Spring break is right around the corner in these here parts. I think the kids have seen my Spring Bunny Scavenger Hunt for the past two years so this year I wanted something new. Then I saw this tweet from elementary school librarian Carter Higgins and I was set.
It reminded me of the Guess Who Book Character display I did last fall. When I emailed Carter she generously shared her files with me and allowed me to revise them for my library. She has also given me permission to share original files here! So you get two versions for the price of one, haha! Choose which one works best for you!
This is Carter’s version. You have to add a letter to each character when your print them out. Then hide them around and have the kids unscramble the letters to form the secret phrase “Reading Rocks.” Unfortunately I don’t have access to an editable version of this one. But here are the files for the document and all the images:
This is my version. I put the characters in order as I think the unscrambling part will be too tricky for some of my younger patrons. My Word document or PDF document both have the scavenger hunt sheet as well as all the characters with their corresponding letters. Print, hide, and let the kids hunt!
Do you have any spring break activities your community loves? Let me know in the comments!
One of the most common questions I get asked by people new to storytime is what to read to toddlers. Toddlers are a tricky group. They can go from being engaged to running around the room in a matter of seconds. I’ve written before about toddler language acquisition and how we can support it through our pacing. Today I want to share a group of authors whose books meet the language development needs of toddlers and that work well in a storytime setting. I chose authors that have at least three books that fit within these parameters. I’m hoping this post can serve as a guide for those looking to get familiar with what makes a good toddler storytime book.
If I missed one of your favourites, please let me know in the comments! For even more toddler storytime read alouds, check out Part 1 and Part 2 of my toddler storytime series and my annual storytime favourites booklists.
Baker’s books often showcase an appreciation for nature. He’s got a few nursery rhyme adaptations too.
Big Fat Hen
No Two Alike
I think I’ve referred to Barton as king of toddler books before. He just gets them. His books feature everyday objects.
You can sing two of these which toddlers love.
I Like Myself!; illustrated by David Catrow
I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More!; illustrated by David Catrow
Who Ate All the Cookie Dough?; illustrated by Eugene Yelchin
Butler’s books combine adorable animals, animal sounds, and guessing games. A classic author to know.
If You See a Kitten
Whose Nose and Toes?
Whose Baby Am I?
Ten in the Den
Known for her singable books, Cabrera has an array nursery rhymes and classic songs in book format. Her illustrations are oh-so-cute.
The Wheels on the Bus
If You’re Happy and You Know It!
Old MacDonald Had a Farm
One of the most well-known authors for children. If you can snag a pop-up version of any of his books they are well worth it!
From Head to Toe
The Very Busy Spider
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
The Artist Who Painted a Blue Horse
David A. Carter
A smart choice for pop-up singable books. Though his books are smaller in size, they still captivate a toddler audience. Thank you to Gina (in the comments) for reminding me of these gems.
If You’re Happy and You Know It
If You’re a Robot and You Know It
Old MacDonald Had a Farm
Marie Torres Cimarusti
Your go-to lift-the-flap author! Fun and filled with animal sounds.
Best known for her Maisy the mouse character, these three books have big pages perfect for large toddler groups.
Hooray for Birds!
Hooray for Fish!
Maisy’s Rainbow Dream
Her diverse set of round-headed kids are the perfect addition to a toddler storytime.
We Love You, Rosie!
I Love You, Nose! I Love You, Toes!
Dodd’s books feature simple sentence structure and unique vocabulary. Many of her books feature common household pets.
I Love Bugs!
Dog’s Colorful Day
I Don’t Want a Posh Dog!
I Don’t Want a Cool Cat!
If you need a monster book that doesn’t scare kids, Emberley is your author!
Go Away, Big Green Monster!
Nighty Night Little Green Monster
If You’re a Monster and You Know It; written with his daughter Rebecca Emberley
Fleming has a distinctive art style and most of her books feature sparse phrases filled with wonderful unique vocabulary.
