Advanced technology at Darien Library used to promote literacy
At a little before 10 a.m. on a Monday, two girls clad in polka dot shirts perched upon a small brown chair in the Darien Children's Library, pressing their fingers against the screen in front of them. They click and swipe away at the screen, bringing to life the mounted iPad positioned on a shelf full of early learner books.
In the next five minutes, after the girls left, two more sets of two children took their turn. Some maneuvered their way through the game on the screen, which asked them to identify shapes of a circle color.
The iPad is an eye-catcher for young readers when they first go into the Children's Library. But it's more than just a toy; it's one small part in a large push to provide Darien's children with technology in an effort to promote literacy.
"Overall the mission is not to do technology for the `cool factor,'" said Head of Children's Services Kiera Parrott, "although admittedly there certainly is an inherent coolness to new gadgets, but to recognize that technology like computers, mobile devices and the social media environment are changing the way children access and process information."
By literally bringing technology to children's finger tips, the young consumers are able to work with books and ideas in new ways. "We hear a lot about the dangers and ill-effects of computers and video games," said Parrott. "But kids these days are no longer relegated to being passive consumers of media -- they can be empowered to create their own media. We want to show them ways to actively engage with their peers and their communities by using technology to tell their own stories."
That's more than just a goal, said Parrott. "We see preschoolers using an app like Don't Let The Pigeon Run This App to record their own stories, groups of fifth graders working on editing a book trailer, and children integrating photos and video clips into presentations for school assignments."
The purposeful integration of technology into the library setting does more than allow children the opportunity to approach media from all angles, it can also boost literacy skills. A recent study by PBS Kids found that young students who played with specific literacy-focused games on an iPod touch over the course of two weeks showed an average of a 20 percent gains on short and comprehensive vocabulary assessments.
Darien Library has six early literacy iPad kits, which families can borrow for one week. The kits come pre-loaded with apps that support early learning and the development of pre-literacy skills, chosen by the librarians, as well as an additional list of recommended apps. In addition, the library recently debuted six Tween Tabs -- pre-loaded Android tablets -- geared toward 9- to 12-year-olds, which can be used for up to two hours within the library.