Last year we received a grant from the Family Learning Initiative Endowment Fund. These funds are made possible by a partnership from the Halifax Youth Foundation, the Department of Human Resources & Social Development Canada, and the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education. The intent is to foster learning within the family –not just for children, but also for their adults. Goals include engaging families through positive literacy interactions, enhance a parent’s ability to support their child’s learning, and to promote collaboration.
The basic structure of our Tablet Time was to offer 4 sessions of personal, hands-on time with our set of 6 iPads loaded with Early Literacy apps, couched in a traditional storytime setting with a take-home literacy craft. We shared books and crafts, had a snack, and then explored an app. Each session paired a book with an app, which the child and parent explored together. Once they tried the featured app, they had time to explore the other learning apps on the iPads.
We had 25 families attend the program in 5 of our library branches. (Each session was limited to 6 families.) The children that attended were between the ages of 2-7. Nearly all of the families that attended own a home computer; 15 own a tablet and 11 own a Smartphone. 16 of the families currently use apps with their children; many reported wanting to find out more about educational and fun apps and less “Angry Birds” type apps.
From our “exit” surveys (14 returned) we learned that 12 of the families now feel more comfortable with using tablets with their children, and 7 of the families have downloaded some of the apps we used in the program. Several parents reported that their child’s alphabet knowledge increased, and most reported that their children really enjoyed the program.
This was a pilot project for us, and we did learn some things. When we advertised the program simply as “Tablet Time”, we had fewer attendees. When we changed the name to “Milk and Cookies Tablet Time”, attendance increased. This change also coincided with an improvement in the weather, so we are not absolutely positive that the cookies made a difference! Nearly every family that attended remarked that they would like more time with the iPads, and as a result, we are holding drop-in “APPy Hour” programs in some of our branches this summer.
We will continue to look for quality apps to share with parents and children, and we keep lists of apps that we install on our iPads on our Pinterest boards—for kids, and for older kids. Check your local library’s calendar of events and see if there’s an APPy Hour close to you!
-Angela J. Reynolds, Head of Youth Services