Five Little Ducks
Maggie and Michael Get Dressed
Fox has many books that are baby focused but most of them work really well for those just-toddlers who wobble around and explore everything.
Baby Bedtime; illustrated by Emma Quay
Hello Baby!; illustrated by Steve Jenkins
Two Little Monkeys; illustrated by Jill Barton
Garcia’s books are perfect for the transportation or construction work enthusiast. Repetition and sounds effects included.
Chugga Chugga Choo Choo
Toot Toot Beep Beep
Tap Tap Bang Bang
Tip Tip Dig Dig
These books straddle the toddler/preschool line, but they can work great in a toddler storytime when everyone repeats the phrase, “I spy with my little eye” all together.
I Spy With My Little Eye
I Spy Pets
I Spy Under the Sea
I Spy on the Farm
Gravett’s books have a great rhythm without rhyming. A few have a twist ending which caregivers and older children enjoy.
Monkey and Me
A master of gentle nature themed books. Great for seasonal reads.
When Spring Comes
A Good Day
Little White Rabbit
If you need a great pop-up concept book look no further. These capture the attention of wriggly toddlers and show off a wide array of animals.
Butterfly, Butterfly: A Book of Colors
One Spotted Giraffe: A Counting Pop-up Book
Animal Opposites: A Pop-up Book
Litwin’s books feature predictable text patterns with short songs interspersed. Great for preschoolers too, the key to getting them to work with toddlers is getting the caregivers to sing along with you. They make great felt stories too.
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes; illustrated by James Dean
Pete the Cat: My Four Groovy Buttons; illustrated by James Dean
Groovy Joe: Ice Cream and Dinosaurs; illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
Known for his Froggy books, London also has a collection of transportation themed picture books perfect for toddlers. And don’t forget his animal walking sounds book!
A Train Goes Clickety-Clack; illustrated by Denis Roche
A Truck Goes Rattley-Bumpa; illustrated by Denis Roche
A Plane Goes Ka-zoom!; illustrated by Denis Roche
Wiggle Waggle; illustrated by Michael Rex
Bill Martin Jr.
You may recognize these from your own childhood. The repetitive structure is perfect for toddlers. Bonus tip: You can sing them to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear?; illustrated by Eric Carle
Baby Bear, Baby Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle
Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?; illustrated by Eric Carle
Simple text and big pages make these books perfect for toddlers. These may be out of print, so grab a copy if you see one!
I Love Animals
Giddy-up! Let’s Ride!
Murphy’s books are great for promoting a loving, positive relationship between toddler and caregiver. They’ve also got great animal sounds.
Say Hello Like This!
A Kiss Like This
Good Night Like This
Il Sung Na
Dreamy illustrations fill these wonderful books about animals.
Welcome Home, Bear
The Opposite Zoo
A Book of Babies
Known for her adorable board books, Patriceclli also has some picture books that are perfect for toddlers.
The Birthday Box
Rosen has all sorts of different stories for little ones. Try reading one of his poems to highlight poetry even for toddlers.
The Bus is for Us!; illustrated by Gillian Tyler
Tiny Little Fly; illustrated by Kevin Waldron
A Great Big Cuddle: Poems for the Very Young; illustrated by Chris Riddell
Sandall only has two toddler storytime gems so far but I’m including her here because I just know she’s bound to another soon! Her third book, Everybunny Count! comes out this year so I’ll update this page after I’ve read it.
April Pulley Sayre
Sayre is a prolific writer and has tons of storytime gems. Her non-fiction ones are top notch featuring wondeful vocabulary and stunning photographs of nature.
Full of Fall
Best in Snow
If You’re Hoppy; illustrated by Jackie Urbanovic
Shea’s dinosaur series is great for those little ones who just need to roar!
