. Let us know what you think of the book!

Little eLit

by Randi Zuckerberg
illustrated by Joe Berger
32 pages
Harper Collins, 2013
ISBN: 978-0062287519
Hardcover, $17.99

Young Dot knows her electronic devices. She navigates tablets, desktops, laptops, and smartphones with ease. She’s not just tech-savvy, she is in fact obsessed with all things digital and spends her days researching, exploring, and communicating online. Eventually, Dot is seen on a double page spread laying on the floor with frazzled eyes. She’s had enough of her excessive digital media diet. Dot’s mom comes to the rescue and sends her outside to reconnect with her friends face to face and with outdoor play. The last page of the story reveals the balance of the virtual and real, with Dot using her phone to record her friends as they all enjoy the outdoors.

In creating Dot, her debut picture book, Randi Zuckerberg has done several things right. With the help of well-known illustrator…

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Elementary: Augmented Reality Tech Lab

Back in October, Anne Hicks and I wrote about our digital program experiences as part of the Little eLit October Tech Challenge. While I focused on a digital storytime for preschool and early elementary aged kids, Anne shared the details of her Augmented Reality Tween Tech Lab for 8-12 year olds. I absolutely loved the program idea and proceeded to plan a similar lab at my library. Don’t you just love the internet, professional networks, and the sharing that ensues?

fablevision_digital_learning_day_2014_bannerEarly this month, I hosted my Augmented Reality Tech Lab afterschool on Digital Learning DayFive people came to the event (four kids and one dad), which turned out to be the perfect size for the first lab. The number sounds small, but assessing the success of the program involved more than counting the number of attendees. Every one of these kids ages 10 & 11 (and the adult) were highly engaged for the entire hour.  They met the goals set out for the lab which included:

  • They learned something new (most of them didn’t know what augmented reality was nor had they used any of these apps before).
  • They were able to talk about how else augmented reality could be or is used.
  • They shared the devices, played and worked together, and helped each other figure out any quirks or challenges.

I introduced the program by telling the attendees that the program was a lab in which we would experiment with some new tools to see what we could do with them while having fun. I hope to have the resources to offer more tech labs for this age group after school and during the summer, so offering this program was an experiment for me, too.

Based on Anne’s suggestions, I followed my intro with a short video about augmented reality and then demonstrated each of the apps detailed here. After each demo, kids had the opportunity to try the app out for about 10 minutes. At the end of the program, kids could go back and use any of the apps we had tried. Kids enthusiastically explored all of the apps as we went along and said they liked all of them, even the PBS apps which they initially thought would be too young for them.

Tools for the program:
iPads- Our library only has one iPad right now, but I also brought mine along with two other iPad minis. We had plenty for this size group. I encouraged attendees to bring their personal iPads if they had one, which one family dad did, but they forgot to bring their Apple ID. (I sent him the app names after the program attended.)

Apple TV, a large monitor, and wifi- To make it easy for the group to see the apps as I talked about them, I mirrored my iPad on to the large TV in our meeting room. Our city’s IT director made this possible using an Apple TV and a wifi network which he set up in this room specifically for this event with a separate router from the wifi that is available to the general public in the library. Because we don’t have great wifi, this essentially prioritizes the devices in the program, making downloading the apps faster and watching videos without buffering possible.  We have used this set up before and it works nicely.

colAR mix appcolAR Mix (Puteko Limited, 2013): This app uses coloring sheets as markers. Before the program, I printed out several copies of the free coloring sheets availableon the app developers’ website. Once kids colored in the pages with the provided colored pencils, the app brings them to life. The kids colored about half of their sheets in the ten minutes, but they got to see the effect. This would be a good app to use with more time and reminds me of the Squiggle Fish app I used in storytime last summer.

