Showing posts with label digital media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label digital media. Show all posts

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes (ages 10-14)

As we celebrate Black History Month, we must honor those who struggled, raising their voices to call for change. Fannie Lou Hamer was an iconic Civil Rights leader who led voting drives throughout the South and co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Carole Boston Weatherford chronicles Hamer's life and struggles in the powerful picture book Voice of Freedom. This is an essential book to share--not an easy one to read, but an essential one to share with older children.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, narrated by Janina Edwards
Candlewick, 2015 // Dreamscape Media, 2017
2016 Caldecott Honor award, 2016 Robert F. Sibert Honor award and the 2016 John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award Winner
ages 10-14
Reading Voice of Freedom is like walking beside Fannie Lou Hamer on her hard journey. Even as a child in Mississippi, the daughter of sharecroppers who could barely make enough money to feed their family, Fannie Lou Hamer was keenly aware that the system around her was unjust:
"Black people work so hard, and we ain't got nothin'
to show for it,
I told anyone who would listen.
Sharecropping was just slavery by a gentler name."
"I was just six when I dragged
my first bag down a row of cotton."
We learn that Fannie Lou's hardships continued, and see her political awareness evolve when voting-rights activists came to Mississippi. Weatherford directly addresses harsh elements of life Hamer experienced under Jim Crow laws, such as her forced sterilization under a Mississippi law.

Conversational, free-verse text lends itself to animated adaptation. Janina Edward's narration embodies Hamer's powerful voice with depth and resonance. I watched this through my public library's Hoopla platform, and look forward to sharing this with my students.

Hamer's fierce determination to fight for equal rights survived and thrived, and this power shines through majestically in Weatherford's rich poetic text. Throughout her life, Hamer refused to give up hope. She faced many brutal hardships, which Weatherford describes with candor. This is not an easy book to read, but one that we must share with older children.

Ekua Holmes won the 2017 Caldecott Honor Award for her stunning, majestic illustrations. Multimedia collages capture Hamer's strength and struggles using both abstract and realistic elements.

Reading this book filled me with anger at the violence and bigotry that Fannie Lou Hamer faced, but it also inspired me to keep raising my voice, adding it to the persistent call for change.

Illustrations copyright ©2017 Ekua Holmes, shared by permission of the publisher. The review copy came from my public library, accessed through Hoopla Digital. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Newsela: Engaging news stories for kids, with adjustable reading levels (ages 8-14)

Splashy news headlines can grab our attention, but it's crucial that we engage kids with deeper thinking about current events. Whether it's prompting dinner-table discussions or classroom debates, current events provide so many avenues for kids to question, think and discover. One of my favorite sources is Newsela. Here are my top 5 reasons why I recommend Newsela for kids, teachers and families:

1. Engaging content, easy to search

Newsela consistently engages kids with its content. They have a terrific sense of what kids will be interested in and yet they never underestimate kids' ability to think about big issues. They balance fun articles (Jedi lightsaber exercise class) with hard-hitting news (Flint, Michigan water pollution crisis). And they use great photos to draw kids in.

It's easy to search for specific topics or browse general interest areas--and this encourages kids to figure out what interests them, to discover the news that matters. I also love that there's a dedicated site for elementary kids, recognizing that some articles are better for younger kids than others.
screenshot of "latest news" from Newsela 1.22.15
2. Adjustable reading levels for every article

Kids can select the right reading level for them, adjusting the article with an easy click. Nonfiction is harder for many kids to read, especially current events about topics that are new to them. Newsela lets kids read an article at an easier level, with simpler sentences and less complicated vocabulary. They can read, change the level and re-read the same article. Kids with different reading levels can read and discuss the same article but at a level just right for each kid.
Kids can easily adjust the reading level
3. Easy ways to personalize & save content

We all like personalizing our reading experience. Kids sign up for free Newsela accounts--at school, I recommend that they use their school Google account to automatically sign in.  Newsela lets readers mark which articles they like and recommends other articles on a similar subject.

