Media Mentorship, Diversity and Inclusion, and the Screen Time Symposium

The Screen Time Symposium, a collaboration between the Developmental Media Lab and the Erikson Institute, was held September 9th in Chicago. Organized by Carly Kocurek and Jennifer Miller, this interdisciplinary symposium raised many “provocations” around digital media for young people—all of which are relevant to our work as youth services librarians, and especially as media mentors, working to select the best tools and apps for the children we serve.

“Screen Time” is Bad

“Screen time” is bad for children. “Screen time” shouldn’t enter into professional discourse concerning services for children in libraries. “Screen time” is detrimental to our professional practice and distracts from the core values of librarianship. The phrase “screen time” is not something we should be using anymore, because it’s a misnomer. What most people mean when they talk about the evils of “screen time” is passive media: television. Reading an ebook, videoconferencing with grandma and grandpa, or showing a child a picture that you’ve just taken of them is NOT the mind-numbing, passive time-waster that concerns many parents, educators, researchers and librarians. The fact that something is on a screen does not make it inherently bad, and the emphasis on time is also a red herring. If a child is thoroughly engaged in editing his or her own video, learning a programming language, videoconferencing with a pen pal, or reading/writing/designing an…

The Screen Free Story Time is the Best Story Time

Story times for children age 0-5 are one of the most valued and popular programs libraries provide the communities we serve. It is both a vehicle and an icon for the library’s commitment to literacy development and literacy promotion. In the years 0-5, children are developing the brain that must serve them for all future learning and the approximately 30-60 minutes spent during story time is extremely limited in our effort to support literacy development. To best serve children, librarians are obligated to use this time in promoting the most effective activities and materials available to us toward early literacy skill development.  Achieving that goal does not include screen time. The traditional activities of early literacy development such as songs, fingerplays, puppetry, scarves, shakers, action rhymes and reading from print are all better for children compared to screen use. Displacing them with screen uses reduces the time spent with solidly…

Transforming Sensory Storytime Lemons into Sensory Kit Lemonade

In November 2014, my assistant director asked me if I’d ever heard of a special needs storytime. I responded, perhaps overenthusiastically, with the notes and links I had been gathering for 6 months. We decided we wanted to start a Sensory Storytime at our largest branch. We knew we had families with children on the spectrum in our community; some came to the library, some didn’t. We read all the resources we could get our hands on (including these excellent resources here, here, and here). We asked some of our key donors to help buy sensory toys as a part of our annual end-of-year appeal. We observed a sensory storytime at a library on the other side of Michigan in January. That spring, we steadily cultivated relationships with (semi) nearby parent support groups, local therapy clinics, the local university’s collaborative autism center, county public health, and teachers who worked in…

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

As I write this, I’m contemplating the start of summer.  Wait, go back.  “What did she just write,” you ask?  August. You know; the start of summer?   For many of us working in Youth Services, June and July are the busiest time of year.  I’ve got three words for you: Summer. Reading. Program.  At my library, that includes both the traditional SRP plus 157 youth programs in two months. I’m sure most of you have equally crazy numbers.

Apps, Storytime, and Media Mentorship

The Summer Reading Program is in full swing here in Mount Prospect, Illinois, and with that comes patron questions about books, movies, programs, and more. In the past year, there have also been more questions about selecting appropriate and interesting apps for children. After discussing the need to address media mentorship in a more direct approach than what we were currently doing, it was decided this summer to start giving patrons a take home at the end of storytime that includes a “Digital Lit Tip.”  Our summer storytimes are open to the public and can have children of various ages. Very young children must have a parent with them. In order to make these tips accessible to all patrons, even those who don’t have access to devices at home, we selected apps that were already reviewed and featured on our iPads in the department. We also plan to post the…

Storytime Schedules

I’ve written some thoughts on storytime schedules before. While I didn’t have any answers, ultimately I ended the blog with how I was willing to change my storytime schedules to benefit my patrons. This month, I made a list of the decisions the library has made after considering our patrons needs/requests. There are more than listed (especially when the library shares its two programming rooms with a variety of inside and outside groups), but these are the things that patrons frequently thank us for: Having a combination of both registration storytimes and drop-in storytimes. All of the events with the small circle “R” are registration. The others are drop-ins. Providing each age group with at least two day choices during the week. We do our best to alternate this between M/W/F and T/R because of preschool options. Scheduling our “on our own” preschool storytime (Junior Genius) at the same time…