ARSoccer app

ARSoccer-Augmented Reality Soccer Game (Laan Consulting Corp, 2010): This app is available for iPad or iPhone and is a funapp to get kids moving while exploring what augmented reality can do beyond the static coloring sheets. It’s hysterical to see kids holding an iPad while kicking their feet up in the air! It looked so funny that an adult patron stopped in to see what we were doing and the kids got him to try it. ($1.99)

ARBasketball-Augmented Reality Game (Augmented Pixels Co Ltd, 2013) This free app for iPhone and iPad appealed to the sports fans in the group, but didn’t get any laughs nor did it provide a full body ARBasketball appworkout. I downloaded the marker from developers’ website and some of the kids mentioned that the marker looked similar to a QR code. This app got kids thinking about angle and force as they shot virtual basketballs into the virtual hoop triggered by the real marker that we placed in front of the player on a table or floor. This game offers multi-player options, but we avoided the social media connections and used the single player version, taking turns.

guinness records appGuinness World Records 2014 – Augmented Reality Lite (Guinness World Records, 2013) This free app for iPad and iPhone works with the 2014 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records. It’s a little glitchy, but you initiate the app by hovering over the cover and then you can look at 3D versions of or videos about wacky record holders in the book. This was a nice transmedia book tie-in not only for the kids at the program, but also for kids who hang at the library after school. (I brought out my iPad and some of these apps when some similar aged kids were getting a little wiggly the other day.)

These last two apps use augmented reality to create educational games for games.

CyberChase Shape Quest! (PBS Kids, 2013) When I brought this free app (for iPhone and iPad) up on the screen, the kids got aPBS Cyber Chase app little nervous because it seems targeted at a younger audience. But, the kids actually liked this because of the AR interface. This is a geometry based that inspires kids to use their problem solving skills to master puzzles and games. This app is more complex than the sports apps and would be fun to explore for longer with time.

Fetch app

FETCH! LUNCH RUSH (PBS Kids, 2011) This free app uses basic math problems to play a multi-player game that involves making sure there is enough sushi for Fetch’s moviecrew. To play this app, I spread the markers that I downloaded around the room. As we played, kids were presented with a basic addition problem and had to move around the room to find the marker with the right answer. They hovered over the marker with what they thought was the correct answer and a stack of sushi appeared in the app. If it was correct, the timed turn was over and another player was given  problem. (For iPhone and iPad)

Want to know more about Augmented Reality? Check out these quick resources:
How Stuff Works: Augmented Reality
Wikipedia: Augmented Reality
Google Glass as potential Augmented Reality headset

Image Credits:
colAR Mix: iTunes
ARSoccer: iTunes
ARBasketball: iTunes
Guiness World Records: iTunes
Cyber Chase Shape Quest!: iTunes
Fetch Lunch Rush: iTunes

Preschool: My Body

This week was a busy one at our library! We celebrated National Take Your Child to the Library day on February 1st with a LEGOs at the Library program, hosted a tech lab for 8-12 year olds on Digital Learning Day, added an additional preschool storytime at the library (bringing the in-house count to three) and offered a family storytime at a community fire hall as part of our two month Storytime on the Go outreach program. I got the chance to interact with a lot of community members and share library resources with lots of kids and their families!

This week’s storytimes were all about My Body. I began the preschool and outreach programs with a book instead of a song because this book is so engaging and fun to look at.

Ain't Gonna Paint No MoreBook: Ain’t Gonna Paint No More by Karen Beaumont and David Catrow (Harcourt, 2005)

Ain’t Gonna Paint no More is about a boy who loves to paint anything, much to his mother’s dismay, and gets messy while doing it. The words could be sung, but the images are to be savored so reading the text is my preferred mode. I love that kids can anticipate the next body part to be painted by the rhyme that comes before it. Catrow’s illustrations are colorful and exciting, providing for lots of conversation. My favorite page features a painted arm with small black ants all in a row. We find out that the source of those ants is a mouth painted on the boy’s hand featured on the next page.

After talking about our basic body parts it was time to talk about what’s under our skin. I brought out the book, My Body (DK Children, 1991), part of the What’s Inside? series. The first chapter includes one picture of a fully clothed boy on one side and then a picture on the right of the boy’s photo peeled up revealing a skeleton underneath. It’s an easy way for kids to appreciate the connection between their bodies and bones and begin a discussion about bones. 

fablevision_digital_learning_day_2014_bannerIn honor of Digital Learning Day, I brought my iPad to storytime again! Digital media, like apps, give me and the caregivers in attendance more teaching tools and different ways to engage kids. Using an app like this one in storytime, lets parents learn about new high quality apps they could try at home and let’s me model how to use apps with kids. I strongly support joint media engagement and encourage families to use apps together. When I include digital media in storytime, I use it along with many other familiar tools so kids see there is a time for digital media and a time for books, toys, songs, and the like.