Teachers love the annotation features. Kids can highlight and annotate articles, saving their thoughts for later. This makes it great for prompting deeper thinking, discussions and further writing about articles. This feature promotes active reading, helping kids focus on main ideas and engage with the material. It's so easy to use that I have found kids enjoy it.
annotations made with a 5th grade class
4. Quizzes help kids check understanding

While I am not a fan of multiple-choice quizzes, I actually think these quizzes help kids check their understanding of the article. They also let kids practice taking this type of quiz in a low-stress environment. This helps them practice just the sorts of questions that will be on state tests, but helps them keep a growth mindset--noticing how they get better as they practice more.

5. Text sets encourage kids to broaden thinking

I love the way that Newsela editors are creating text sets to encourage kids to read more broadly. Some recent examples include text sets on animal ethics, bullying, and pollution. Teachers will especially like the PRO/CON text set to support students' persuasive writing.

Newsela App

And now, it's even easier to use at home with your mobile device--Newsela has just released its app for iPads and iPhones. See this Newsela blog article for more information. I've only just started testing this, but I like it already. It's easy to check the most recent news, and it's also easy to search for specific topics. I love the way readers can easily change the reading level on the app -- very well designed.
If you're looking for a way to engage kids with the news, definitely check out Newsela. I'd recommend the Newsela Elementary site for grades 3-5, and the regular site for grades 6 and up. I have only used the free site, and I hope that it continues to provide robust access for general free users.

We use both the free and PRO site in our school district. My daughter's 6th grade teacher uses the PRO subscription site and really likes the additional data he gathers. For families and many classrooms, the free site is a terrific resource. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Online Resources: exploring Japanese Americans' experiences during World War II (ages 8 and up)

As a school librarian, I want to find many ways to engage young children in exploring the world around them. Sometimes that comes from sharing a picture book or novel, and other times it might be helping them explore online resources. Recently I have been very moved by historical fiction about the experience of Japanese Americans during World War II, as they were forced from their homes following Executive Order 9066. Today I would like to share some online resources to help children learn more about these experiences.

The Remembrance Project is an initiative developed by the Japanese American National Museum which I highly recommend. As its website states, the Remembrance Project is
"a pioneering effort to build a permanent “living museum” online featuring the stories of those whose lives were forever changed by the signing of Executive Order 9066 by President Roosevelt on February 19, 1942, which instigated indignities and injustices for over 285,000 people of Japanese ancestry residing in the U.S. and abroad."
This introductory video featuring George Takei sets the stage for learning about the way Japanese Americans were treated here in America during World War II and the mission of the Remembrance Project. A short video like this helps children start building visual images to use in their understanding of historical events.


The Remembrance Project starts with a short introduction to Executive Order 9066, but students will be most interested in exploring pictures, memories and descriptions of the prison camps and people who lived through this ordeal. For example, I really wanted to learn about Minidoka Camp in Idaho, because Kirby Larson set part of her novel Dash in that camp. Tomorrow I will share more about this moving novel, but I want to start off by sharing these resources.
Students preparing to plant rye between classroom barrack buildings. Minidoka, ID. National Archives and Records Administration via the Remembrance Project
I especially like how easy it is to browse through the Remembrance Project, discovering information, photographs and primary source materials. This site will bring home for children how this is living history for many families, whether grandparents or great-grandparents had to go through this terrible experience.

For even more resource, check out the National Park Service website about the Japanese American Experience. This includes links to three National Park Service website as well as six other sites that children and families will find interesting.


I am very excited to share Dash by Kirby Larson with my students next week. I can't wait until Tuesday, August 26th, when it is released! Come back to my site on Tuesday for a full review (and giveaways!). In the meantime, here is the publisher's summary:
Although Mitsi Kashino and her family are swept up in the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mitsi never expects to lose her home--or her beloved dog, Dash. But, as World War II rages and people of Japanese descent are forced into incarceration camps, Mitsi is separated from Dash, her classmates, and life as she knows it. The camp is a crowded and unfamiliar place, whose dusty floors, seemingly endless lines, and barbed wire fences begin to unravel the strong Kashino family ties. With the help of a friendly neighbor back home, Mitsi remains connected to Dash in spite of the hard times, holding on to the hope that the war will end soon and life will return to normal. Though they've lost their home, will the Kashino family also lose their sense of family? And will Mitsi and Dash ever be reunited?
If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reading Online: How will it affect developing readers?

