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3.4.2: Digital Technology

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    While many types of digital technology are available, we will focus this section on four types: music players, visual or video devices, ebooks, and educational digital media. As you read about selection and presentation strategies, keep in mind two important aspects of each type of digital technology: 1.) how you can use it to enhance your storytimes and 2.) how you can talk to caregivers about how to use the technology and related library resources to support children’s learning and development. We acknowledge that access to digital technology may be outside of your control for many reasons. We also acknowledge that digital technology changes rapidly in its availability or popularity, so these guidelines will focus more on general principles for choosing and using technology than on specific device or app recommendations.

    Music Player Selection and Presentation Strategies

    Preparation is key to successfully using a music player during storytime. Set up the player in the area beforehand, giving yourself time to test its use. Choose a spot that you will be able to physically access easily and quickly to allow for smooth transitions between using the player and conducting other activities. With the device playing, walk around the area where the audience will be to test that the volume is clear but not overwhelmingly loud. Always have a back-up selection of songs, rhymes, or chants that you can perform without accompaniment in case the technology fails at the spur of the moment..

    If possible, choose a music player that plays songs in a medium to which your library provides access so that you can talk about the library’s music resources with caregivers. If the songs are available in more than one medium, such as on a borrowable CD and also through one of the library’s lending databases, all the better! Because some of your patrons may not have Internet access at home, highlighting both off- and online music resources is good practice for inclusivity.

    Visual or Video Device Selection and Presentation Strategies

    The strategies for choosing and using a device that presents visuals and/or videos follow similar principles to choosing and using a music player. Preparation is key. Set up the device in the area beforehand, giving yourself time to test its use. Choose a spot that you will be able to physically access easily and quickly to allow for smooth transitions between using the device and conducting other activities. Alternatively, if the device has a remote, practice using it in the place you will be for the storytime to make sure the connection to the remote is secure. With the device playing, walk around the area where the audience will be to test that the volume is clear but not overwhelmingly loud and that the screen can be seen reasonably well from all angles. If you are using the device to play a video, prepare an alternative activity to do in case the technology fails at the spur of the moment for whatever reason (as technology can be wont to do). If you are using the device to display information, create a few printed versions for your own reference and to have on hand in case a caregiver asks for a copy.

    Useful information to consider displaying:

    • A general agenda for the storytime, listing the activities you intend to do in order. Use both words and an image for each activity, creating a visual agenda that can be especially helpful to children with cognitive differences (Bohanon, 2020).
    • Lyrics for songs, rhymes, or chants as you use them. This can be especially helpful for storytime attendees who are unfamiliar with them or who are English language learners (ELL).
    • A list with the authors, illustrators, and titles of the books you’ve selected for the session.
    • Advertisements for upcoming library programs for children and families. This can be a good display to have up as attendees enter and/or leave the storytime area.
    • Images or video clips with content related to the storytime topic can enhance children’s understanding and enjoyment. For example, choose photographs or video clips from an informational article, documentary, or nature show about an animal alongside a picturebook starring the animal.

    As you choose a video to play, consider how you can highlight the library’s video resources such as DVDs or a streaming service, if available. Because some of your patrons may not have Internet access at home, highlighting both offline and online resources is good practice for inclusivity. You can also plan to say a sentence or two to explain to caregivers why you chose this video, such as what makes it age-appropriate, what school readiness skill it can help children to practice, and/or how it connects to and expands on the theme of the storytime or the main idea of a shared book.

    Ebook Selection Strategies

    As you think about choosing and presenting ebooks, it may be helpful to know some benefits of sharing ebooks.

    • An overall benefit of sharing ebooks is that they can increase children’s enjoyment and engagement with reading (Hoffman & Paciga, 2013). In a survey we conducted as part of this storytime study, we found that children’s enjoyment was one of the most frequently chosen reasons that motivated caregivers to take their child or children to storytime (see 4.4.1 Caregiver Goal - Enjoyment for more details).
    • Another benefit is modeling reading practices so that children can begin to understand how people in our modern culture use digital devices to read for entertainment and information gathering (Hoffman & Paciga, 2013).
    • Strouse, Newland, and Mourlam (2019) found that while parents did not see ebooks as a way to have positive bonding and learning experiences with children, children did see this use for ebooks; so the caregivers in your storytime may benefit from seeing children’s enthusiasm for ebooks as you model how to use them for shared reading.

