I posted an opportunity recently on the ALSC Listserv for children’s librarians to give some feedback to a start-up based in Silicon Valley that is developing a new eBooks distribution platform. “This is great!” I thought to myself. “Children’s librarians know children’s literature and children’s electronic services better than any other profession, they’re always willing to share their expertise and they’ll understand what a great opportunity it is for them to speak directly with a children’s ebook developer to help create a platform that is well designed, age-appropriate and contains high quality content!”
Boy, was this a learning experience for me. A conversation erupted from this one post that didn’t have anything to do with Bookboard’s new service. Instead, children’s librarians from all over the country began voicing their opinions about what our profession’s role is when it comes to digital media for children. The comments ranged from anecdotal evidence for how digital media can support a child’s literacy development to comments that bordered on format-based censorship.
Colleagues, we are NOT on the same page about how to deal with digital media for children in libraries. We all know where to get good information about books, we mostly agree that DVDs are a necessary evil in most of our libraries, and we know that the best way for a parent to develop their child’s developing literacy skills is to co-read with them. Apparently, many of us do NOT know that digital media can be used as intelligently as print media to support the six early literacy skills, and that there are many professional bodies and research organizations that are pumping out research on this topic.
This kind of conversation needs to happen more. We need to be talking about the role of children’s librarians in the digital age, and we need to be sharing our experiences with this new technology. Whether you like it or not, tablet technology is here to stay and parents are using it with their children.
For better or for worse, this is our job now. If you are a children’s librarian, showing parents how to use technology intelligently with their children is your job now. Knowing where to find good book-based and educational apps for young children is your job now. Developing storytimes that incorporate digital media along with traditional storytelling techniques to model healthy media behaviours is your job now. Being non-judgemental about how families actually use mobile technology is your job now. Working with vendors and developers to create high-quality ebook services for children that are available through public libraries is your job now. Expanding your skill set and learning about new formats and platforms is your job now.
Here are some resources to help you get started, and many thanks to those of you who participated in this important discussion and suggested these resources.
Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8: A joint position statement issued by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College
Facing the Screen Dilemma: Young Children, Technology and Early Education (Alliance for Childhood)
Zero to Eight: Children’s Media use in America (Common Sense Media)
Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media
Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop: Advancing Children’s Learning in the Digital Age
Let’s keep this conversation going. Comment below or check out LittleeLit.com for more resources.
Our guest blogger today is Cen Campbell. Cen is a children’s librarian at the Santa Clara County Library District and the Mountain View Public Library, and a children’s digital services consultant at LittleeLit.com. She has driven a bookmobile, managed branch libraries, developed innovative programs for babies, young children and teens, and now helps other libraries incorporate digital media into their early literacy programming. She attended the California State Library’s Eureka Leadership Institute in 2008 and now serves on the ALSC Children & Technology committee.
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