Apps and Early Literacy: Tips for Parents and Caregivers

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An "Early Literacy Apps 101" course on choosing and exploring apps with your pre-reader, with recommended free apps and further resources.

Note: all apps within are ad-free, in-app purchases free, and cost-free as of 8/9/17.

  • This is a great presentation. I'm just finishing a blog post on using the Five Practices and Technology . . . and I found your work. Wonderful!
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  • @elloyd74 Thanks for your reply and for your willingness to share your work on this!
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  • Hi, OEYC--you're welcome! As of now, we've just got one iPad for staff use at my library--unless and until that model changes, it's just the facilitator with the iPad. The audience for this presentation in particular is adults-only. Re: screen time: honestly, I don't touch the recommendation, but instead focus on making clear the difference between passive screen-time (setting a kid in front of a TV) and the activity of exploring an app together with your child.
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  • Thank you for sharing these slides! I'm developing some training for our Ontario Early Years Centre staff to use iPads in family programming and this gives me some wonderful ideas. I appreciate the use of ECR2R2 as the backbone; I find it useful with both professionals and families. Do you use one iPad for the facilitator or are there enough for each family to use? How do you address the AAP recommendation of no screen time under two years of age?
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  • Thanks, and your upcoming programs sound great--best of luck with them!
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Apps and Early Literacy: Tips for Parents and Caregivers