    Selecting ebooks to include in your storytime takes just as much careful planning as selecting print books. All of the best practices for selecting books based on their content, design, and illustrations presented in Path 2: Considerations for Selecting Books also apply to selecting ebooks, so you can consider them first when selecting high-quality ebooks to share or recommend (Hoffman & Paciga, 2013; Neuman, Wong, & Kaefer, 2017) In addition, evaluating ebooks involves considering the quality of features specific to the digital format. Ebooks for young children can vary widely in the types of features they include and in the quality of these features (Hoffman & Paciga, 2013;Yokota & Teale, 2017). Different types of features can provide an array of benefits to children’s learning of school readiness skills. This section gives an overview of features to look for and how they can benefit children.

    One very common feature of ebooks is the option to have the text read aloud by a narrator, sometimes called the “read to me” option or read-aloud feature. Even though this feature commonly appears, it is not guaranteed to be of high quality because some ebooks have narration that is too loud or that is not timed correctly with the words on the screen (Reich, Yau, & Warschauer, 2016; Yokota & Teale, 2014). This can be true even of ebooks with high ratings on review websites (Yokota & Teale, 2014), so be sure to play through and carefully listen to the entire ebook before choosing it for storytime use. You might think that you don’t have to evaluate the read-aloud feature if you’re going to mute it and read the text aloud yourself during the storytime, but consider that caregivers attending storytime may perceive your use of the ebook as an endorsement and want to borrow or purchase the ebook themselves for their child to read independently, using the read-aloud feature. While you can emphasize to caregivers that children benefit from more enjoyment and learning when an adult reads the ebook aloud, some may still prefer to use the electronic narration, so a consideration of the narration quality should be part of your evaluation.

    A feature that often accompanies the read-aloud feature is a text highlighting feature that changes the font or background color of the text as the text is read aloud. Again, this may be a feature that you won’t use in your storytime presentation but that may be helpful for recommending ebooks for children to use independently at home. Studies have found that ebooks with this and other features that focus attention on story content and vocabulary can support children’s reading comprehension (Neuman et al., 2017; O’Toole and Kannass, 2018).

    Another feature that consistently promotes learning, especially in the areas of oral language and vocabulary, is a hotspot that displays and pronounces a word. A hotspot is a place on the screen that when touched produces a visual and/or audio effect (Reich et al., 2016). For example, in the tablet version of Polar Bear Horizon, when a reader touches the hotspot on an object in the illustration, the application displays the word of the object on top of the object and the narrator reads the word aloud (Zhou & Yadav, 2017). In their study of young children’s vocabulary learning from ebooks and print books, Zhou and Yadav (2017) found that children who independently read an ebook with such hotspots had significantly higher vocabulary learning than children who were read aloud a print version of the book by an adult. Many caregivers may be interested in how children can learn from ebooks independently, so taking some time during storytimes to explain the benefits of choosing a book with hotspots that display and pronounce words can help you aid caregivers’ selection of books.

    This vocabulary-boosting hotspot is part of a type of feature that might be called a congruent or integral feature, one that “... will complement and extend the plot and/or [display] information to help readers better understand story elements and concepts presented” (Hoffman & Paciga, 2013, p. 282). In other words, hotspots that support the story elements or main ideas of the book support children’s learning. Some helpful congruent features are music that matches the mood of the character or setting, letters that make the letter sound when tapped, animation or motion that dramatize action in the scene; and sound effects that correspond to story actions or objects (Reich et al., 2016; Sung & Chen, 2019; Yokota and Teale, 2014). Congruent features have not only been found to improve a child’s reading comprehension and vocabulary when the child interacts with an ebook independently (Neuman, Wong, & Kaefer, 2017; Sung & Chen, 2019; Zipke, 2017) but have also been found to aid adult-child discussions of the text’s central ideas during shared ebook reading (Hoffman & Paciga, 2013). In other words, congruent features are beneficial whether a child is reading an ebook independently or with a caregiver.

    Other features to look for in choosing ebooks are those that promote math learning. Ebooks that provide children practice with early numeracy, cardinality, addition,and symbolic representation of numbers can result in significant learning. In addition to this, when reading math ebooks, children have been found to exhibit high levels of motivation, engagement, and attention (Uscianowski et al., 2018).

