Looking for new ways to engage and recruit tween patrons? Would you like to integrate more digital technology into the programming plans of the library? Maybe finding a new method for middle graders to record summer reading is on your to-do list. A simple solution to these questions and more is Kidblog; a basic version of the WordPress blogging platform (the one used for this blog) intended for use with youth in schools and educational settings.
If the idea of providing tweens with library sponsored blog accounts makes you a little uncomfortable let me recommend some readings to ease your mind. A recent report from The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop entitled “Always Connected:The new digital habits of young children” (pdf) provides some vivid examples of the large volume of media exposure and consumption young children experience on a daily basis, on a variety of devices.
Here is a snapshot of their findings (page 5):
– Children have more access to all kinds of digital media,
and are spending more time during the day with them than
– Not all children have access to newer digital technologies,
nor do all children use media in the same ways once they
do own them. Family income continues to be a barrier to
some children owning technology, even as the price of
– Lower-income, Hispanic, and African American children
consume far more media than their middle-class and
– Children appear to shift their digital media habits around
age 8, when they increasingly open their eyes to the wide
world of media beyond television.
– Mobile media appears to be the next “it” technology, from
handheld video games to portable music players to cell
phones. Kids like to use their media on the go.
This report presents exciting possibilities for librarians serving tweens! We can be part of the shift from consuming media to creating it, breaking down barriers to digital technologies, and enabling on-the-go connections to the library.
A Media Tool for Tweens (and younger kids too)
If the library is ready to offer a book blog here are some of the basics:
- No child email account is required. The librarian can setup accounts using first names only. Each youth patron can be given a unique username and password.
- Librarians can choose to moderate all posts and comments. Nothing goes public until it is approved by a member of the youth department.
- The simple platform provides plenty of opportunity for writing, embedding media, and linking to related content without all of the bells and whistles of a full version. This encourages young readers and writers to stay focused on communicating about designated themes.
If you are curious about the look and feel of the platform a great collection of screenshots is available from Kidblog. There are plenty of examples (and benefits) of how this platform is being used with youth in schools.
The Tween Response
I helped to created and manage a Kidblog account for 5th and 6th grade literature classes at my school this year. The response has been a highlight of our school year. We saw kids engaging with more books, expressing well articulated ideas and responses to books in written form, and communicating with each other about these great reads. The Kidblog administrative dashboard provides youth librarians with valuable new usage statistics. For example, we saw many posts and comments happening during the evening and weekend hours. For educators this was an encouraging sign that we were connecting school to real life. The blog also gave me a new context for teaching valuable digital literacy and citizenship skills.
When asked what they like about the blog most students have told me the commenting featuring is one of their favorite parts. They like the interaction this platform provides with their peers and trusted adults.
The authors of “Always Connected” offer these concluding thoughts (42 & 43):
Media use by preschool and school-age children is not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t have to be mindless, either. It should be balanced by – or perhaps integrated with – other rich learning experiences, such as play and reading. (emphasis mine)
Can the debate pivot from how much time kids spend consuming media to the quality of those media experiences and how they might affect children’s development and learning? The challenge going forward is in establishing new models for using
technology in effective, developmentally appropriate ways
with young children.
Librarians know reading. We know children. We are the trusted and informed adults who need to be involved in their digital lives. If we can stretch our practice to include thoughtfully integrated technology and media we will help to provide meaningful digital experiences for tweens.
Please share how you have engaged the young adolescents in your library with technology.