  1. 1. Apps and Early Literacy: Tips for parents and caregivers on choosing and exploring apps with pre-readers with recommended free apps and further resources Emily Lloyd, Children’s Librarian
  2. 2. These are the five best things you can do with a child to get him or her ready to read. The five best things you can do with children to get them ready to read
  3. 3. “Not all screens are created equal.” -commonsensemedia.org • Thoughtfully-selected apps can supplement, not replace, the nondigital ways we write, read, play, sing and talk together. • Explore apps with your prereader, as you would explore a book together.
  4. 4. “Not all screens are considered equal.” -- Common Sense Media from JAMA Pediatrics, March 2014 Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH
  5. 5. • plain, clear, highly legible fonts (especially when letter or number recognition is part of the action) • meaningful interactive elements • intuitive wayfinding—not too complicated for children to puzzle through with minimal adult help (content can be challenging; using the app shouldn’t be) and a smooth, fluid user experience • clean, uncluttered display—not distractingly busy
  6. 6. • apps (free or paid) with ads or in-app purchases that aren’t easily ignored or keep popping up • apps in which the primary mission is to gather coins/points/etc to purchase or unlock more features • apps with loud, busy, cluttered displays • apps in which the “interactive elements” are truly bells and whistles, as if added in after the fact • apps that are more video than interactive experience • apps that don’t provide a smooth, fluid user experience (slow or over-quick to respond to touch; too sensitive; etc) • apps with extremely artificial-sounding synthetic voices
  7. 7. (some examples) My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic app • screen too busy for pre-K • main concern is with point/coin/gem accumulation and spending Example: Age-inappropriateness
  8. 8. Examples: Age-inappropriateness
  9. 9. Poor font choice in Alphabet Find (2nd row, lowercase “g”; 3rd row, lowercase “j”) Examples: poor font choice, confusing messages Food Shape Game: is this a circle or an oval?
  10. 10. 1. Disable in-app purchases: 2. Explore it yourself, starting with the settings…
  11. 11. Many apps are customizable, from content to “success sounds”—look for gear icons like these in a corner of the app’s home screen:
  12. 12. Some great free apps to explore as you write, read, play, sing, and talk together… Photo: Tim Wilson
  13. 13. • In “Play Sound Effects” mode, each color has its own sound. In “Music” mode, each has a musical phrase from a different musical genre. • When you draw, the sound or phrase plays until you lift your finger off the screen. • Sounds and music can be turned off during quiet times Write Together with Finger Paint with Sounds ( Android; iOS)
  14. 14. Reading together is the #1 thing you can do to get your child ready to read. Read ebook apps aloud with your child rather than defaulting to the prerecorded option.
  15. 15. Read Together with OnceAppon (iOS only) With OnceAppon, you can create, customize, and name the protagonist of a story that’s generated after you choose from a group of settings, props, and characters. The avatar-builder alone is wonderful, providing more fun and options than most dress-up apps. You can create and save more (an unlimited number?) of avatars and stories, and return to your “library” to read them whenever you choose. The simple plot, told in rhyme, remains constant, but the details are yours to decide.
  16. 16. Read Together with Collins Big Cat: It Was a Cold, Dark Night (iOS only) and I Love Mountains (iOS only) • Collins Big Cat: read the story---then use the backgrounds and characters to make up your OWN stories! • I Love Mountains: This stellar nonfiction ebook app uses interactive elements in a wonderfully meaningful way: to demonstrate the actions of mountains forming.
  17. 17. Through play—whether dressing up, playing house, or solving a puzzle together—children learn how the world works and practice putting thoughts into words. Exploring interactive apps together can supplement (but not replace) other forms of play.
  18. 18. Play Together with Alien Assignment (iOS only) • A fun photo scavenger hunt-like quest with a backstory: aliens need help repairing their ship and other items, and “learn” how to repair them through photos you and your child are prompted to take. • Example: “Our helmet is cracked! Take a photo of something you wear on your head to help us repair it!” • Note: requires iPad with camera. Also available for iPhone.
  19. 19. Play Together with Sock Puppets (iOS only) • Choose from six puppets and several sets and act out and record 30-second scenes • Scenes can be saved for later playback and shared to Facebook or YouTube • Once you record a voice sample, you can set pitches for the puppets. When you act out a scene in your own voice(s), the app will alter your voice according to which puppet you’re using before playback • Don’t know where to start? Record your child singing the ABC song while tapping a different puppet for every few letters, then play it back
  20. 20. Play Together with TinyTap (Android; iOS) TinyTap is a phenomenal app that lets you easily create simple “find and tap” games with your own images and voice. The possibilities for games that grow with your pre-reader seem endless: use a photo of your child and ask her to touch different body parts; use an image of a simple map and ask your child to tap on the river, then the mountain; use a photo of five apples in a row and ask your child to tap the apple on the far left, then the apple on the far right, then the apple in the middle, and so on.
  21. 21. Play Together with Find Them All (Android; iOS) • Find animals by scrolling through a scene and listening to their sounds, then find them again in the dark with a flashlight. • Take pictures of the animals and shake the iPad to turn the pictures into jigsaw puzzles—the more shakes, the more pieces. • Hear each animal’s name in English, Spanish, French, German, and Chinese.
  22. 22. Toca Tailor Fairy Tales (iOS only) includes male and female models and requires pinching, spreading, and turning (not just tapping) maneuvers to lengthen and shorten sleeves, change the colors of items, etc. An excellent feature encourages making custom fabric swatches by using the iPad’s camera to take photos—in the third image above, a photo of piano keys became the “swatch” for the model’s outfit. Play Together with Toca Tailor Fairy Tales
  23. 23. Sing Together with Grow a Reader and Baby Karaoke • Grow a Reader (Android; iOS): made by Calgary Public Library. Geared to parents and caregivers, with tips on writing, reading, playing, singing, and talking together. Includes 25 short videos of different action songs and rhymes. • Baby Karaoke (Android; iOS) presents five songs in video form. Listen to them sung, then sing them together without any vocal accompaniment in “karaoke mode.”
  24. 24. Talk Together with Toca Kitchen Monsters (iOS; try Toca Kitchen for Android) • Action: choose a food and a tool with which to prepare it; prepare it; feed it to the monster. • Name or ask your child to name the foods, tools, and actions while you play to build vocabulary (“Should we boil the broccoli in the pot, or chop and slice it with the knife?”) • Keep up a conversation with your child as you go (“I spy an orange vegetable in the refrigerator! Can you find it? What it’s called? Yep, it’s a carrot! How do we cook carrots at our house?”). Strive for five back-&-forth exchanges.
  25. 25. Talk Together with ChatterPix Kids and Zoomorph (both iOS only) • What would your favorite stuffed animal, pet goldfish, or tree in your front yard say if they could talk? ChatterPix Kids makes it easy to “animate” any photo by drawing a mouth and recording a short monologue. Among other things, try having your child draw a monster or a portrait of someone she knows, then take a photo of the drawing and make it talk. • When your cat looks at your living room (or you!), what does she see? Which animals see the closest to how humans see, and what do we have in common with them? Using scientific data, Zoomorph simulates how ~50 species likely see the world. Includes LOTS of info for the extra-curious who’d like to learn more.
  26. 26. Talk Together with Switch Zoo Free and Collins Big Cat’s In the Garden, Playing, and Around the World (iOS only) • In Switch Zoo Free, while you mix and match animal parts to make new creatures, talk together about the characteristics (use lots of good adjectives!) of the different animals, and take conversational cues from the provided animal facts. • Play with language—make up a name for your new creature. Add invented details (what does it eat? where does it live?) or your own story about it in the provided space. • Like It Was a Cold, Dark Night, mentioned earlier, Collins Big Cat’s apps are short ebooks that invite you to write your own stories using their backdrops and props—a great opportunity for conversation with your child. You can record your stories, too.
  27. 27. More Recommended Free Apps to Explore • LEGO DUPLO Train: iOS; Android • LumiKids Park: iOS; Android • Daisy the Dinosaur (iOS only. Very basic “intro to coding” app) • Dragimals (iOS only) • Little Piano Master: iOS; Android • MoMA Art Lab (iOS only) Book apps: • The Animals Sleep: a Bedtime Book of Biomes : iOS; Android • The Artist Mortimer: iOS; Android • Oobie’s Space Adventure (iOS only) Apps for Parents and Caregivers: • PBS Parents Play & Learn: iOS; Android • Zero to Three—Let’s Play: iOS • ACPL Family: iOS All apps mentioned here are free from ads and in-app purchases, and free as of August 2017.
  28. 28. • Common Sense Media’s “Best Apps: Our Recommendations for Families” • Digital Storytime (reviews, specifically of ebook apps) • Kindertown: The Educational App Store for Parents (friendly search interface; apps reviewed by educators) Also good to know: Apps Gone Free, which daily lists which paid apps are free for that day and regularly includes children’s apps.

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