I read with interest a recent New Yorker article, Being a Better Online Reader by Maria Konnikova, and I would love to explore my thoughts on this article. We all are reading much more online than we did ten years ago, but how is this affecting the way young children are developing as readers? How is this affecting the way teachers and librarians help students learn to read, discover a love of reading, and develop their critical thinking skills?

Over the past several years, I have observed these changes:
  • most adults read for work online -- mainly on desktop or laptop computers
  • many adults read for pleasure using digital devices, like the iPad, Kindle or Nook
  • most children (ages 7-12) read primarily print books when reading for pleasure or school
  • students are learning to research online, starting at about age 8-9
  • standardized tests are shifting to online assessments
I feel very strongly that if we are going to start assessing students online, then we need to provide specific experiences and instruction for reading online. Explicit instruction is crucial -- it is unfair to assume that our children are "digital natives" and learn through osmosis how to read online. If we make those assumptions, we will simply reinforce the digital divide that is created by unequal opportunities and access.

Konnikova points out that the way we read online is different than the way we read in print. She steers clear of passing judgment, but rather ponders how this affects the way we acquire knowledge. Konnikova writes,
On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.
I would argue that this skimming is an essential skill for coping with the huge amount of information we have to sift through online. We need to teach our students how we skim effectively. But we also need to talk with them about strategies for when we discover a nugget -- how we need to consciously slow down to digest the information.

Later, Konnikova looks at research that has explored this point -- that we need to teach our students explicit online reading skills:
Julie Coiro, who studies digital reading comprehension in elementary- and middle-school students at the University of Rhode Island, has found that good reading in print doesn’t necessarily translate to good reading on-screen. The students do not only differ in their abilities and preferences; they also need different sorts of training to excel at each medium. The online world, she argues, may require students to exercise much greater self-control than a physical book.
I have noticed this with my own daughter, whose high school is now one-to-one iPad. She likes reading her English texts online because she can annotate them well, but she prefers to read in print if she is just absorbing and enjoying a book.

Schools must specifically teach students in 4th grade and above how to apply their reading skills to digital reading. Starting in elementary school, they need to practice researching online and teachers need to talk about how this might be different from reading a print book. It is essential that our schools invest in technologies, so that teachers and students can learn these skills. But I would also argue that it's essential for schools to invest in librarians who understand this intersection between reading, information and digital experiences.

Adults often ask me if kids will continue reading print books. I believe the answer is absolutely yes. First of all, there's access and quantity issues. Children in first through third grade need to read 10-20 short books every week. They want to browse through physical copies. Schools, libraries and families need access to inexpensive paperbacks. Even highly digital affluent families are reluctant to continue purchasing ebooks at this rate.

I would also argue that there is something more tangible, more comforting, more reassuring for young kids holding print books. Konnikova quotes Maryann Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid, as saying “Physical, tangible books give children a lot of time." Young children need that time. Families need that time.

It is interesting that I read this article online, following a link suggested by KQED's Mindshift blog. But I returned to it several times, reading it in different chunks, rereading it, skimming it again. This type of repeated reading might be what our students need to get comfortable doing, taking the time to dive into ideas and ponder them.

As you watch your children and your students, are you noticing that they are reading digitally more than they were a few years ago? Is the way they are reading changing? The digital world certainly brings more opportunities within easy reach for many students, but how are we preparing them to take advantage of those opportunities?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Common Core IRL: Digital Resources for students studying Colonial America

As a school librarian, an essential part of my role is curating resources: selecting, organizing and sharing information. It can be overwhelming for students and teachers to search for good information; the size and scope of the Internet makes this all the more true.


