Digital Storytime Means Serious Fun – and Vital Learning – for Arizona Toddlers
We’re grateful for the opportunity to put technology in the hands of children who otherwise wouldn’t have that exposure.
---Julie Martinez, Youth Librarian
The Casa Grande (Arizona) Public Library envisioned an opportunity to supercharge its traditional preschool storytime with e-readers. Traditional storytimes are significant learning events for preschool children. Being read to stimulates language and cognitive skills and helps develop motivation, curiosity, and memory. An early love of reading and books, therefore, helps build a vital foundation for later academic success. Youth librarian Julie Martinez believed that incorporating e-readers in storytime would involve families more in early literacy development and help develop love of both reading and technology.
IMLS Grants to States program, administered by the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, provided funding for 25 e-readers and a collection of 55 picture books for each device. Then the fun began!
Giving Parents a New, Active Role in Storytime
During each interactive storytime, the library distributed the e-readers to parents. With their children in their laps or next to them, parents followed the story on the reader while the youth librarian read from the front of the room. The children and parents could digitally turn pages, zoom into pictures and text, and touch and spin the characters, pictures, and text, making the session more interactive. Each storytime included one or two stories on the e-reader, along with traditional picture books, and activities like songs, finger plays, puppet shows, and flannel board stories.
Digital storytime was featured in the local newspaper and on a local cable television program. The library also specifically reached out to families who might not have access to e-readers or other technology.
Lasting Digital Resources Give a Popular Program "Legs"
The program has proven popular – the library started using the e-readers during storytime in November 2011. On average, about 10-15 families participate in storytime weekly. It has proven effective in introducing parents as well as children to e-reader technology – an important new book distribution vehicle for the library. And digital storytime succeeded in pulling parents from the back of the room to actively participate and read with their children.
Best of all, despite funding and staffing limitations, the library will be able to continue digital storytime with current resources. The digital versions of classic picture books can be re-used over and over for years to come, and the library hopes to expand the collection through donations or future grants.