    Ebook Presentation Strategies

    Even if your library’s lack of a specific technology or the large size of your storytime audience prevents you from reading aloud an ebook, you can talk to caregivers during storytime to explain how and why to use ebooks, encouraging them to check out your library’s digital collection. For example, when you find an ebook worth recommending, obtain a copy of the print version to read aloud during storytime. After the reading, explain to caregivers that the ebook version is available to check out and describe one or two features it has that make it a good pick for increasing children’s learning.


    Just as with sharing print books, adult-child interactions when reading ebooks are essential to promote school readiness in children. Studies show over and over again that preschool-aged children reap numerous learning benefits from shared reading no matter the medium of the book (Reich et al., 2016; Reich et al., 2019; Sung & Chen, 2019). Read through Path 1: Strategies for Effective Librarian-Child Interactions for detailed explanations of research-based interaction strategies. While you may have to talk a little about how the ebook device works, be careful not to let device-focused talk dominate (Hoffman & Paciga, 2013). It is helpful to plan out the questions and discussion you will have around the content of the ebook, focusing on the story elements or main ideas as well as the early literacy or school readiness skill you’d like to promote.


    To make your use of ebooks particularly impactful, include asides in which you explain to caregivers that you are modeling how to interact with the ebook in ways that promote the child’s school readiness. Caregivers may benefit from direct explanations and examples of school-readiness-promoting interactions because some studies of parent/child pairs show that parents naturally talk more about the mechanics of the device during ebook reading than about story or print elements (Reich et al., 2016). Additionally, Strouse and colleagues’ (2019) survey of parents found that parents are less likely to interact with children as they use ebooks than as they read print books. Therefore, caregivers can benefit from discussions of how and why to read ebooks along with children and use interaction strategies that enhance the child’s experience and learning. For more encouragement about how to use asides to improve your storytime, read the 4.4.4 Spotlight on Asides.

    Caregivers are likely open to guidance in selecting ebooks. For example, one survey of 43 U.S. parents found that while 100% read print books to their children and 93% allowed their children to use a digital device such as a tablet or smartphone at least once every week, only 53% answered that their children read or listened to stories with a digital device at least once a week (Strouse et al., 2019). This indicates that caregivers are aware of the benefits of print books and have access to digital devices and thus may be open to sharing ebooks with children once they understand their educational benefits and have some ideas for how to choose high-quality ebooks.

    Educational Digital Media Selection and Presentation Strategies

    Familiarity with how to use and learn from digital media has become part of school readiness because an increasing number of elementary schools use digital media for everyday instruction and for assessment (Vittrup et al., 2016). Consider how you might incorporate interactions with digital media into your storytime activities by showing and talking about the media or giving children a chance to interact with the media at the end of or after the storytime session.

    You can use what you know about how children learn to evaluate educational digital media. Research shows that children learn best when they are actively engaged in a task and interacting socially with an adult or peer (Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2015). Thus, the best educational digital media will encourage engagement and interaction. Educational applications (apps) or websites accessed on a smartphone or tablet have the potential to be engaging because the child can interact with the content by touching the screen (Terrell & Watson, 2018). However, experts caution that young children will get the most enjoyment and learning from such apps or websites when a caregiver guides them through its use and talks with them about the learning content (Reich et al., 2016; Terrell & Watson, 2018). Additionally, many apps and websites include games, music, or sound effects irrelevant to the main content that can be distracting to children (Reich et al., 2016). So as you evaluate these interactive elements, look and listen for those that clearly connect to the content or skill to be learned. Share your knowledge of the importance of interactivity to learning with parents and caregivers as you demonstrate educational apps. These apps may best be shared at the end or after a storytime because it takes time for each child to interact with you and a tablet or other device.

    For examples of educational digital media worth recommending, check out the winners of Association for Library Service to Children’s Excellence in Early Learning Digital Media Award found at

    Ebook and Digital Media Online Resources

    These recommended websites for finding high-quality ebooks and digital media for improving school readiness are adapted from the recommendations of Hoffman and Paciga (2013) and Guernsey and Levine (2016). The websites were last checked for recent content by one of the authors of these guidelines in August of 2021.

    3.4.2: Digital Technology is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.