App: This is My Body (urbn;pockets, 2014)my body app This is my Body is one of two iPad apps I looked at for use during this storytime. The other app called The Human Body (Tinybop, 2013) is a more complex app with high quality images, incredible detail, and an interesting Q&A feature, but I felt that This is my Body offered the basic features I needed for a quick activity in a preschool-friendly package. I chose to focus on the skeleton with this app and introduce it by talking about the skeleton as a puzzle.

I started by showing families the starting page and what is included in the app. Then I tapped on the skeleton section, revealing a completed skeleton with a place to tap for the activity page. Select bones are skittered around the outline of a body and with a tap and a drag a bone can be slid to the right location. If the bone is slid to the right spot, it will stick. If not, it will slide back to the area outside of the body. Kids took turns tapping and dragging different bones to the proper location in the body outline.

Using the app in the storytime setting didn’t work quite how I expected, but I would try it again. Here’s what we struggled with: Even with its smaller number of bones, the page still had some bones that kids, particularly the younger ones, weren’t sure where to place. After the larger, more recognizable bones were dropped into the right spot, kids weren’t quite sure what to do. This put kids, especially the younger ones, on the spot as we huddled around the iPad. This may work better mirrored on a big screen so kids don’t feel the need to crowd the iPad making each other feel rushed to figure out the right location for the bone. If I used the app again, I would drag and drop more of the harder to recognize bones (not just one) as I demonstrate how to play the bone game.

I provided an information sheet on a healthy media diet and how to find quality digital media for kids so parents had information to take home.

Action Song: Are you Ready for a Story
If you’re ready for a story, shake and wiggle!
If you’re ready for a story, shake and wiggle!
If you’re ready for a story, If you’re ready for a story,
If you’re ready for a story, shake and wiggle!
… sit down please (with penny whistle)

stand tall mlm

Book: Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell and  David Catrow (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2001)

Molly Lou’s body is unique, like everyone’s. Catrow’s illustrations celebrate Molly Lou’s beauty and strengthen the book’s message. This is a colorful, fun to read story celebrating our individuality, the love of family, and friendship. A nice read aloud for toddlers, preschoolers, and early elementary.

Action Song: Hands are for Clapping by Jim Gill (1993) via Sound Cloud

This song got us moving and using specific parts of our bodies as Gill sang. I played the song using my phone, the Sound Cloud app, and a portable speaker. I connected the phone and speaker using an auxiliary cord so the two would stay connected. (Previously, I’ve had the bluetooth connection disconnect between the time when I set up for storytime and when I actually wanted to play the song.)

partsBook: Parts by Tedd Arnold (Dial Books for Young Readers, 1997)

Unlike the other books we read, Parts features a boy who is scared of his own body! He worries about bellybutton fuzz, hairs in his comb, loose teeth and ear wax. Thankfully his parents finally get him sorted out. At one storytime, the kids and I decided this boy, who we named George, should come to storytime to learn a few things about his body!

We ended with this fun action song. We started slowly and then repeated the song multiple times, going faster and faster.

Song: Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes (using multiple tempos)
(Sing to the tune of London Bridge is Falling Down)
(Have child mimic you and place hands on the appropriate parts of the body.)
Head, shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes,
Head, shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes,
Eyes and ears, mouth & nose,
Head, shoulders, knees & toes, knees & toes.


IMG_1614Potatohead Station

Potatoheads are a fun, hands-on way for kids to learn the basics about body parts. I borrowed this set of potatoheads from a local teacher who is a close friend. Before storytime I made sure all of the potatoheads were blank so kids could build the characters however they wanted to. This also gave caregivers a chance to talk about the body parts as kids added them and what goes where. Some kids added parts in imaginative ways and others placed each part with anatomical accuracy. This set of 7 large and small potatoheads worked for well as a station for storytime groups of 7-40 in combination with the second station.

Life-size self-portrait

Life Sized Self-portrait

I brought a roll of butcher paper from home for this activity. Along with our boxes of markers and crayons that regularly sit at each table during storytime, the paper was the only material needed. The butcher paper was just wide enough for preschool size kids.

Caregivers had their child lay on top of the precut sheet of paper while they traced the outline of the child’s body. This often resulted in giggling because outlining a preschooler or toddler’s body often leads to unintended tickling!

Once the outline was complete, kids and caregivers went about coloring in body parts and clothes making each one unique.

