On the morning of December 25, I watched my husband and 23 month old daughter play on the floor. “Look at the cow,” he said, “What does it say? It says, Mooooooo!” He continued with a silly bellow. Our daughter giggled and touched the cow.
“Okay, now you turn the page like this,” and he took her finger and used it to gently swipe the screen to turn the “page” on the book we had downloaded to the tablet.
Once they were done reading the eBook, they moved on to a game app he had downloaded earlier. The game had them building a train and loading things on it as they traveled through the countryside. Each step of the game, my husband imparted words and sounds--Goat “baaaa”, Fast “zoooom”, Stop!--to the actions and things on the screens. He interacted with the screen contents to reinforce the message. Our daughter would repeat what he said. It was an early literacy experience they were sharing together.
A lot of the concern about “screen time” and young children focuses on the issue of the child being left alone with the technology; that there is no adult there to help navigate and mediate the experience--and it is a valid, research-backed concern.
But the reality for this Virtual Librarian is: just as I wouldn’t expect my daughter to get a learning experience out of being left alone with a print book, I also don’t expect her to get a learning experience out of being left alone with a tablet or eReader. If my child is going to learn early literacy skills, she needs people already able to read there to help her.
Tablets and eReaders don’t take away the teaching role of the adult with regard to early literacy skills, rather they are another tool. And the bonus is, as we embrace the GLAR skills we also begin the process of teaching our toddlers about responsible interaction with technology.
So as you read your books or play your games on your new tablets, smart phones, and eReaders, invite your future reader over and go over the Early Literacy Skills with them:
Story – Narrate what is happening on the screen. “Look at that little guy. He’s walking to the tree. What is he doing to the tree?”
Sounds – Add effects to the characters there. Did a gem drop in the game? Why not say, “The Red Gem went down and went BOOM! Let’s point to the Red Gem.”
Books – Download books from the PLS OverDrive collection for children. Share your favorites.
Direction – Left / Right, Top / Bottom you can even work in On and Off when it comes time to stop.
Words and Letters – Name things, give them an identity. If you download a specific app for learning, sit with the child and walk through the process.
Adri Edwards-Johnson, MLIS, PLS Virtual Librarian