Farm – eStorytime

I’m so excited to post this today!  Thanks to the hard work of my amazing colleague AnnMarie, my library recently bought some iPads, installed AppleTv in our Story Room, and will soon have iPads loaded with librarian-selected apps available for play on tables in the Children’s Room.  To go with these investments, we decided to have a monthly digital storytime for preschoolers, that I am lucky enough to present!

We thought about incorporating iPads into our regular storytimes, but in our community there are some parents who don’t want their children exposed to screen time.  In order to accommodate them, yet still embrace this new and fun technology, we decided to have a (mostly) all digital storytime at a separate time than our traditional preschool storytime. Also, this allows us to offer another service at a different time — hopefully opening up service to people who are not able to attend our Saturday storytimes.

While it has been a bit of a challenge to find good apps to fill the whole time (mostly because I am new to looking for them and to the format), there are many great resources out there that helped get me started.  Among them are:  Little eLit, Digital Storytime (especially their wonderful categories section that helped me work around a theme), School Library Journal’s app reviews, and Kirkus App Reviews.

So: Enough back story — let’s move on to Friday’s first-ever eStorytime!

Opening Slide on SlideShark:
Welcome to eStorytime Slide
I wanted to use a presentation app to display slides with song lyrics on them, and used the Slide Shark app for this.  With Slide Shark, I created the slides using PowerPoint on my work computer, then just email them to myself and opened the PowerPoint with the app to upload it to Slide Shark.

“Come Along and Sing with Me” (to tune of Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush.)  (I found this song in my fingerplay box without a citation, so forgive me for not giving credit.)

Barnyard Dance App2Barnyard Dance App1
Barnyard Dance by Loud Crow Interactive.  Based on the book by Sandra Boynton. (iOS, Android, Nook: $3.99)

Barnyard Dance is a fantastic app, and basically the reason I decided my first eStorytime would be farm themed.  It has settings that allow you to read the story with no narration, but still get the sounds from the book.  Finally we can share Boynton’s wonderful (but small) books in storytime (Ok, so I have with her lap size board books, but still…)

“Two Mother Pigs”
(Again, I’ve had this rhyme forever, so forgive me for not giving credit.)

PeekaBoo Barn App3PeekaBoo Barn App1Peekaboo Barn App2
Peekaboo Barn by Night & Day Studios (iOS, Android, Kindle: $.99)

Peekaboo barn starts with an opening scene of a barn exterior.  Then you hear a knocking sound, followed by the sound of a farm animal.  When you tap the screen, the barn door open and it reveals the animal that was making the sound.  We played this as a guessing game – I let the animal sound play a couple of times, and the audience guessed what the animal was inside.  While it may sound easy, a few of the animals are pretty difficult to guess (rabbit, llama).

“Jump Up, Turn Around” by Jim Gill from Jim Gill’s Sings Moving Rhymes for Modern Times


Book! Book! Book! by Deborah Bruss, illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke
As a break for the eyes, I wanted to make sure to keep at least one print book in the mix.

Felt Board App - Old MacDonald1Felt Board App - Old MacDonald2Felt Board App - Old MacDonald3
Felt Board by Software Smoothie (iOS: $2.99)

On the Felt Board App, we sang Old MacDonald.  I set up the barn, the sun, and the farmer on the screen ahead of time (You can save scenes using the camera icon on the app, and then retrieve them in the gallery setting.)  We sang the first verse, and then I was going to have the audience participate by choosing animals from the Animal menu in the app and singing about them.  The app or screen froze (more about this in the how it went section), but the final screenshot is what it would have looked like at the end of our songs: we had an alligator, a duck, a badger, and a cow on our farm.

Pass It On App1

Pass it On! by CJ Educations.  Based on the Book by Marilyn Sadler, illustrated by Michael Black.  (iOS: $2.99)

We were going to finish up with an ebook app, Pass it On, but as I started to read it the image froze on the screen.


MOVEMENT: Storytime’s Over*


APP: Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Farm from Nosy Crow (iOS: $.99)
APP: Busy Bear on the Farm from Nosy Crow (iOS: $3.99)


For my first eStorytime, I thought this one went pretty well.  It was actually a blast to do, and the audience seemed to have a really good time.  I prepped the audience at the beginning of the storytime, welcoming them to our FIRST EVER storytime of this type, and asking them to bear with me as we were sure to experience some technical difficulties.  And we did.

Things started off just peachy – Barnyard Dance went great, Two Little Pigs was great, Peekaboo Barn was great.  But then I started having communication problems between the AppleTV and my iPad — the screen no longer wanted to mirror images.  Ok, no problem, we just went ahead and did the movement without the lyrics up on the screen.

It was time for the print book, so I closed the cover of my iPad to read the story.  Of course, I had forgotten that there was a screen saver that runs on the AppleTV when it’s asleep, so the whole time I was reading there were beautiful baby animals on the screen behind me.  Which of course, were a bit more interesting to some of the kids than the book I was reading.  Note to self: change the screen saver back to just a black, blank screen.