Dinosaur vs. Bedtime
Dinosaur vs. The Library
Dinosaur vs. The Potty
Join Smee’s group of animal friends for different adventures. You can act out these books or have toddler jump in a lap for some bouncing or rocking while you read. Thank you to Gina (in the comments) for reminding me of these!
Sturges’s books are great for celebrating a child’s love of different things. Short, simple sentences paired with boldly coloured illustrations are a great combo.
I Love Bugs!; illustrated by Shari Halpern
I Love Trains!; illustrated by Shari Halpern
I Love Trucks!; illustrated by Shari Halpern
In Taback’s series readers guess the animals hiding behind the flaps. Fold out pages make for a lovely surprise for toddlers.
Simms Taback’s City Animals
Simms Taback’s Farm Animals
Simms Taback’s Dinosaurs
Tafuri’s books feature repetition, short sentences, and lots of farm animals.
All Kinds of Kisses
The Busy Little Squirrel
Spots, Feathers, and Curly Tails
This is the Farmer
Thomas has a great sense of humour and even if the toddlers don’t completely get the jokes the caregivers will.
Is Everyone Ready for Fun?
Rhyming Dust Bunnies
Those are my picks for toddler storytime authors to know. Did I miss one of your favourites? Let me know in the comments!
The question of whether or not to do storytime themes is not new. Seven years ago Katie posed the question on the ALSC blog and I’ve seen people discuss it on list-serves, Facebook groups, and Twitter since then. The conversation has probably been going on long before then too! This post is not about telling people what to do. I’m not here to declare that themes are a terrible idea, nor am I here to tell you that theme-less is the way to go. I’m here to describe my journey with storytime themes and why I’ve transitioned to prioritizing what I call storytime flow.
When I first started as a children’s librarian I did themes for all my weekly storytimes. We have some of them featured here on the blog – check the bottom of our Storytime Resources page. I tried diligently to choose books, songs, rhymes, felt stories, and other extension activities that all fit in the same category. At the time, this helped me focus and search. I know a lot of people who still like themes for this reason – it helps them narrow the possibilities of what to do at storytime. I also liked that I could introduce concept vocabulary around a theme and give caregivers early literacy tips that related specifically to the topic of the day. Themes worked for me in the beginning and I am so grateful to everyone who has blogged about their thematic storytime ideas. I still get asked to do a themed storytime occasionally by a preschool and it’s great to have those blog posts filled with ideas.
I’ve been doing storytime for a few years and have built up a knowledge of good storytime books and songs. For my weekly storytimes, I’ve found that themes work less and less for me. Even in the beginning I found them to be limiting sometimes. This happened particularly when I chose a theme and then struggled to find good books that fit the theme. I would sometimes choose a mediocre picture book just because it fit the theme. Doing themed storytimes also meant that I wasn’t doing a lot of repetition in terms of songs and rhymes because I felt like I had to make every song about the theme. This led to less participation from kids and caregivers and was harder on me as I spent so much time trying to memorize new material. Oof. Looking back I wish I had been less strict about the themes and more willing to do what I knew would work best for the group.
Unless a preschool or daycare specifically requests a certain theme, nowadays I don’t do them. Instead, I prioritize storytime flow. Storytime flow means that each element of a storytime transitions into the next in a way that makes sense to kids. I try to make a connection between the books and songs which can look like mini-themes throughout a storytime. Storytime flow has a lot to do with transitioning between activities. I spend less time choosing material and more time planning on how I can transition from one topic or activity to another. I think good transitions can help keep your audience engaged and feel like the storytime sticks together in a way that is cohesive. There is no one right way to do this.
Here’s an example of a portion of a recent family storytime where the storytime flow worked excellently.
Song: Put Your Hands Up High
Tune: Do Your Ears Hang Low
Lyrics: Put your hands up high, Put your hands down low, Put your hands in the middle and wiggle just so. Put your elbows in front, Put your elbows in back Put your elbows to the side and quack, quack, quack!
