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.

Flannel Friday: What Flannel Friday Means to Me

To celebrate the second anniversary of Flannel Friday, bloggers who to post or use Flannel Friday are answering the question:


I haven’t been active with Flannel Friday as a blogger for that long, but I have been a user of Flannel Friday posts and pinterest for a while.  For me, what I get from Flannel Friday is:


This may seem like a lot from weekly blog postings, but it’s all true.  It’s nice to know small things like sharing ideas can have such a large impact.  (In fact, the idea that sharing ideas can have a large impact is one of the reasons I became a librarian in the first place.)

Doing children’s programming is wonderful, but after a while it can become stale if you do the same thing time after time.  Flannel Friday helps expand my repertoire of storytelling ideas and themes.  I get great ideas not only for flannelboards to make, but also different prop stories I may not have tried before, different books to use that work well, and different themes.  It was Flannel Friday posts, in fact, that made me want to try my hand out at blogging.  I thought if I was getting so much out of posts that others were writing, maybe someone out there would benefit from my ideas.

This, in turn, leads to my growth as a professional.  Be it growing as a storyteller to try new things I may not have thought of without the group, or growing as a blogger who writes about her day-to-day work with youth, Flannel Friday is making me better at my job.

And it’s nice to realize that there are others out there who are concerned with the same things you are.  The community around us librarians who want to make the library a fun, exciting place for children is great.  I’m fortunate that I work at a library location where I am with a staff of great people who are dedicated to serving youth.  But sometimes it’s nice to look outside our own organizations to grow, and Flannel Friday helps do that for me.  It lets me know that as much as we are encouraged (and I want to) grow and develop and pursue and advance up the library ladder, there is beauty and satisfaction in the day-to-day of working with books and youth.  And I’m not the only one who sees that.

Finally, Flannel Friday helps give me confidence.  I posted my first Flannel Friday post on January 4, 2013 (I told you I’m new at this!).  As anyone who has posted to the group knows, you wait with bated breath that first time to see your post go live, and then see how many people are visiting your blog.  Then you get comments saying that your ideas will be useful to others!  There’s a fantastic rush that goes along with that.  And it’s also nice to hear others say, even if they don’t comment on your blog, that they like it and use what you’ve posted there.  Another reason I like being a librarian is because I enjoy helping others, my blog feels like an extension of that in some way. 

So thanks, Flannel Friday, and all you bloggers, readers and commenters out there.  You’ve inspired me, helped me grow, expanded my community, and helped me gain confidence.  I am so so grateful to you!  You are awesome!

Today’s Flannel Friday roundup is hosted by Sharon at Rain Makes Applesauce.  For more information on Flannel Friday, visit the Flannel Friday blog or Pinterest page.