So then I went and turned the iPad back on, and was still having problems with iPad/projector communication.  I don’t know if it was the wi-fi or what, but the app would work on my iPad screen, but freeze on the large projector screen.  So, we just sang Old MacDonald without the help of the app.

After, I tried again to get the mirroring to work properly, and started reading Pass It On.  But just like the cow in that story, the image once again was stuck on the large projector, but not my screen.  So we had a good laugh over the parallels between the story and our tech experience and moved ahead to close up with our ending movement.

If I got the chance to do this all over again, I would have asked our Tech guy to sit in with me on this first storytime.  That way, whenever I ran into snags he would have been able to see what they were, instead of me having to explain them to him later.  Even if he could not have fixed them in that moment (which may have interrupted the flow of the program), he at least would have know what they were.  I think we are going to do a mock run-through before my next eStorytime next month where he will get to see what’s going on.

I’m very grateful that even with all these mishaps, the audience still seemed to have a wonderful time, and were supportive of the library trying something new.  We really do have fantastic patrons.

One thing that did seem to go well was how I set things up on my iPad.  I actually made a folder specifically for this storytime, so that I didn’t have to scroll back and forth between all my apps.  It looked like this:
Farm eStorytime File1

As you can see, just like books for a regular storytime, I have more apps than I would actually ever use.  I always feel it’s good to have options, just in case.  When storytime is over, I just pulled these out of this folder, and am ready to start working on the next one for next month’s program

ATTENDANCE: 19 people (children and adults)

*To see the words to these movements and activities I use frequently, please visit my A-capella Movements Section on my Storytime Movements and Music Page

Thoughts on eStorytimes/Digital Storytimes

Since digital / e- / iPad storytimes are becoming a regular service that many libraries are providing, including my own, I wanted to take a little time to explore the issue on my blog.

When first thinking about using iPads, ebooks, and apps in storytime part me wondered: what was the need for it (from an early literacy perspective rather than a digital divide one)?  While this is an area where much research is currently being done, I just felt like we didn’t know yet what the implications for early literacy were.   Children are already exposed to so much media, do we really need it in storytime as well?  Shouldn’t it be alright for library storytime to focus on print books and stories?  If children 2 and under should have no screen time, and children over 2 should have limited screen time, isn’t storytime the perfect place for a digital break?  Are we trying to embrace iPads just because they are sexy, rather than because they offer real benefits?

But just because something makes me uncomfortable, doesn’t mean I don’t want to learn more about it.  Like any good researcher, I want to collect my facts before making a decision.  So I talked to other professionals.  I attended many different trainings on how to use the iPad in storytime.  I read blog posts.  I tried to see the issue from both sides.

And I started seeing a different way of looking at iPads and storytime use.  Parents are already using iPads with their youngest children.  I am sure we have all seen a time when an iPad was used as a babysitter — entertaining a young child while a parent was getting something done.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  It is not my place to judge parents.  Parents have busy lives and use the tools at their disposal.  But if parents are using this technology why not show them that it can be MORE than a babysitter?

We already model how to interact with books in storytime.  I often feel, especially with my infant storytime, I feel like that’s the main reason I’m doing it.  Yes, the infants are receiving a benefit from storytime, but parents are seeing examples of great books for their children.  They are seeing how to do dialogic reading — even if they have no idea what it is called.  They are learning how books are starters for conversation or related activities like songs and fingerplays.

So why not do the same with ebooks and apps?  Why not show off wonderfully produced, educational apps the same way we highlight great books?  Why not model how an app can be a starting point for conversation and learning with children?

In addition, apps cost money.  And there is no place really to “try before you buy”.  Yes books cost money as well, but it is easy enough to read through a picture book before deciding to purchase it.  And there are so many apps out there.  Of course, plenty of places review apps, but it is often best to decide after seeing them in action  The library can help with this as well, by bring attention to really good, useful apps.

And when I saw using apps in this way, it began to make more sense to me to use them in library programming.  Another thing helped me be more okay with iPads in storytime was  when my library was discussing offering them as a service we decided to develop an eStorytime separate from our traditional storytime, rather than including the iPads in our current storytime program.  We have our traditional storytime, that runs once a week, and then we added a monthly storytime were we focus on apps and ebooks.  Soon, this may seem like a ridiculous and artificial division, but it helped me get my head around trying something new while still remaining faithful to a tried and true ideal.  Also, some parents in our community don’t want their children exposed to screen time — having separate programs allows us to accommodate both.

To some extent, I still think I am making my mind up about iPads and storytime.  I am interested to see what we learn from research about their use and early literacy.  But I’m also ready to try out some new ideas.  And you know what?  I just presented my first eStorytime today and it went pretty well.  Both parents and kids found it fun, engaging, and were exposed to some new-to-them high quality apps.  And I can’t help but think that’s a good thing.

You’ll start to see my eStorytimes outlines being posted on here. I hope you find them useful if you are thinking of starting your own digital storytime, already have one at your library, or just want to find some new fun apps to share with kids.

As always, please feel free to continue this conversation in the comments.  I would love to hear what you have to say about iPads, apps, storytimes and libraries.