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.

Making Butter at Storytime!

Since we are doing the “Reading is Soooooo Delicious” theme for this summer, my library celebrated with a system-wide Fun Food Week.  Each branch chose a food-related program to highlight at their location.

My program was a bread storytime where we made our own butter!  I got the idea for this program because I remembered making it in preschool (kindergarten?  it was a long time ago…), and I thought it was so cool then.  Apparently, science still amazes now, because the program (that my coworker coined “Loafing Around”) was a hit with both kids and parents — some even wanted to go home and try making more butter.

And making it is really simple!

Make Your Own Butter

You need a jar with a lid that closes tightly and heavy whipping cream.
Jar and Cream

That’s it!

Pour the whipping cream into the jar.  Leave some room so the cream can move around. Of course, you can vary the amount depending on how much butter you want to make.

Shake! Shake! Shake!

After shaking for a little while, the cream will turn into whipped cream.  You won’t hear liquid sloshing around anymore.
Butter3 Butter2

Keep shaking more, and the mixture will look like it is turning back to liquid in your jar.  It’s actually becoming butter and buttermilk.  In the photo below, you can see the lump of butter in the center of the jar, and then buttermilk surrounding it.

Pour off the buttermilk to separate it from the butter.  (At home I just poured it out of the jar, when I did the program at the library we dumped it out into a bucket covered with cheesecloth.  You can see that on the right.  Also, at the library, we scooped up the butter each child made and put it into a plastic take-out sauce container, and handed them a popsicle stick for spreading.)
Butter10 buttermilk

If you are making a lot of butter at home that you will want to enjoy for a while, rinse off the butter under cold water to get rid of the buttermilk — this will make the butter last longer.  At the library, since we were enjoying the butter right away and only made a small amount, we skipped this step.

Put your butter on bread, and enjoy! For the Loafing Around program we created sandwich baggies that had a small sample of various kinds of bread: tortilla, French bread, lavash, challah, Irish soda bread and pumpernickel.  Each kid received a baggie to go with the butter they made.


Jars like the one pictured with the cream in the first photo work better than narrow mouth jars (like the ones you see in the shaking photos).    It is easier to get the butter out from these, and it just seemed to work better overall.  (We got our jars from The Container Store.  The 4 oz ones worked best.)

Since we couldn’t get enough of the good 4oz jars, we used smaller 3 oz ones for the program, and they were not leak-proof.  To solve this problem, we just put the jar with the cream in it inside a sandwich baggie.  This helped keep our carpet clean and worked just fine.

Since we couldn’t find enough of the 4 oz jars, we went with 3 oz narrower jars that were meant for storing spices.  In addition to a twist on lid, these came with snap off inserts that had holes for shaking out spices.  I thought, “Oh this might be a great way to drain the buttermilk without having to take the butter out of the jar!”  BUT NO.  The cream didn’t like having the lid their during shaking, and the holes just ended up causing a problems instead of a solution.

If you have all the children in the program start making butter at the same time, they will probably all be ready around the same time.  We had two draining stations to pour off the butter set up, and we probably could have used one more.

– HAVE SOMETHING TO PUT THE BUTTER IN SO KIDS CAN TAKE LEFTOVERS My coworker came up with the great idea to use take-out restaurant sauce containers with lids and they were perfect.  This way, we didn’t have to give away the more expensive jars to the kids, and we could save them to use at another program in the future.

If I did this program again, I would get more people to help me out.  Volunteers could help with the draining of the buttermilk and putting the butter into the sauce containers.  They also would have been useful for clean-up afterwards.

If I was going to do this program with an older audience, I might add some different flavor elements that kids could use to make flavored butter: herbs like chives or dill, sugars, salt, etc.

But, even for doing it the first time around this was a really fun program, and it was a great success as well.  I would definitely do it again!

2013 Stuffed Animal Sleepover

Friday January 11 – Saturday January 12 my library held our second ever Stuffed Animal Sleepover, and it was so much fun!