Transition: Oh my goodness, are we ducks?! I didn’t know there were little duckies in this room. What sound do duckies make? Quack! Quack! Duckies can do all sorts of things. Let’s look at this book. What are the duckies doing? That’s right they are Firefighter Duckies!
Book: Firefighter Duckies by Frank W. Dormer
Transition: Those duckies sure helped a lot of different creatures. I love to help people too. Let’s pretend we’re firefighters just like the duckies. We can go put out a fire! Can you get in your fire truck? We’re going to go really fast, ready?
Song: Hurry, Hurry Drive the Fire Truck
Hurry, hurry, drive the fire truck Hurry, hurry, drive the fire truck Hurry, hurry, drive the fire truck Ding, ding, ding, ding, ding! Verses: Turn the corner, Put the Ladder up, Spray the Fire Hose
Transition: We put out the fire, yay! I love to play pretend. Hmm, what else can we pretend to be? (Ask kids for suggestions. If time, act out some of them). How about we pretend to be astronauts? Let’s take a trip to the moon. Okay, everybody rub your hands together; we need to warm up the engines.
Zoom, zoom, zoom We’re going to the moon. Zoom, zoom, zoom We’re going to the moon. If you want to take a trip climb aboard my rocket ship. Zoom, zoom, zoom We’re going to the moon. In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 Blast off!
Transition: What a journey. We went to the moon, and the stars, and the sun! Now we’re going to listen to a story about other things that are in the sky. When you look up in the sky what are some things that you see?
Felt Story: It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw
Transition: Caregivers, when you go outside today take a moment and look up at the sky and ask your little one what shapes or animals they see. If there aren’t any clouds out, see if you can spot a bird. You can do this rhyme about birds too that has lots of extra silly verses.
Rhyme: Two Little Blackbirds
Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill. One named Jack and one named Jill. Fly away Jack, flay away Jill. Come back Jack, come back Jill.
I made felt pieces that I use to do the extra silly verses.
Transition: Those were some silly birds. Can you see what’s on the cover of this book? That’s right – lots of different types of birds. Cardinals, flamingos, swallows. In this book we get to pretend to be a bird and do all the things a bird does.
Book: Hooray for Birds! by Lucy Cousins
And that’s what storytime flow looks like for me! Do you use storytime themes? How do you make your storytime flow? I’d love to discuss in the comments!
Hey, hey, it’s the Flannel Friday round-up! Thanks to everyone who contributed their ideas this week. I am always impressed with your felt skills. Need some felt story inspiration? Check out these lovelies.
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Lauren and Christy from Storytime Out Loud shared a set of heart shaped riddles that are absolutely adorable! You can see their entire set on Instagram or Twitter. What’s even better? These two started a podcast all about storytime!
Kathryn at Fun With Friends at Storytime shared a collection sea creatures that comes with a guessing game! Check out her post to see all five. I love the way she used the blue background to make them pop.
Peter, also known as The Lego Librarian, shared a fantastic version of Stack the Cats by Susie Ghahremani as part of his numbers storytime. Also, his library hack on how to make flannels is going to save me A LOT of time in the future.
Jessica at Storytime in the Stacks made a version of I Lost My Sock! A Matching Mystery by P.J. Roberts; illustrated by Elio. I had never heard of this book before and am excited to check it out!
In anticipation for spring, Jennifer at Adventures in Storytime made a set of “Five Little Robins” to accompany her rhyme. I like how something one person thinks looks “rushed” looks to me like something that would have taken me weeks to make! You rock, Jennifer.
I was on the bird train this week too and shared my felt pieces for the extra verses of “Two Little Blackbirds.” Great for learning opposites with a touch of silliness. And yes I realize the birds are actually blue (I have a black felt board!).
Wendy at Flannel Board Fun shared a St. Patrick’s Day themed version of the classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? I love how big and bright her pieces are!