Photo credits:
Parts: Eva’s Book Addiction
Stand Tall, Molly Lou MelonThe Illustrated Book Image Collective
This is my BodyUrbn; Pockets
Ain’t Gonna Paint No More: Amazon

App-ily Ever After Digital Storytime: Animals

I have introduced and successfully integrated apps into several of my library’s weekly preschool storytimes. However there are some apps and digital media I have not used, but wished I could. Our storytimes are held in our children’s library instead of a separate storytime space and the beautiful design does not easily accommodate media tools like large screens. When the space was designed and built, new media was not part of the storytime conversation. Without a large screen on which to project book apps and other new media, some are too difficult to use or be seen by large groups on the smaller iPad screen.  In fact, ability to be easily seen on the iPad screen and used by groups are two of the criteria I use for selecting apps for storytime.

Innovation, as always, requires creativity! So, with my director’s support and interest, I designed a new, digital storytime using our meeting room with its large monitor and space for comfortable seating. (We removed the meeting tables before the event and brought in the beanbags from the children’s library.) We decided to not only alter the media format for the pilot program, but to also host it on a Saturday, another first for our library.

The digital storytime seemed like a perfect fit for Little eLit’s October Tech Challenge, in which we try something new and a even little bit nerve-wracking in honor of the “scary” month. Here are the details of my challenge-to-me program.

Digital Storytime: App-ily Ever After

16 kids and caregivers attended the program. Kids were ages 2-9. Two teachers brought their kids. Only three of the kids had ever been to a storytime at the library (or outreach program) before this one. The group size was perfect for a pilot program in our room size and with the devices we had on-hand.

I divided the one hour program into two parts. The first half was a storytime similar in format to the weekly preschool programs. We sang, moved, and read together. This format was used with the idea of offering some familiarity to families while at the same time letting me highlight apps that demonstrate the tips I planned to share with parents. The kids had fun while the parents saw the apps in action.

The second half of storytime was dedicated to letting kids and caregivers try out apps I had preloaded on four iPads and share information with each other about apps they like. I also took the opportunity to talk with families about what to look for when searching for apps.

This type of storytime needs tools also, they are just a bit different. I stated that iPads would be used in this program, but many of the apps I used or mentioned are available on multiple platforms. The equipment I used for this program included:

  • Large monitor
  • Apple TV (This connected the iPad to the monitor wirelessly allowing for more movement as I used the iPad.)
  • Wireless Router (We created a hot spot in the meeting room so families could download apps with ease during the program without competing with the whole library for bandwidth.)
  • 4 iPads (I used my personal iPad to present the storytime elements and then had the library’s iPad and a city-owned iPad on hand- both preloaded with a collection of 20 apps I selected- for kids and caregivers to try out. My director also brought her iPad loaded with apps she wanted to share. It turned out that all but one family brought their own iPad which I encouraged on the flyer for the program.)
  • 20 apps for storytime program and for families to try out
  • Beanbags and chairs for families
  • paper copies of Sandra Boynton’s Blue Hat, Green Hat and Mo Willems’ Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (two apps used in the program are based on the popular paper books)

Welcome song: Open Shut Them (a classic storytime song we sing regularly on Wednesdays)

Song: Are you ready for a story? (Clap Your hands)

Parent Tip: I explained the difference between a book app and an e-book.

Book app: Blue Hat, Green Hat by Sandra Boyton and Loud Crow (2011)
$3.99 :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store, and Nook Color

This app is so silly that even the adults were laughing! It quickly helped the group relax and caught their attention.

Parent Tips:

    • The value of meaningful Interactivity: In this app the reader taps animals and objects to animate them. The actions closely relate to the story, as do the sounds which extend the story. Early readers can tap on the individual words to hear them read aloud even with the read-to-me function turned off.
    • App’s early literacy value: phonological awareness
    • Choosing book apps: This is an engaging story with entertaining characters, not just just lots of interactivity plus it has simple, uncluttered pages with quality images and easy to read text.

Toy App: Peekaboo Barn by Night & Day Studios (2011)
$1.99 (free lite version is available) :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store

After seeing all of the silly, farm animals in Boynton’s app, we played a game identifying farm animals in this one. When the app is started, a barn appears and an animal’s sound is heard. Tapping on the barn opens the doors to reveal the animal making the sound. The name of the animal also appears on the screen. The barn doors then close and a new animal sound is heard. While this app works well with groups because there are multiple opportunities for kids to participate, I actually prefer another farm animal app, Animal Sounds-Fun Toddler Game, qwhich I have used in a weekly storytime about farm animals. The game format I use with it would not work with the apps projected on a large screen.