As we have seen with the Common Core IRL project, print resources are not necessarily plentiful on the American Colonies. Digital resources are an essential tool for students.

I created the following Google Doc to share digital resources with our students (you may copy and share the Google Doc using this link). 


To make this document easily findable, I created a visual link on our library catalog, Destiny. You can explore the visual links in our catalog by going to http://library.berkeley.net/ and selecting any of the elementary schools. Click on the Visual search tab on the right. The Emerson catalog looks like this:


Within the History collection, you'll find different types of curated resources: books and encyclopedia articles, websites, maps and more. Keeping these links on the library catalog has many advantages. First of all, it's an easily findable place for students and teachers. In addition, we are training our community that the library is a central hub for information resources. Finally, we can hold onto these resources for teachers to use year after year.

These resources are an essential part of the Common Core standards for both reading informational text and writing. As students delve into these digital resources, they will need to read and identify the main point of a paragraph, page or article. ELA Common Core standard RI.5.1 states 5th grade students will "determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text." This is essential when reading websites.

How are you sharing digital resources with elementary students? Are you finding that they are able to read and digest them? Or are they surfing through them, without finding key information?

I am excited to read about other resources my colleagues have found in their search: Common Core IRL -- In Real Libraries. This week, we are excited to share:
If you are going to be at the American Library Association's annual conference later this month in Las Vegas, we hope you can come to our presentation on the Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries. Here are the details:
Common Core IRL: In Real Libraries
ALA Annual Conference
WHEN: Sunday, June 29, 2014 - 10:30am to 11:30am
LOCATION: Las Vegas Convention Center, S228
Hope to see folks there!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Celebrating Earth Day: Developing an understanding of ecosystems & endangered species (ages 7-12)

I have always been fascinated by the interdependence of species within an ecosystem. As we celebrate Earth Day with our students, I want to highlight two books that help children understand the complex interdependence within ecosystems and our role in help ensure their sustainability. There are no easy answers, but we must help our children understand the factors at play.
When the Wolves Returned
Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone
by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent
photographs by Dan Hartman and Cassie Hartman
Walker & Co., 2008
Your local library
Amazon
ages 9-12
Dorothy Hinshaw Patent explains in clear text the changes that have come about in Yellowstone after the reintroduction of the gray wolf population. The Hartmans' photographs are bold and compelling, illustrating the environment and range of animals that live in this complex ecosystem. The design of this book makes it particularly successful for 4th through 6th graders interested in reading about more complex issues, but without lengthy text. The photographs always take center stage, but the text provides depth and understanding.
Can We Save the Tiger?
by Martin Jenkins
illustrated by Vicky White
Candlewick, 2011
Your local library
Amazon
ages 7-11
Using straightforward but compelling language, Jenkins starts by introducing the concept of what makes animals extinct.
"Some of the other animals and plants that we share the Earth with have coped with the changes very well. But some haven't. In fact, some have coped so badly that they're not here any more. They're extinct. This means we'll never see a live dodo... or a Steller's sea cow, or a marsupial wolf, or a great auk..." (pp. 6-8) 
With clear writing, an almost conversational tone, and large print size, this book makes a great choice for 3rd through 5th graders reading nonfiction on their own. Jenkins next turns to species that are barely hanging on: tigers, Asian elephants, sloth bears and the partula snail. He helps children understand the pressure that humans put on large animals like the tiger, who need plenty of room and prey for hunting. Fierce tigers usually eat deer and other wild animals, but when human developments spread into tigers' territory, conflicts arise.

