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, LucĂ©lia 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


  1. Thank you for the great website recommendations--I will definitely check them out. My boys (11-year-olds) both love technology, and are using it daily at home and at school. A few weeks ago one of them created a trailer for THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS at school as a reading group project. I was stunned by the quality of the group's work! At home, I monitor what my boys access and talk with them often about what they are doing. As they get older, though, I know this may become more of a challenge.

  2. I've struggled with recommending e books to my middle school students. They want very much to hold the actual book in their hands and evaluate how long it is, what size the type is-- I wouldn't have suspected it, but they do vastly prefer the paper!

    1. I've noticed the same thing -- many kids really do prefer print books. But I want to give kids a choice and have them see what works best for them.

      I found this recent article interesting in Publishers Weekly:

      "The Nielsen research shows that teen readers who prefer to read e-books rose to 21% in the fall of 2013 compared to 19% in the fall of 2012. While most teens said they still would rather read print books, the increased interest in e-books, combined with the fact that more than 40% of teens already own or plan to buy an iPad, Kindle Fire, iPad Mini, iPhone, or iTouch, suggests that children’s e-book sales are certain to steadily rise." So it seems that both sides of the coin are true: most kids prefer print, but the spread of mobile devices means we need to keep abreast of the options for using e-books.

      I'd be curious what stood out to you in this article.