AkLA 2015: Early Literacy & New Media for Young Children

For the past several days I’ve been at the annual Alaska Library Association conference in Juneau, Alaska. It’s my chance to catch up face to face with the other librarians around our vast state and learn a few things from this resourceful bunch.  (Juneau librarians turned books into these beautiful table centerpieces! Cool, huh?)

I was asked to present a pre-conference on new media and young children and here are the resources I shared. The 3 hour session was jam packed with great questions, ideas and enthusiasm. Thanks to everyone who attended!

First the slides from the pre-conference:

This second link is a resource list including references specifically for librarians/educators and others useful for parents/caregivers. The resource link also includes review sites and other online resources. Early Literacy & New Media for Young Children Resource List

Here are the apps we discussed and several others I wanted to share:

An iPad for Anytime Use Now in the Library

Just last week, we finally made an iPad available for use in our modest-sized, but busy, children’s library! I’ve been using iPads in programs for almost two years now, but this is the first time we’ve had one for families to use anytime. The first week has seen regular play by kids, mostly in pairs or groups.  We’ll be adding another iPad to our Teen Space soon, but here are the ins and outs of managing our first mounted iPad.Friends Play With the Felt Board App

First of all, we chose the iPad, versus another device, for several reasons.

  • the App Store has by far the best selection of high quality apps at this point
  • the iPad screen is a great size for viewing toy and story apps as part of a pair or small group
  • the mounted iPad is one of several we received as part of a grant so apps can be shared with the other devices we use in programs
  • I am a savvy iPad user so installing an iPad was helpful because I am the primary manager of this device

We mounted the iPad horizontally on one of the few free walls in the space using a MacLocks Wall Mount. It is across the room from the desktop and AWE computers, and also on the other side of the children’s library from the space where families with young children most commonly sit and read together. It is, however, in clear site of the circulation desk through the windows that separate the children’s library. The iPad is actually nicely situated in amongst the stacks in a part of the space that needs a draw- the 900s, biographies, magazines and audiobooks- and the device may be another tool for broadening kids’ exploration. While kids may like these types of materials, the device is actually attracting them to a space they may not naturally gravitate towards when they visit the library.

One unexpected wrinkle we’ve been dealing with is charging the iPad. There is an outlet located right below the iPad, but it’s difficult to plug the charging cable into the device while the iPad is in the mount, which we were hoping to do. Since we don’t want to open the mount every night to charge the device, we decided to tuck the cord into the mount and leave the small square piece that goes in the outlet out of reach until it gets charged at night. We’re hoping that works.

Like other libraries we decided to offer one app at a time on the iPad. We don’t have the resources to switch out the app each day, but we are going to keep each app on the iPad for one week. The device is locked into the one app using Guided Access and prevents kids from accessing the settings or other content we want left alone. The one app method also has proven to help kids focus on the task at hand and self-regulate their digital media use. Once they are done exploring the app, they move on to another activity and allow other kids and families to have a turn. We don’t enforce time limits based on our experience with the AWE computers which targets a similar age group. Over time we found that AWE users rarely explored for more than 30 minutes and so we don’t feel the need to control their use.

Because this iPad is in our children’s library, we have chosen to focus on apps, both toy and story, that support early literacy among kids under 9. Will older kids test out the apps and even enjoy them? I have no doubt. In fact a group of 10-12 year olds giggled away as they told each other stories with the iPad this past week.Felt Board app and Older Kids

To select apps for the public iPad, in addition to apps I share in programs, I use the rubric I mentioned in an early post. The first app I added to the iPad was Software Smoothie’s Felt Board. It’s one of my favorites and it doesn’t use sound. While sound isn’t a deciding factor in what apps we’ll feature, we didn’t want to add much more background noise to the children’s library. It’s a non-shushing space, but after school the volume gets pretty loud with just a conversational level because of the number of people.

Every week I also add the App of the Week to my library’s Pinterest App of the Week board so family’s can find the apps we’ve previously recommended.

What’s up for next week? Toca Boca’s new Toca Kitchen 2, an updated version of Toca Kitchen. Here’s why:

Toca Kitchen 2 let’s kids play with pretend food and imaginary guests who respond to meals in silly, and sometimes surprising, ways. This is a toy, not a game with points, coins, or levels, and kids will delight in the freedom to create digital concoctions from the array of whole food items found in the kitchen’s fridge. Food can then be prepped, cooked, or juiced and fed to one of three culturally diverse guests (a woman, a man or a kitchen monster).
The mostly wordless app supports multi-touch and is easily enjoyed by friends or family members playing together. The app is free of 3rd party ads, links and in-app purchases.

Toca Kitchen 2 is currently only available on iOS. The special launch price is $.99. The app is great for ages 3-6, but older kids (and adults) may enjoy playing along also!

Evaluating Apps and New Media for Young Children: A Rubric

Over the past year and a half, I have been working on a rubric for evaluating apps and new media for young children. I wanted something for my own purposes, to use when reviewing apps for program use or to recommend to families, as well as something to share with other librarians and educators. I’ve have finally come up with something that works for me. Take a look and try it out on the next app you evaluate.

Let me know how it works for you!

The rubric, and other helpful information for evaluating new media, is included in a chapter of Little eLit’s bookYoung Children, New Media, and Libraries: A Guide for Incorporating New Media into Library Collections, Services, and Programs for Families and Children Ages 0-5. I am humbly writing the chapter with the talented Carisa Kluver of Digital Storytime. The book chapters are being published individually each month at Little eLit, so stop over and read what my smart librarian friends have to say.