Thanks to everyone who participated this week! As always:
Check out the official Flannel Friday blog that includes schedules and other important information. This is changing though! Soon Flannel Friday will convert to a Tumblr account where anyone can submit an idea anytime!
Search for images and links on our Pinterest page.
Hello fellow flannel and felt story enthusiasts! I am hosting the Flannel Friday round-up this week! Please leave a comment with a link to your post by Thursday night and I will gather them all together to showcase on Friday.
New to Flannel Friday?
Check out the official Flannel Friday blog that includes schedules and other important information. This is changing though! Soon Flannel Friday will convert to a Tumblr account where anyone can submit an idea anytime!
Search for images and links on our Pinterest page.
I’ve had this flannel set for so long and recently started using it again. It’s been a total hit! I forgot how much the kids love to do this classic fingerplay with the extra verses. Because my felt board is black I made the birds blue so they would stick out more. We sing, “Two little bluebirds…” Aren’t familiar with this rhyme or extra verses? Check out our video first!
Here are the felt pieces I made and the verses I do with them. First I put up all the different objects. Then I bring out the two birds. They always start on the hill. We sing:
Two little bluebirds sitting on a hill One named Jack and one named Jill Fly away Jack, fly away Jill Come back Jack, come back Jill
Then I ask where they should fly next. I let the kids direct the rhyme in that way. Here are the places we go.
Two little bluebirds sitting on a car One named near and one named far Fly away near, fly away far Come back near, come back far (Put one finger near your body and one finger outstretched)
Two little bluebirds sitting on a stick One named slow and one named quick Fly away slow, fly away quick Come back slow, come back quick (Really draw out the slow. The kids love this verse.)
Two little bluebirds sitting on a cup One named down and one named up Fly away down, fly away up Come back down, come back up
Two little bluebirds sitting on a cloud One named quiet and one named loud Fly away quiet, fly away loud Come back quiet, come back loud
Two little bluebirds sitting on a lily One named serious and one named silly Fly away serious, fly away silly Come back serious, come back silly (Make your best serious face for this verse – the kids crack up!)
Holy smokies, folks, am I excited to share today’s guest post! You all know I love me some storytime booklists. Today I am happy to feature guest blogger Kate Davis. Kate is a storytime ninja, global literature fangirl, and agent of early literacy advocacy. She is based in San Diego. And she is here to provide tips on how to select and read picture books in storytime from all around the world. I learned about so many new titles! Do you have a favourite global picture book you share in storytime? Leave a comment letting us know.
Diversity is a mainstay in our culture and is slowly developing a presence in North American children’s literature. While we continue to fight for its presence, we can fill cultural gaps in our storytimes with global picture books that have been translated into English. These amazing publications give us the opportunity to not only help little ones develop an early understanding of diversity, but to peek into unfamiliar cultures through themes they can relate to.
Intentionally selecting global literature to read during storytime can be overwhelming. Doubts on what to choose, how to pronounce unfamiliar words, and how to answer possible questions is enough to send many of us back to our comfortable favorites, but international picture books offer so many fantastic benefits. They prompt conversation and offer variegated sounds, vocabulary and sentence structure. They develop a deeper understanding of creativity and broach unfamiliar themes. Most importantly, they normalize diversity, helping young readers to see and accept it as a natural part of civilization.
Authors and illustrators from every culture incorporate elements of their society’s history, values, and viewpoints into their picture books. Since every culture is different, we have to be aware that picture books, even when translated, can’t possibly translate into our individual sensibilities. We wouldn’t want them to! So as we read them, we need to note cultural markers such as a glass of wine on the dinner table in a book from southern Europe or soldiers with machine guns patrolling a city street in a story from Central America. Such subtle nods to cultural dynamics are eye-opening, even a little surprising to adult readers in North America. It’s important to carefully assess a global book before reading it aloud to ensure that its appropriate for your audience.
