Try it! Or, Digital Green Eggs and Ham

Six months ago, I was on the other side of this digital divide.  When I read posts from librarians that seem outraged about using eBooks or book apps in storytime, I can hear myself echoed in those sentiments.  But I’ve changed my thoughts, and so can you. Read on.

Until very recently, I was a true fence-sitter regarding digital books. eBooks made me slightly uncomfortable. I tried a few and was not really impressed. I spend so much time facing a screen during my work day that I want my books to be on paper; I want to read by lamplight, not digital light. I mourned the fact that kids would be read bedtime stories on a little screen. No page turns with that smooth paper sound, that tactile feel of the book in hand. I was pretty adamant about the whole thing — I really did not want to join the digital books bandwagon. Realizing that I was too hesitant to embrace this new technology, I made myself take an online class, The Book as iPad.  As you can read in this post,  that was a real eye-opener. I did it because I’ve had parents ask me how they can compete with book apps — their kids want to play with the books on the iPad instead of read a bedtime story (and I work in a very rural area, far from Silicon Valley); I did it because younger colleagues were asking me what I thought about eBooks. Pretty quickly, I have had to reassess my hesitance and embrace this technology.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading, experimenting, and brainstorming. While I have not yet used an iPad in storytime, I know it is just a matter of time (and getting the right adapter!).  The discussion that has been happening here on the blog and the ALSC list-serv is so helpful — I am compiling resources and ideas like mad.  And as a librarian who has been around for a while, I would like to encourage other fence-sitters to step outside their comfort zone, dip their toes into the digital waters, and give it a chance. I no longer fear for the paper book, nor do I fear that storytime will go the way of the dinosaur. In fact, I think we can make books and storytimes even more enticing if we embrace what kids and young parents are fascinated with, and combine them all into one big fun party at the library.

And, if occasionally, app developers want some children’s librarians to give input, I don’t mind doing that. I’m happy that they recognize us as experts in the field of children’s lit. Yes, they are going to make money, and they aren’t paying me, but so are the daycares I go to and read for free. I’d rather have librarians giving input than corporate execs who don’t even know what ECRR stands for.  There’s a happy medium somewhere, and I think we will all find it together!


  1. Cen

    Angela: Whenever you need help figuring out what adapter to get, I’m at your service!

  2. Becky

    I’m totally with you! I too am being won over–by my 2 1/2 year old granddaughter! I will soon experiment using these apps with my preschool students. The trick is, as with print picture books, to distinguish the high quality apps from among the others. The article by Katie Bircher, What Makes a Good Picture Book App? in Horn Book, March/April 2012, pp. 72-78 was a wonderful starting place for me to critically evaluate this new technology.

  3. Kathy K

    You say that you now embrace the new technology of ebooks for story time. However, you offer no information about the benefits to children in doing so. Are you saying it will “entice” children to come to story time? Shall we offer candy at story time, then? Candy is very enticing to a child.
    You say children are “fascinated” by the ebook/iPad technology. Is this a reason to give a child under 5 an ebook? Young children are fascinated by a lit match. I know you wouldn’t give them one of those. My point is, a child’s fascination is not even close to a sufficient reason to provide and support ebook/iPad technology to children age 0-5.
    The question is not, “Are ebooks cool?” or ” Are ebooks good?”. The question is, ” Are ebooks of benefit to children age 0-5?”. The answer is no unless research proves otherwise. Why promote them when there is no reason to?

    1. Kathy K

      And no one is recommending them to children this age.

  4. Angela Reynolds

    and… I am not saying that I would use iPads in Baby Storytime. I would, however, use them, sparingly, in a pre-School storytime, to show PARENTS (mostly) how to use good book-based and storytelling apps with their children. Because I KNOW they are handing the iPhone or iPad to their 3-year old in the grocery store to keep them from screeching in the check out line. Wouldn’t you rather that parents at least have some good apps on those devices? And is there SOME benefit? If that is the ONLY book or rhyme that a parent ever shares with their kid, then yes, there has to be some benefit. And you know, there are some parents out there that are not reading to their kids. It is sad, yes, but true.

    Our library has DVDs for kids. Do parents use them for their babies? You bet. Do I recommend it? No. But we do buy good, educational DVDs that they are not going to find in the rental store. Do parents read Barbie books to their kids? You bet. Do I recommend them or use them at storytime? No. I am advocating for QUALITY and for teaching parents GOOD habits around things we know they are doing. There’s got to be a happy medium, and I don’t see a terrible amount of harm in at least being open to new ideas.

    1. Kathy K

      We cannot control how people parent their children.

      We have full control over what we say and do.

      I am saying we should focus on and promote what we know is good for children. Research should guide what we do. This is what we owe children. This is how we build and maintain the public’s trust. I believe that our professional integrity depends on this approach.

  5. Nicole Hennig

    Glad you found “The Book as iPad App” course useful. For those who want to learn more, see this short video: and sign up here:

  6. AC

    Bravo to Angela! Can’t say you don’t like digital green eggs and ham until you try it. Fear is what keeps us from moving forward. And once we break through the negative barriers that stop us from findng the positive benefits of technology and children, then forthcoming research will reveal that Ebooks are just like books in that it’s just another medium. They are not evil. They do not cause us to lose our eye-sight. And indeed we have control over what we do, what tools we use and what type of story time we choose to conduct to interactive story times–whether it be using an mp3 player, cd or ebooks.

  7. Amy R.

    If I had an iPad I’d consider using it in pre-school story times – it would be great for interactive stories like “Press Here” . . . but I can’t justify the expense just for that purpose. Also, many of our patrons don’t have access to that technology yet – especially the lower socio-economic groups that I really try to reach with the early literacy message through story time programs. I don’t want them to think that you have to have a tablet to be able to read to your kid – I want them to know that it’s easily done with the free resources right here at the library! If I worked in a community where more of our parents had access to that technology it might be a different story – since I then would want to show them how they can use it in educational and interactive ways with their children. As with everything in a public library it is about what is best for the members of your own unique community. But I think we can all agree in encouraging the families we serve to read with their children – no matter the format.

    1. Amy R.

      (I said pre-school story times, as opposed to lapsit and toddler story times, because I believe the jury is very much still out, and trending negative, on heavy screen time for those age groups. Young babies can’t even make out what’s on the screen! However, interactive use of a tablet or e-reader with a parent may well be okay for pre-schoolers, much like watching Sesame Street with an engaged parent.)

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