Thanks to many for their conversations about what makes new media high quality, but in particular, the belated Eliza Dresang, as well as Cen Campbell and Carisa Kluver. Thanks also to those who review apps and new media. We are reading those insights with great interest. Keep reviewing and keep sharing!

Evaluating Apps and New Media for Young Children: A Rubric (link now goes to Media Mentorship page and updated rubric, 2016)

Looking for other review sources? Try these:

Children’s Technology Review
Horn Book
Madison Public Library’s App Finder
School Library Journal
Smart Apps for Kids

Toddler Storytime: Thankful

Well, it’s official. The tides have changed and what was once a toddler storytime (officially for 2 and unders) is now a baby storytime. 12 of the 14 kids were under the age of 1. I have been struggling with the gradual change in audience over the past couple of weeks. The difference between a 1 1/2 or 2 year old and a 5 month old is significant, as you know, and I would never know what the age range would be when I walked in the door. (We don’t have sessions or registration.)

As I was doing some research online about my predicament, I came back to a place I love- Mel’s Desk. In one of her posts she talks about a similar audience that is rich and varied and how she plans for the varied ages. She plans for the babies and the toddlers jump right in. I decided to do the same. What a fun, happy storytime we all had!

I spent a lot of time talking to parents during this storytime, not in large chunks, but in asides. I slipped in little tidbits of information here and there, without losing the interest of the kiddos. Toddlers are not as tolerant of these asides!

I talked about the importance of repetition and why we sing the same welcoming song, for example. I talked about introducing the idea of family traditions (holiday and otherwise) and being thankful. I also emphasized the signs we would use in the welcome song and throughout the Bear Says Thanks book we would read during the storytime.

Welcome: The More We Get (Read) Together
The more we get together
together, together,
The more we get together
The happier we’ll be!
For your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends,
The more we get together the happier we’ll be.

The more we read together, together, together
The more we read together
the happier we’ll be.
We’ll read big books and small books
and short books and tall books
The more we read together the happier we’ll be.

Fingerplay: Two Little Ravens Sitting on a Hill
Two little ravens sitting on a hill
One named Jack, one named Jill
Fly away Jack
Fly away Jill
Come back Jack, come back Jill! (*kiss* muah!)

Two little ravens sitting on a cloud
One named Soft, one named Loud
Fly away Soft
Fly away Loud
Come back Soft, come back Loud! (*kiss* muah!)

Two little ravens sitting on the ice
One was mean, one was nice
Fly away mean
Fly away ice
Come back mean, come back nice! (*kiss* muah!)

Credit: Adapted from the traditional and the Jbrarian variations. Inserting the name of a local bird makes this song more relevant to our kiddos and will help them connect the song with the real bird they see regularly.

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson (Photo Source: karmawilson.com)

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson (Photo Source: karmawilson.com)

Book: Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson (Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2012)

Action Song: If You’re Thankful and You Know It
If you’re thankful and you know it, clap your hands (clap baby’s hands together or clap your hands to theirs)
If you’re thankful and you know it, clap your hands
If you’re thankful and you know it, then your face will surely show it,
If you’re thankful and you know it, clap your hands.

… bounce about (bounce baby from side to side on knees)
… wave your hands (bounce baby up and down holding their hands above their head).

Credit: Adapted from the traditional version and a version found in the book Happy Baby edited by Fiona Watt (Usborne, 2007)

Action Song: Giddyup
Giddyup, giddyup ride to town, (bounce baby on your lap)
Giddyup, giddyup, up and down.
Giddyup fast, (bounce quickly)
Giddyup slow, (bounce slowly)
Giddyup, giddyup, WHOA! (dip baby backwards)

1 little 2 little 3 little bubbles
4 little, 5 little, 6 little bubbles
7 littl,e 8 little, 9 little bubbles
10 little bubbles go pop, pop, pop.

Action Song: Ring Around the Rosie
Ring around the rosie,
Pocket full of posies,
Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!
The cows are in the meadow
Eating buttercups
Thunder, lightning,
We all jump up!

We sing and move with this song at the end of storytime these days. We sing the song twice and I let families know they can crouch down on the floor for the second verse or stand with their baby and stomp their feet on the floor.

Born Reading by Jason Boog (Photo Source: born-reading.com)

Born Reading by Jason Boog (Photo Source: born-reading.com)

At the end of storytime, I introduced families to Jason Boog’s book Born Reading (Touchstone Books, 2014), a wonderful, thoughtful book about inspiring readers from the day they are born. I like to share it with families in part because it is written by a parent in an easy to digest format (think 5 min chunks before an exhausted parent dozes off at night), and because it introduces the concept of joint media engagement, intentional use of digital media and the idea of a digital media plan to new families.

ALSC Institute 2014

I’ll be at the ALSC Institute (#alsc14) in Oakland, CA this weekend! I’m looking forward to seeing in person many of the librarians I know online and learn from everyday. If you’re in Oakland this weekend, please say hello!

While at the Institute, I’ll be part of a panel called Tech on a Budget with Cen Campbell (@littleelit), Mary Ann Scheuer (@MaryAnnScheuer)
and Suzanne Flint. We’ll be sharing our experiences and those of librarians around the country. Slides will be posted soon.