Another key difference is that many international picture books do not follow traditional North American formats. They may not adhere to build up-climax-conclusion storylines familiar to U.S. readers. Endings are often abrupt and random, even anticlimactic. While this certainly doesn’t negate the books’ integrity, awareness of it is key when reading aloud. As storytellers, we moderate our voices according to position in a story, so we can use our voices to soften an awkward transition or an abrupt ending. Fortunately, our young listeners aren’t as ingrained in standard formatting as adults are, so they won’t be dissuaded from enjoying a book because the ending doesn’t fit a predefined standard. They will relish the characters, the illustrations and differences that make the book unique.
Some global titles are less culturally specific and therefore may seem more universal in nature, such as those with anthropomorphic creatures. Subtle details, however, in both text and illustration may still convey cultural flavor that can lead to expanding young readers’ perspectives. In strong contrast, however, picture books from some regions, especially third-world countries, reflect the intensity and rawness of daily life; their narratives and illustrations may be considered too harsh for North American readers. Don’t depend on the publisher’s recommended age ranges for such titles–what may be appropriate for a five-year-old in a different part of the world may not be suitable for a five-year-old in North America.
Global picture books are an incredible resource and can truly expand the worlds of the little ones we serve. Illustrations, regardless of country of origin, always bridge cultural gaps while the narratives produce often unexpected themes, quirky details, and enchanting storylines. They’re easy to incorporate into your storytimes for any age and provide for new and stimulating conversation with kids and caretakers alike.
Tips and Tricks for Including Global Picture Books in Your Storytime!
Read your global lit book in advance and really look at the details in all the illustrations. Make sure that everything is appropriate for your storytime age group.
Practice reading your global lit aloud. Get comfortable with its rhythm, any unusual phrasing, and unfamiliar words/names. Don’t worry if your pronunciation isn’t perfect–have fun trying!
Make notes of possible conversation prompts. Is there a different animal in the book than you usually read about? Is the character eating a different kind of food for lunch?
Have a globe next to you during storytime and point out where your library is located and then where the book comes from. Toddlers and preschoolers may have little idea of distance, but you’re helping them develop a foundational awareness of geography.
Encourage your storytime friends to practice saying the author’s and/or the characters’ names. Discuss how the names sound different than names they’re used to hearing. Have fun practicing new sounds and noting how different your mouth feels when you say them.
Don’t stress about it! Remember that you probably already have some favorite international authors, including Marcus Pfister (Switzerland), Mem Fox (Australia), or Jean de Brunhoff (France).
Global Storytime Picture Books
The Fly (Horácek, P. (2015). The fly. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press.) Petr Horácek Czech Republic STEM, humor, novelty, bugs Ages 3-7
Why is the fly always in trouble? All he wants is to do is exercise, visit the cows and eat his meals on time. But no one ever wants him around! In this clever novelty book, Horacek shares an entirely different perspective with readers while subtly sliding in some important facts about flies.
Good Morning, Chick (Ginsburg, M. (1980). Good morning, chick [Tsyplenok]. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.) Text adapted from Tsyplenok by Korney Chukovsky Translated by Mirra Ginsburg Illustrated by Byron Barton Russian Federation Animals, farm, STEM Ages 1-4
The farm is full of adventures for a brand new baby chick! Fun movements, sights and sounds encourage interaction from even the youngest readers as well as introduce early scientific concepts about farm animals. The illustrations beautifully portray the innocence of the chick with bright colors, simple outlines and subtle textures. Perfect read aloud for babies, toddlers and preschoolers alike.
Potty Time (van Genecthen, G. (2001). Potty time. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.) Guido van Genechten Belgium Animals, concepts Ages 2-4
Potty Time tickles toddlers with the unlikely pairing of animals giant and tiny and in between all sitting on Joe’s potty seat. It’s just the right size for Joe, but could it work for everyone else? Each animal is full of personality, from their colors and patterns to their size and speech.