These environmental issues are complex and still hotly debated. Just last month, the New York Times ran a passionate, thoughtful piece in the op-ed section called "Is the Wolf a Real American Hero?" I would point interested students to a range of resources on the subject, so they can see the complexities and the biases involved. In particular, I found these interesting:
Text to Text: 
Is the Wolf a Real American Hero?
and
Hunting Habits of Wolves Change Ecological Balance in Yellowstone
New York Times: The Learning Network
Wolves at the Door
Audio & reporting by Nathan Rott
Photography by David Gilkey
National Public Radio
After Major Comeback, Is the Gray Wolf Still Endangered?
by Elizabeth Shogren
National Public Radio
Wolf Restoration
Yellowstone National Park
National Park Services
The review copies came from our school library. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Emerson's Museum of Amazing Women, Part 3

Women's History Month inspires kids in so many different ways. Here are two modern women that our kids look up to: author Jennifer Holm, and soccer star Alex Morgan. Each of these women gives the message to all our kids: you can follow your dreams and become whoever you want to be.

Emily had a lot of fun making an Animoto about her favorite author Jennifer Holm. Many of our students love Holm's Babymouse series (did you know Happy Birthday, Babymouse comes out in 3 weeks?!), but Emily also gives a shout-out for Turtle in Paradise, Holm's novel set in 1930s Key West.
Madeline honors Alex Morgan, an American soccer player and Olympic gold medalist. Madeline was so excited to try out using Animoto -- and I'm really excited to learn about a new sport hero our girls admire.
I just learned that Alex Morgan is writing a new series perfect for kids in 4th through 6th grade:
Booklist writes of the first Kicks installment, Saving the Team:
U.S. women’s soccer team player and Olympic medalist Morgan’s enthusiasm for the game is evident throughout this light and lively contemporary read. Though there are some predictable story elements, Devin is an appealing protagonist whose peppy first-person narrative incorporates abundant soccer details, along with familiar themes of making friends and the value of teamwork.
Stay tuned for my Animoto showing all the great posters that students have made. Thanks very much for celebrating Women's History Month with Emerson students!

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Emerson's Museum of Amazing Women, Part 2

Here are two more great projects celebrating women that our students admire -- both have strong roots in the Bay Area as well as national garden movement.

Kaiyah honors her mom, Kelly Carlisle, founder of Acta Non Verba, a youth urban farm project in East Oakland. Kaiyah was particularly excited to try out using Animoto, and she did a terrific job combining bold text and pictures. Watch her Animoto by clicking through:
Bella honors Alice Waters, chef and activist. Our students at Emerson have loved having a school garden, a project that Waters has been particularly instrumental in spreading throughout the Berkeley schools.


Did you notice how Bella included her photo credits on the last slide? This made my librarian heart smile -- here's a student really incorporating Digital Citizenship lessons. Hooray!

These are the first digital projects that these students have done. I love how they've ventured into this new way of presenting information. If you have a chance, they would love to hear what you think about their projects. Leave a comment below if you can!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Emerson Museum of Amazing Women 2014, Part 1

Emerson students have been so excited to share their projects on amazing women. I just love the way they're celebrating women who inspire them. Over the next week, I'd like to share several projects.

Orion was inspired by learning about Jane Goodall, through the Jane Goodall Institute and Patrick McDonnel's wonderful book Me, Jane. He worked with his parents to create a wonderful Animoto
-- click through to watch it.

Mykeia created a Google Presentation about Fantasia Bronno, an amazing winner of American Idol.

One of the things I've loved about this project is how excited the kids are to find out about these women and share their information in new and interesting ways. Because it isn't a required project, it's more fun to do! And, they've learned great presentation skills, while having fun.

If you see any projects that you like, it would mean a whole lot to our Emerson students if you left a quick note. Thanks so much learning about these great women --

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Love, The App -- winner of the BolognaRagazzi Digital Awards, 2014

Today, I'd like to share a guest review by Emily S., age 10, also known as my youngest daughter. This week, she read Love, The App, winner of the 2014 BolognaRagazzi Digital Award for fiction.
Love, The App
developed by Niño Studio
based on the book by Gian Berto Vanni
ages 6-12
review by Emily S., age 10
I just read the book app Love and I think that it is amazing. Why I think that because I love how the company that made the app have a lot of interactive features but not too much interactive items that the reader wouldn’t get distracted from the book.