Parent Tips:

    • Joint Engagement: A child could navigate this app on his/her own, but it is more fun when children and caregivers or children and other children play it together. Joint Engagement offers great opportunities for learning!
    • Early literacy value: phonological awareness and print awareness
    • Choosing apps: Look for apps that are age appropriate and can be played over again. Be sure to review an app before introducing it to your young child.

Song: Are you ready for a story? (Tap your toes)

Book App: A Frog Thing by Eric Drachman and Oceanhouse Media
$2.99 :: App available via Apple, Google Play, Amazon App Store and Nook Color

Frog is a frog who has dreams. He wants to fly, even if it isn’t a frog thing. In this gentle story, again with meaningful interactivity, frog saves the day, realizes a dream and inspires his family and friends. I picked this book app because it demonstrates another way book apps can still be effective and engaging without being silly.

Parent tip:

    • Early literacy value: This book offers new vocabulary like the word aerodynamic and opportunities to build narrative skills. This is also a good choice for STEAM storytimes focusing on frogs.
    • Choosing apps: Look for uncluttered, pages with easy to read text. I pointed out the read to me, read to myself, and auto play options and the button to turn music on or off, all features which I look for.

Toy app: Felt board by Software Smoothie

We used this digital feltboard to act out the song, Five Green and Speckled Frogs (demonstrated here by the Jbrary librarians). Many librarians have talked about using this app and this felt story before. Instead of using screenshots of each movement in the story and projecting them with keynote, I saved my story (a new update) and physically moved the frogs as the story progresses in the song. This worked perfectly and mimicked one of the great aspects of traditional felt boards. I was comfortable doing the actions with my hands and moving the frogs on the iPad. Almost everyone sang along with this song.

With multiple backgrounds and a zillion characters and features to choose from, this toy is perfect for kids of multiple ages and for playing together.

Parent tips:

    • Choosing apps: Select apps that encourage open-ended play and creativity.
    • Early literacy value: This app is great for building narrative skills.

Toy app: Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive This App by Mo Willems and Disney
$5.99 :: App available from Apple only

This app is based on the popular book, Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus. The app does not include the book, but it extends the story by offering kids a chance to create and play using the beloved characters from the book. As a group we recorded a story directed by the bus driver. We were asked a series of questions and took turns saying silly answers which were then incorporated into a story that was played back and acted out by the bus driver and the pigeon. This was a great transition into the second portion of the program.

Parent tip:

    • Early literacy value: Strengthens narrative skills and helps build vocabulary. This also provides a nice introduction to creating digital stories.
    • Choosing apps: This app has no in-app purchases or ads, what I look for especially for use in storytime.

For the rest of the time, we looked at and explored apps informally. Caregivers shared apps they have used and liked. Kids and caregivers had lots of questions about app suggestions, even for specific purposes like strengthening math skills, and how to select apps. Several of the adults also asked if we were going to offer a similar storytime again!

I gave every caregiver a double sided information sheet, Kids and Digital Media Tips for Parents 10.13, which included app suggestions, developer suggestions, early literacy information, and resources for learning more. This kind of program offers a lot to think about, so something to take home was important.

This was a successful pilot program that showed us two things. One is that a program like this one can be successful and is important to families. Secondly, it helped us assess the need for Saturday storytimes. We hope to host similar programs again as resource allows.

This blog post content also appears at

AWE-some Computers Arrive!

AWE computersThanks to a grant from the Alaska OWL Project, my library recently installed two AWE computers in our children’s library!  There are so many nice features about these additions to our multimedia children’s library that I can see why they are in constant use by an ever-changing group of toddlers, preschoolers, kids, and adults.

1. They offer literacy games and activities for ages 2-10. (STEM games, too!)

2. They are self-contained with preinstalled games and activities, so kids and their caregivers can find valuable games to play quickly.

3. They are not connected to the internet, so users don’t need to log in.

4. The computers are touchscreen and easy to use for most ages.

5. The diverse selection of games appeals to a variety of interests.

6. We received two headsets for each computer which encourages joint media engagement. Having two headsets also allows kids to fully utilize the computers while others are able to enjoy the library in different ways.

Do you have AWE computers at your library? What are your favorite games or activities? How are you using them in your library?