Hippopposites (Coat, J. (2012). Hippopposites. New York, NY: Abrams.) Janik Coat France Opposites, concepts Ages Birth-4
Opposites don’t have to be standard when a clever hippo gets involved! This fun hippo introduces little ones to unconventional counterparts like positive and negative, clear and blurry, and opaque and transparent. Hippopposites is a great conversation starter and a fantastic way to help young readers look at things in a completely different light!
Bubble Trouble (Mahy, M. (2009). Bubble trouble. New York, NY: Clarion Books.) Margaret Mahy Polly Dunbar (illustrator) New Zealand Ages 2-8
Get ready for some bouncy adventures when a bubble floats away and causes some crazy bubble trouble! Through inventive rhymes and an infectious meter, readers young and older will be giggling by the end of the first page!
Guess What? (van Genechten, G. (2012). Guess what?. New York, NY: Clavis Publishing.) Guido van Genechten Belgium Ages 1-4 Concepts, STEM
Lift the flap to see how one thing can look like another. Simple, bright and colorful, Guess What? prompts observation, inquiry, prediction, comparisons, imaginative responses and is a great conversation starter.
Millie and the Big Rescue (Steffensmeier, A. (2012). Millie and the big rescue [Lieselatte versteckt sich]. New York, NY: Walker Books for Young Readers.) Steffensmeier, Alexander Germany Ages 3-8
It makes for a crazy day when all the animals on the farm end up high in the branches of a tree! Fans of Click, Clack, Moo will love Millie and the Big Rescue–zany farm animals never fail to delight!
In the Meadow (Kato, Y. (2011). In the meadow. New York, NY: Enchanted Lion Books.) Yukiko Kato Illustrated by Komako Sakai Japan Ages 3-6
With soft greens, strong contrasts and incredible movement, In the Meadow invites young readers into the cool grasses to feel the tickle of a grasshopper, hear the song of the river and see the flash of a butterfly.
5 Cherries (Facchini, V. (2017). 5 cherries (Anna Celada Trans.). New York, NY: Enchanted Lion Books.) Vittoria Facchini Italy Ages 3-8
Who knew that five red cherries could provide so much inspiration? Two small children imagine an afternoon away by finding inventive and creative uses for their special cherries. Humorous and imaginative, 5 Cherries features incredible artwork and subtle nods to a very difficult subject.
Chirri and Chirra (Doi, K. (2016). Chirri & chirra (Y. Kaneko Trans.). Brooklyn, NY: Enchanted Lion Books.) Kaya Doi Translated by Yuki Kaneko Japan Ages 2-5
As they ride their bikes through the forest, two little girls explore a new world filled with animals, treats, adventures and surprises. The enchanting colored pencil illustrations bring Chirri and Chirra’s world to life through texture, color and pure whimsy.
Grandma goes for a visit, but the forest through which she travels is filled with peril. She’s tiny and frail, but oh so smart. Can she find a way to outwit the danger? This beautiful retelling of a Bengali folktale will have younger readers on the edge of their seats and rooting for Grandma!
Luke and the Little Seed (Ferri, G. (2015). Luke & the little seed. Hong Kong: minedition.) Giuliano Ferri Italy Ages 3-7
When Grandfather gives him seeds for his birthday, Luke is disappointed. But with Grandfather’s a little guidance and a whole lot of patience, Luke discovers just how magical seeds can be.
The Bus Ride (Dubuc, M. (2014). The bus ride [L’autobus] (Y. Ghione Trans.). Tonawanda, NY: Kids Can Press.) Marianne Dubuc France Ages 4-7
Riding a bus all by yourself can be a big adventure. But you’re never alone when there are all kinds of friends to meet and adventures to be had!
On Sunday we had our second Vancouver Library Services for Children Journal Club meeting. Have you heard about the LSC Journal Club? My friend Christie and I started it as a way to promote research-based library service and professional development opportunities for anyone serving children in libraries. In November we discussed executive function and this month we took a look at what counts as an “educational” app. We highly encourage you to start a local group if you’re interested in being research nerds like us!