This book app is about a girl who gets taken to an orphanage because her parents left and she has no relatives. And when she goes to the orphanage none of the other kids play with her just because she is ugly. But one day the manager of the orphanage almost kicks her out of the orphanage.
She didn't have any relatives.
I also really like the layout of this book app especially because of the transitions. Why I love the transitions of this book app is because you have to figure out how to turn the page, you don’t just swipe your finger and it turns the the page, you have to tap certain objects or you have to swipe the flaps in.

I think that the moral of the story is that even if someone looks different it doesn’t mean that they don’t have a kind heart or that they don’t deserve friends. And that you should always treat people the way you want to be treated.

In conclusion I think Love is a great book app because it is a great story,it has interactive features, and it has a great moral too. This book app is great for all ages (even grownups!). Why this book is for all ages is because it is heartfelt, interactive, and it has a great story structure.

Do you want to learn more? Watch this video trailer:

Thanks, Emily! I really enjoyed hearing your thoughts on this. It's especially interesting how much you enjoyed having to "figure out how to turn the page". I agree that the moral of the story really shines through in this story.

The review copy of the app came from our home library. We purchased it after reading about the BolognaRagazzi Digital Awards in the excellent journal Children's Technology Review.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Friday, March 14, 2014

Digital projects to celebrate Emerson's Museum of Amazing Women

Emerson students are having so much fun creating projects to celebrate amazing women this month. Some are researching pop stars, others are celebrating their mothers or teachers. I'm excited to share two digital ways to create projects.
Animoto is an easy-to-use online video creation site that you can use to create short, dynamic slide shows. Kids love the music and movement. I love that you can add just a few words with the images to really communicate your ideas. Plus, it's free (for short videos)!

Here's an Animoto I created to celebrate Gabby Douglas, Olympic champion:



Our 4th and 5th graders are also learning how to use their school Google accounts, and some are taking the challenge to create a Google Presentation. Again, they love using images! For many kids, this is much easier than creating a poster board.

Here's an example I created about Jane Goodall. I really tried to show the kids how one simple picture with a short caption can communicate a lot of what you admire about a person. We talk about how this presentation doesn't have much of a conclusion, that I could have put in more of my own ideas.



I'm excited to see what projects the students create! Are your students creating anything using new digital tools that they love? There are so many to choose from!!

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Finding great resources: Using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 6)

Just look at these kids on the computer--they are totally engaged in doing an activity together. I want to help create situations like this. But it isn't just a matter of putting a computer in front of kids. You need to bring the right media experience as well.

Children at school, Lucélia Ribeiro, Flickr
Technology is changing so quickly that it’s hard to figure out what’s engaging and what is just a marketing drive from another tech company. Parents and educators face a huge array of digital media claiming to be the next best thing.

My first advice is to listen to friends and family--get their recommendations about quality books, apps and sites. Talk with other parents about how they navigate this digital world with their kids.

Also listen to kids--they love talking about their favorite new websites and games. Ask them about what they find really engaging. Talk about the difference between mindless fun and problem-solving, creative games. See what they recommend and think is really interesting.

Look to Children’s Technology Review to learn about a range of different media, from digital games to apps. I value their thoughtful analysis and focused reviews.

Also check out Common Sense Media for a range of different media reviews. The excellent design of this site lets me find exactly what I'm looking for, from reviews of current movies and video games to their take on different websites for specific ages. For example, here's my search on math sites for ages 6-9. Each website review includes an age recommendation, quality rating, learning rating, and a short review focused on what parents need to know.

Definitely check out Great Websites for Kids, put together by the American Library Association. I especially like the way this site is organized into different topics kids might be interested in: animals, the arts, history, literature, math, science, social sciences and general reference.

I've really enjoyed the blog Little eLit, which shares many creative ways to engage kids with digital literacy, especially in the library. The Fred Rogers Center consistently puts out interesting articles on young children and media -- a recent blog post focused specifically on Technology and Family Life.

