Oct 31, 2013

Who Better than a Librarian

Image via Henriksent on Flickr Creative Commons
I've been thinking about using apps in storytime a lot. I've been on the fence for awhile. I've been reading the arguments on the list serves, and blog articles online. I was not sure why I was reluctant to join this new library storytime movement, but it made me uncomfortable.

Last week I went to a Growing Wisconsin Readers workshop and the presenter, Gayle Tylka (Early Childhood Response to Intervention Statewide Coordinator and Early Literacy Instructor at Viterbo University), gave me an aha moment. I can't quote directly because the aha did not happen until after she was done with her presentation, but to paraphrase. . .  you as librarians are modeling for young children and families. Your goal is to build a desire in children to want to learn to read.

I am choosing to not use apps and screen time in my storytime sessions. Here is why:

1. American Association of Pediatrics: "Television and other entertainment media should be avoided for infants and children under age 2. A child's brain develops rapidly during these first years, and young children learn best by interacting with people, not screens." 

I strongly agree with this statement. There is a time and place for everything and if we are modelling best practices, then we as librarians should not be including screen time in our toddler storytime sessions at all, period. I live with a medical professional, and I hear his complaints about how people don't listen to doctors and disregard their advice when it conflicts with what they WANT to hear, rather than what they actually hear. Jessica Simpson (cough, cough).

Here is a disturbing statistic for you (also from the AAP): 
Today's children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices. It does go on to say: Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. This part of the statement seems to be where most people who do use apps in storytime get their arguments for their choice. I agree, that as librarians we should be recommending the best web sites and apps, but most people using the apps are tech savvy enough to figure out how to use them for themselves. A list would probably suffice.

AAP Press Release Statement from 2011:
"Parents who watch TV or videos with their child may add to the child’s understanding, but children learn more from live presentations than from televised ones. 

The report recommends that parents and caregivers: 

Set media limits for their children before age 2, bearing in mind that the AAP discourages media use for this age group. Have a strategy for managing electronic media if they choose to engage their children with it; 

  • Instead of screens, opt for supervised independent play for infants and young children during times that a parent cannot sit down and actively engage in play with the child. For example, have the child play with nesting cups on the floor nearby while a parent prepares dinner; 
  • Avoid placing a television set in the child’s bedroom; and 
  • Recognize that their own media use can have a negative effect on children."

The last bullet, really hits the nail on the head. If parents see librarians using apps with children, they are definitely going to think it is okay to be using apps with their children when they are not at the library. 


No really, you can. 

This is my own personal argument, which probably has all of you millennials rolling your eyes at me! I am disturbed by the number of kids and adults at restaurants on devices, in waiting rooms at the doctor's office, or at the grocery store in a cart, I can go on and on. At some point someone has to step up and say, Whoa! You can have fun without an electronic device! Who better, I ask, than a librarian? 

I know that librarians out there rock storytime with their songs, stories, flannel props, puppets and more. I've seen many of them in action.

What librarians do in their storytimes is individual to each librarian, so I am not saying those who use them are WRONG, because hey, if they feel using apps enhances their storytime and helps them get excited about sharing early literacy with families, that's great. I, on the other hand, will be enjoying my screen free storytimes.

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