We started off on Friday with the stuffed animals signing in with our teen volunteers (we required registration for this program to ensure we had enough materials to make a good take-away the next day.  It was limited to 25 participants).  We made sure we had all names spelled correctly (this would help later when putting together the memento from the day), name-tagged the stuffed animals, and had the children fill out a questionnaire so we could learn more about their stuffed friends.Stuffed Animal Sleepover 2013 Survey

Then it was time to begin storytime!  We didn’t put an age range on this program when we publicized it, since we figured the children’s ages didn’t matter much since we were focusing on the stuffed animal.  This meant we had children from 1 – 10 enrolled.  I was a bit worried about making storytime work for such a wide age range, but then a colleague said “Well, the storytime is for the stuffed animals, really” which made it much easier to focus while preparing.

Stuffed Animal Sleepover Storytime

Song: Sing With Me (Nighttime Version)
(to tune of: “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”)
Come along and sing with me
Sing with me, sing with me.
Come along and sing with me,
So early in the evening.

Other verses:
Come along and clap with me…
Come along and stretch with me…
Come along and yawn with me…

Last verse:
Come along and listen with me
listen with me, listen with me.
Come along and listen with me
As we hear our next story.

Knuffle Bunny by Willems
Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

Movement: “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear Turn Around”
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear turn around
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear touch the ground
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear show your shoe
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear that will do
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear go upstairs
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear say your prayers
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear turn out the light
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear say goodnight

Five in the Bed
There were five in the bed and the little one said,
“It’s crowded!  Roll over!”
So they all rolled over and one fell out,
There were four in the bed…

Continue counting down until…

There was one in the bed and the little one said,
“I’m lonely!”
So they all crawled back in
And went to sleep.

Bounce: Ride a Little Pony* (the children bounced their stuffed animals as if they they were toddlers)

Bounce: Dickery,Dickery Dare*

Tuck Me In by Hacohen
Tuck Me In! by Dean Hacohen

This book segued perfectly into the take-home craft I handed out, the Tuck-Me-In Teddy:
TuckMeInTeddyCraft2 TuckMeInTeddyCraft1

Then it was time to say goodbye to the stuffed animals, and for our work to begin!

My list of photos to take was really long — next year I have to remember to pare it down a bit!
Photos to Take Sleepover 2013

Here is a sampling of photos to give you an idea of what we did:
P1110377 P1110530 P1110526 P1110509 P1110497 P1110494 P1110484 P1110467 P1110466
P1110457 P1110446 P1110443 P1110440 P1110433 P1110431 P1110428 P1110426 P1110417 P1110408

After the photos were taken, I went home and worked on prepping the mementos the kids would get the next day.  When we did this back in August of 2012, we actually made photo books for each of the participants with the photos of the stuffed animals.  We went to a 24-hour pharmacy, printed out about 12 photos for each child (we had 23 participants total), then stuffed dollar photo albums with pictures and other assorted things.

This time around, I decided I wanted to attempt to streamline the process.  I would make photo collages using PowerPoint, then print those out on 8 1/2×11 sheets of photo paper. I bought document frames at the dollar store to put the photo collages in to make things a bit more special.  Then on the back, I taped an envelope to hold the extra accoutrements (like the questionnaire we had the kids fill out, the snowflake craft the animals made, and the award the animals won).  They turned out pretty nicely, but I have to say, I’m not sure that this streamlined things at all!


The next morning, the kids came to pick up their stuffed animals.  This is the BEST part of doing a stuffed animal sleepover — seeing the kids reunited with their friends, and the delighted squeals and laughter as they look at what their animals did the night before.


Since I couldn’t fit all the photos in the frame, we also had a slide show of all the photos that were taken.
So fun to hear all the squeals of laughter, and a nice way to have all the participants share in the experience together.  We didn’t do this part the last time we did our sleepover, but I think I would include it from now on.  Also we added a web address on the children’s frames so they could go online and find the photos from the sleepover on the library site as well.  This was especially great for those who couldn’t stay the next day for the slide show.

All in all the sleepover was a great success – fun was had by both humans and stuffed animals alike!

I still would like to find a different way to create a memento for the kids to take home.  Something a little less labor intensive.

Have you done a stuffed animal sleepover?  How was yours?