Are there any sites that help you find great digital media to use with your children? This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Creating together: using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 5)

Photographing nature, via USDA, Flikr
Kids love to create, whether it’s digging in the sandbox, making a paper collage, or creating a digital calendar. Think about how your kids can use digital cameras or mobile devices to create their own media. Take this example from Let’sPlay. Look for an old digital camera or flip-style video camera.
Take (digital cameras) to the park with you and put them in your child's hands—or on their helmet, firmly secured with duct tape. There's something about being able to document their own footage that brings out the adventurer/daredevil in kids. That's a recipe for awesome—and YouTube bragging rights at school.
Older children love creating their own mashups, learning how to digitally edit photos. This sort of active screen time is far different than passively watching TV.

One of our favorite apps is Toontastic (free with in-app purchase of puppet sets, or $19.99 for an all-access pass), created by Bay Area startup Launchpad Toys. This app encourages kids to create their own animated stories. It guides young users through breaking down a story into five basic steps, then adding cartoon scenes, music and characters along the way. You narrate the scene while moving characters with your fingers. Kids absolutely love it, and there’s a great guide to help parents, encouraging collaborative play between grownups and kids.

I love the way Jennifer Reed, a dynamic school librarian, is using an online story creating site Storybird with her 5th graders. She's showing great examples of "hooks" and stories her students have created. These kids are completely engaged in the creative writing process, in large part because they get to use digital media to publish their final products.

As you think about digital media, think about the way children are engaging. Are they passively consuming media, or are they creating something while they use it? I've seen kids learn essential digital skills while doing something as fun as creating a birthday invitation on the computer. What can be better than learning through play? Our role as parents is to create these opportunities, think outside the box and see what creative ways we can engage our kids while introducing them to new media.

This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Playing together: Using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 4)

Video games can provide great opportunities for parents and kids to play together. Seek out creative, engaging experiences to play together. Today’s parents grew up with video games--seek out games you like to play together.

iPad family game time, via Tim Wilson, Flickr
Alex B., father of four in Berkeley, describes the fun he has playing Minecraft with his 8-year-old daughter Gabriella:
“We have some worlds we build together, and some we each build on our own. When she’s in her world, she has the whole box of Minecraft toys to play with. When we’re in our world together, we collaborate and build the world we both want to explore.”
Gabriella first heard about Minecraft from a friend and needed help from her dad to figure out how to play. When he realized the fun they could have together, Alex joined her in creating a world together: “It’s about imagination, creativity and design.”

At our school library, kids have a great time playing iPad math and physics games together. Interactive math games like Hungry Fish or Operation Math become a fun social learning experience for two or three children doing it together. Simple Physics is a great partner game, as kids work together to build tree forts, bridges and stairs.

When you’re looking for digital media, don’t just replicate offline activities. Try to use new tools to make learning fun. Arcademic Skill Builders is popular at our school because this helps children practice their math facts in a fun, game environment, instead of just using flashcards.

Above all, I've found that kids love playing with digital media together, making their learning and gaming social.

This week, I'm exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I'll share my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

eBooks through public libraries: Using eBooks and digital media with young children (Part 3)

Do you like reading ebooks? Did you know you can borrow them for free from your public library? Our local public libraries are expanding their digital collections, and it’s getting easier and easier to load these onto your own mobile device.

This is a constantly changing field. My best advice is to check out your local library’s website and to ask your librarian for advice. Here’s a sampling from our local public libraries in the Bay Area:

San Francisco Public Library offers digital books for kids and adults through their Axis 360 and Overdrive platforms. Over 3,000 children’s fiction titles are available through Axis 360, many with text-to-speech capabilities. Overdrive features digital audiobooks and ebooks. SFPL has over 2,500 children’s fiction titles in their Overdrive collection. Any California resident may apply for a library card from SFPL and check out digital books.

Oakland Public Library also offers digital media, including ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and music, which library cardholders can download. The Oakland Library has over 1,500 fiction titles for children through Overdrive, which can be read on a Kindle, iPad, Nook, mobile phone and computer. Oakland card holders can also download three songs a week using the Freegal site, which provides access to Sony Music songs.

