Tiny Techies and Storytime

After a recent conversation with a colleague about children and technology, I started thinking more about how technology might be incorporated into our storytimes in a useful way. Not just tech for tech’s sake, but as a tool to further our mission. Lucky for me other people are also looking at this, trying out various ideas, and posting about their outcomes. Thanks internet!

I love how Kendra at Read Sing Play explained her decision to get “brave” and introduce some technology into her toddler storytime:

“We KNOW parents are letting their one year olds watch TV and play with their iPads. They will expose their kids to screens. Why not give them tips for using their media tools appropriately with their children? We do this with books already.”

With this in mind, Kendra then planned her storytime and shared her outcomes and responses. A few things I liked and want to remember for later: I like that she just uses one e-book and then continues with a normal storytime program, I like having the book up on the ‘big screen’ which allows greater visibility for larger groups than a hand-held book, and I like that she uses her library’s TumbleBooks thereby giving a demonstration and new access point to a resource people might not be using.

Another idea that I really love was the way that Anne uses iPad apps in her storytimes much like she would a puppet or flannel board. There are some great apps out there that can be used to this end, such as the Peekaboo HD app that plays an animal noise, you have the children guess the animal, and then it shows the animal and their name. The key here is to model how caregivers can use apps in their interactions with their children to build literacy skills (have some e-books ready to go for waiting rooms, etc.) or encourage imaginative play.

Speaking of apps for our devices, I absolutely LOVE Calgary Public Library’s Grow a Reader app!!! Think about how often people spend on their smart phones or other mobile devices. If we then think about how we can best serve and outreach to our customers and go where they are, then developing an app is a brilliant extension of our services. This app features library staff demonstrating various songs, finger plays, and rhymes and has book lists with direct links to their catalog. Great tips for caregivers and really well designed for ease and use.

iPads in Storytime: Skokie Public Library Primary Time+

The last resource I’ll mention today is Little eLit. I found this through an advertisement for a recent PLA webinar: Early Literacy Programming in the Digital Age: Apps and eBooks in Storytime! (slides are now up for free, yay!) Great resources here for designing storytimes, outlines and tips, and the work being done to make connections to our existing programs such as Every Child Ready to Read and Mother Goose on the Loose. Frequently updated with articles and other ideas and lots of good comments to start and continue the conversation on children, technology, and libraries.

Many libraries have started lending technology to our patrons, but we haven’t necessarily started incorporating it into our services. As technology becomes more integrated in our schools as well as our everyday lives, here is another way that we can further our mission and help prepare our children. I’m looking forward to incorporating some technology into parts of my services and seeing what will work best for my audiences.


People and Poetry


“Do I dare / Disturb the universe?” from T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.

One of my favorite things about getting American Libraries magazine over the years has been the superb posters for National Poetry Month. Great inspiration during my Peace Corps service, and fabulous conversation starters when people came over.

Having this month-long reminder reinvigorates my own reading into poetry. Like I’ll get inspired to go on what I call a “poetry cleanse” where I read a little bit of poetry each morning to start my day and, hopefully, get me to look around me with different eyes.

A recent John Green vblog succinctly sums up my thoughts, “that poetry is about trying to get us to pay attention.”

And sometimes we’re so busy that we forget to pay attention and think about things. Where is the poetry in our lives? What makes us pay attention?

I love bringing more awareness and appreciation to this oft passed-over form. It’s a great subject that works well across children’s, young adults, and adults service departments.

The poetry in children’s books is what initially brought me to youth services. That and wonderful colleague and mentor.

During a particularly harried day behind the circulation desk, the children’s librarian came to relieve me for my break and suggested that I find a book from the children’s room for company. I looked at some of the front-faced books on top of our picture book shelves and stopped on Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall’s I’m In Charge of Celebrations.

A sample of Parnall’s incredible illustrations for another Baylor book “The Way to Start a Day.”

I fell in love with this book and was introduced to the idea of children’s books like bits of poetry, their distillation of life into pungent bits. In this particular book, the young girl shares her days of celebrations. These are not regular decreed holidays (New Years is the first day of Spring, not the first day of dreary January), but more along the lines of those extraordinary moments we happen across in our everyday lives. For instance, her Time of Falling Stars celebration was “every time a streak of light goes shooting through the darkness” and she could “feel my heart shoot out of me.” And the illustrations: vibrant beautiful swaths of desert colors with a touch of the surreal as rocks meld into people that flow into sky – poetry for the eyes!

I returned from my break rejuvenated and ready to look at the world in a different light. The children’s librarian and I spoke about the power of these books, and how children appreciate and interpret these stories to make meaning in their own lives. Needless to say I was hooked, and thus began an immensely rich professional relationship between the children’s librarian and me.

Back to poetry. But this did connect; did you see? Seek out these books that might not be “normal” poetry. Introduce (or re-introduce as it were) adults both young and old to the wonders of the poetry in children’s books. Try out activities that aren’t so focused on having a formal poem format, but engage in observation and comparison in the world around us. Or listen and read poetry on unexpected subjects (Scieszka’s Science Verse anyone? Hilarious!).

There are so many incredible places to get inspired for activities and programs related to poetry. Here’s a few more ideas:

  • Scholastic, as usual, has some great resources, ideas, formats, and printables.
  • Pinterest query for poetry yields tons of fun ideas – I love the gumball poetry dispenser!
  • Host a festival or poetry slam, or hold a contest with a celebration for the big reveal! Get schools and social clubs involved. My town holds an annual haiku festival (I even got a honorable mention one year!) and it’s a wonderful time.

As Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet simply suggests on this year’s poster:

“Write about your sorrows, you wishes, your passing thoughts, your belief in anything beautiful.” 

Pay attention to life around you. Your heart will know what to do.

Thinking on Children’s Services

Waking up this morning, I had one of the many ‘morning songs’ I know stuck in my head. How can you not get energized starting out with this number:

(Thanks to King County Library for their AMAZING YouTube channel of resources!)

I was reminded of a recent experience I had utilizing this for filler while working in a primary classroom with many language learners. Children love song and rhythm, and we had a great time choosing different animals and noises. We had a request for owls, and I wondered if they would notice the difference in their sleeping habits. When we were finished, a student said, “But owls don’t get up in the morning!” Right you are! And we sang it the correct way for owls – “in the evening.”

These episodes of engagement, discovery, and critical thinking are what we strive for with our services as educators and library professionals. An integral role of public libraries is to provide opportunities for education and to foster life-long learning within our communities. Children’s library services are a significant approach we use to accomplish these important goals.

Public libraries play an essential role in improving and supporting childhood literacy skills. We expose children and their caregivers to a variety of print, audio visual, and digital resources. Our creative programs and engaging resources make a difference in the literacy learning and critical thinking of children.

Preschool programs foster positive early learning environments for young children and help them develop important skills to get them school-ready prior to entering kindergarten. We model literacy techniques and provide support for caregivers they can use outside of the library. Our positive engagement with caregivers to spend time in their children’s literacy development leads to greater future reading achievements.

Children’s library services create imaginative access points to materials and model methods to engage with information resources for this important community of users. The meaningful language opportunities children are provided in story times and other library programs are crucial to supporting their learning achievements.

Summer reading programs are a significant way public libraries fulfill a need while school is adjourned for the summer. These programs provide children with incentives to continue the practice of reading during the school break when reading skills often fall into decline.

We help children to explore the depth of their interests and the world while providing opportunities for discovery and learning in other arenas. Children’s library services facilitates these important educational opportunities and fosters the growth of these children into life-long learners within our communities.

I love my work ❤