The complexity and content of the language used throughout storytimes is important because oral language development is a key component of children’s early literacy (Neuman et al., 2017). The use of songs can increase children’s phonological awareness and vocabulary knowledge, which are the building blocks of early literacy (Williams et al., 2015). Songs may be a particularly useful learning strategy because most children enjoy songs and pay attention to songs (Koops & Kuebel, 2018; Powell & Somerville, 2020) and because the use of props and movement along with singing creates an active learning experience (Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2015). Research has found that caregivers who attend storytime sessions with music believe that music benefits their children’s engagement, enjoyment, and literacy (de Vries, 2008). These caregivers alsorepeat musical activities from storytimes at home, increasing children’s opportunities for growth (de Vries, 2008).
Digital technology has become prevalent in the lives of children and families across the United States. According to the Common Sense Census survey of over 1,400 parents with children ages 0 to 8, the percentage of families with a mobile device (such as a smartphone or tablet) in the home has risen from 52% in 2011 to 98% in 2020 (Rideout & Robb, 2020). Children ages 2-5 spend an average of two and a half hours per day using a device with a screen though only an average of 3% of that time (5 minutes) is spent reading an ebook (Rideout & Robb, 2020). This indicates that although many caregivers may have access to digital technology, they are not using that technology to increase children’s learning from ebooks. When asked to rank the importance of reasons for a child’s screen use, the reason “They learn things from it” was ranked as “Very Important” or “Somewhat Important” by 78% of parents in the survey (Rideout & Robb, 2020). The reason “For fun” was ranked as “Very Important” or “Somewhat Important” by 77% of parents (Rideout & Robb, 2020). As librarians, we know that reading ebooks can be both educational and fun, so this activity falls right in line with parents’ desires for media use. While the majority of parents are positive about their children’s use of digital technology, many still have concerns about the content of the media such as the presence of violent or sexual content or the use of racial/ethnic or gender stereotypes (Rideout & Robb, 2020). Librarians are in a position to help in this area by staying aware of content options and providing quality recommendations.