Canadian Libraries Spotlight: Oakville Public Library

In January we put a call out for Canadian Youth Services Library content, and we have been overjoyed at the response! This post is the fifth in our guest post series highlighting the amazing work being done in Canadian libraries to serve children and families. Join us as guest blogger this week Justine Gerroir, Teen Services Librarian at the Oakville Public Library talks about the Tablet Time program they developed in Oakville!

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The Oakville Public Library is located in Oakville, Ontario and is a suburban community situated west of Toronto with a population of just over 180, 000. Our current library mission is to build community by connecting people and ideas.The Tablet Time program at Oakville Public Library was first conducted in the Fall of 2013 after piloting tablet use in several of our preschool storytimes.

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Tablet Time is a free program for ages 3-5 years that lasts one hour. The first half of the program features a programmer demonstrating various apps and ebook apps to create a fully digital storytime. This program relies on a tablet that is hooked up to our mounted projector with speakers that are plugged in. After the programmer has demonstrated various apps the tablets are distributed to the participants from our bank of ten iPads and for the last half of the program participants are encouraged to explore the stories, rhymes, and activities that the programmer has just demonstrated.

The programmer’s responsibility once the tablets are distributed is to assist with the technology, answer any questions and support navigation through the various apps, databases, and ebooks explored. This aligns with our goal to provide physical access and hands on experience with technology. I should mention that we also meet this goal in our day-to-day service offerings as we make available leap pads and touch screen AWE stations for our young library members at all of our six branches.

Parent and caregiver involvement in early literacy has again and again been cited in relation to academic achievement, success as a reader and of course love of reading. It is our aim to support this in the digital realm. Tablet Time also lends itself to the concept of joint media engagement that supports families having fun, connecting and sharing new learning experiences with technology. During our Tablet Time program we also strive to model appropriate and balanced use of technology: when it is time to put down the device and how to be selective about using it. We know that not all households are going to have access to technology and have a parent/caregiver that can take the time to be a media mentor. As a facilitator of a program that incorporates technology, the main goal is to empower those attending your programs to make impactful decisions and decisions of intent with respect to media with their children. We ask those present to consider what is to be gained by using devices and apps. Is it for entertainment? For educational purposes? Practicing letters and fine motor skills? Caregivers are role models and will have to make informed decisions about best media practices and routines for their children.

Now just a little bit about encouraging active engagement when using technology. As anyone who has conducted a traditional Children’s storytime knows the importance of engaging by dialogical reading, using exaggerated physical gestures, eye contact, repetition, variance in voice. The same should be done in a technology heavy program as well! It is the idea simply put that the human programmer is still in charge despite use of tablets and various media. Technology should never take over or hijack your storytime. The Canadian Paediatric Society encourages a balance of screen time with sports, hobbies, creative and outdoor play, both independently and together as a family. Canadian Paediatric Society also has some great tips for using as take away talking points for parents and caregivers and I would highly encourage their use in a children’s program.

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At Oakville Public Library we currently subscribe to Freegal which I love using in programs not only for the great variety of Wiggles songs but because it also increases awareness of our digital collection. So if I were to use the song “Rockabye Your Bear” by the Wiggles in a program I would let the participants know how to access it as well as articulate the connection to early literacy as you would in any storytime, saying something to the effect of “singing is a great way to learn language and is one of the first steps in developing early literacy.” This aligns with our goal of demonstrating how to critically evaluate digital resources and to encourage our library users to consider the types of questions they should be asking of the digital world. We don’t want parents and caregivers to use an app or a resource just because we said so. We love these apps, we love these digital resources, we love this website but you don’t have to take our word for it. We want our library users to be empowered to choose for themselves and to consider the criteria we used, but also develop their own preferences that work best for them. Speaking of apps, check out Oakville Public Library’s One Big Appy Family App Recommendations and read on for two of our favourites…

My Talking Pet App

Here you will see this is an example of Bartleby the bear who appeared at the beginning of Tablet time. This is actually from an app called My Talking Pet which we adapted for our purposes in Tablet Time and encouraged parents and children to work together and create make their own talking, singing creature. Here we have a clip of a teddy bear coming to life!

Feltboard App by Smoothie

This app serves the same purpose of a physical feltboard but it allows for adaptation, imagination and on the spot improvisation and fits in with our goal of encouraging strong digital literacy skills in children, parents and caregivers in hopes that it will assist in facilitating the creation and remixing of content.

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