The Marin County Free Library has an ebook collection through a variety of platforms available for Marin County residents. Overdrive and the 3M Cloud Library are the main sources for downloadable ebooks, but they also have some interactive titles through Axis 360. Marin’s Overdrive account has 800 fiction titles for children and nearly 3,000 for adults.

Need help? Check out the tutorials on the San Francisco Public Library website. These online presentations provide specific information for Kindle, iPad, Android and Nooks. I found them helpful as they led me through the specific steps, one slide at a time. Here's their tutorial on using Overdrive on the iPad:



If you are finding the selection at your local library limited, do try other public libraries in your state. All California libraries will issue a library card to any California resident, whether or not they live in the local area. Other libraries offer digital library membership for a small fee.

This week, I am exploring different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I am sharing my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Monday, February 17, 2014

Reading ebooks together: Using ebooks and digital media with young children (Part 2)

Kindle kids, via Eric Rice, Flikr
Parents are beginning to explore digital reading opportunities with their kids. Everyone has different tastes. The real trick, in my opinion, is to figure out what fits you and your family. Engage in this conversation together. Try different things out. Talk with your kids about what they like. Above all, read together in lots of different ways.

One mom I know keeps a digital book loaded on her phone so she can read aloud to her kids when they’re stuck waiting for an appointment. Digital audiobooks keep your place saved for each time you come back to your book, often syncing between devices as well.

Many children who are beginning to read like increasing the font size on ebooks. One avid young reader said,
“I like it when I can’t see how many pages I have left, especially when I’m reading a really long book.”
A heavy print book can seem intimidating. Reluctant readers find reading on a digital device appealing because their “just right” book looks just the same as everyone else’s book. The built-in dictionary, speech-to-text and audiobook syncing abilities of digital books can be a huge advantage to children struggling to read.

Explore your public library collection of ebooks; these collections are growing every month! You can download books to your smartphone, computer or tablet. Explore your library website or ask for help. I’ve found that the user interfaces of sites like Overdrive and Axis360 are continually improving.

Reading together, via Robyn Jay, Flickr
Consider interactive book apps, especially ones that integrate audio narration, word highlighting and interactive features. Some of my favorites apps available on the iTunes App Store for young children are Bats! Furry Fliers of the Night, Cinderella and Jack & the Beanstalk by Nosy Crow, and The Monster at the End of This Book.

As you read together, talk about what you find interesting, how the story is coming to life in your imagination, what it makes you wonder about.

Read all the parts of this series, Using ebooks and digital media with young children. I'll share my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Using eBooks and digital media with young children (Part 1)

Mobile devices are infiltrating our daily lives. Kids know how smart phones, tablets and computers are ever-present, taking their parents out of the moment as they check email, sports scores or traffic conditions. Parents often wonder if their children have too much screen time, but I would argue that’s the wrong question.

Kobe drawing, via Marcus Kwan, Flickr
As parents, our main job is to help our children develop skills and mindsets they need to engage with the world in productive, satisfying ways. We want our children to actively participate in their world. This is the lens through which I look at digital experiences.
  • How can I help my children discover engaging, interesting experiences online and offline? 
  • How can digital devices add to the mix, helping my children learn and grow?
At the heart of this, parents need to remember that our interactions with our young children are what lead to learning. Whether it’s reading a book, playing a video game or listening to music, we use media as a springboard for learning when we do these activities with our children and talk about what we’re doing.

As Michael Robb, director of the education and research at the Fred Rogers Center says,
“Learning is most likely to occur when children are having warm, language-rich interaction with their adult caregivers.”
eBooks, video games and digital media provide many opportunities for active, engaging experiences, but they can also be used as electronic babysitting. When you’re looking at using media with children, always ask yourself whether it’s encouraging active, imaginative engagement and interactions with adults or peers.

This week, I'd like to explore different aspects of using eBooks and digital media. I'll share my thoughts in six parts:
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this emerging field. What engages your kids? What do you look for when you choose digital media for your children?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books