There are thousands of unregulated apps in the app store categorized as “educational.” Parents and educators have a hard time navigating this marketplace. Can they trust that label?
What does the Science of Learning tell us about how kids learn best? The researchers investigated research that applies to kids ages 0 – 8 years old. Their goals are to guide researchers, educators, and designers in evidence-based app development and to help people like us (library staff) evaluate already existing apps.
They came up with 4 Pillars of Learning that define “educational.” This definition means apps should promote active, engaged, meaningful, and socially interactive learning.
Science of Learning
This is an amalgamated research area that takes different learning theories and draws similarities between them. It is relatively new, about 20 years old.
It includes research from a variety of fields – psychology, linguistics, computer science, animal behaviour, machine learning, brain imaging, neurobiology, etc.
It seeks to know HOW children learn not WHAT we should teach children. More about the process, less about the content. Strives to identify strategies kids can use to think flexibly and creatively in the future.
Views kids as active learners, not vessels to be filled with knowledge. Takes its cue from Piaget who called children “little scientists.”
From there the article goes into depth for each of the four pillars of learning looking at what the Science of Learning says about them, what television research says, and how we can apply this knowledge to apps. At our meeting we broke up into groups and each group wrote down the key points for each of the four pillars before sharing with the whole group. Here are our notes:
Pillar #1: Active Learning
Pillar #2: Engagement in the Learning Process
Pillar #3: Meaningful Learning
Pillar #4: Social Interaction
The article then talks about what I call Secret Pillar #5: Scaffolded Exploration Toward a Learning Goal. It states:
Apps need a context for learning. They should promote exploration toward a learning goal.
Adults can play a supportive role in guiding play to lead to the best overall learning outcomes. A halfway point between complete free play and direct instruction.
Apps can provide scaffolding options such as providing background knowledge, offering more or less challenging levels, or by responding to individual children’s needs.
The article evaluates an app called Alien Assignment and discusses how the four pillars hold up. We were able to download the app to view it but the sound didn’t work on the iPad we had as it is an older app. It’s interesting to note that the developer is the Fred Rogers Center who came out with a position statement in in 2012 in conjunction with NAEYC that states, “when used intentionally and appropriately, technology and interactive media are effective tools to support learning and development.” So it’s not surprised their app is pretty great.
We ended our meeting by talking about the following discussion questions:
Do all apps need to be “educational” for us to recommend them to caregivers?
How can we apply these guidelines to our work with children in libraries?
How does this research compare to other research, position statements, and app rubrics that have been developed?
We all agreed that the four pillars are a good tool to use when evaluating apps for educational content. We can look at the apps on the anchored iPads in our children’s area, on our website, and on our bookmarks to see if they hold up to the “very deep” learning category. While the majority of the apps we select for these things should be educational we also discussed the merits of other “playful” apps such as the Toca Boca apps. We still think it is worth including some of those types of apps as caregivers and kids often use them in unintended ways that foster learning. Having the four pillars in our minds when talking to caregivers is a great tool we can use to guide these conversations. One of members, Kate, came up with an acronym and mental image to help her remember the four pillars. It’s called M.E.A.L.S. She says, “Choosing Apps: Are You Serving Your Child Balanced M.E.A.L.S?” Meaningful, Engaging, Active, Learning Goals, and Social Interaction.
We also talked about how it is common for caregivers to set their child down in front of the iPads in the children’s library and leave them there unattended or without engaging with them. Parents wanting or needing a break and using technology as a babysitter, while alarming to some, is not something we as library staff can solve or regulate in our spaces. We discussed how we provide the technology to help bridge the digital divide and we can encourage joint media engagement through our signage and handouts and conversations with caregivers. The research from this article is further evidence that caregiver participation in media is essential for learning, especially with young children.