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Questions from Molly Bang | Class #2, fall 2016

We are looking forward to welcoming Molly Bang to our next class on October 19. One of the things that makes Molly unique as a guest speaker is that she likes her visits to be learning experiences — for herself. One year she focused on a book that she thought didn’t work very well. It was one of her first information books, and she wanted my students to tell her what she did wrong!

For this year’s visit, she asked us to consider and discuss a few questions before she arrives, so I thought this blog would be a good way to do this — and to get a range of responses not just from students but from anyone else reading this post.

Here’s what she asked in her email:

Can the students or you talk a bit about why they’re taking this course; what they feel about the importance of children’s books — or not; where they see them going; maybe a bit about ebooks vs. paper books, what they admire in the ones they do admire or want to emulate…

Later, she added:

…I’d like to mention something about the difference for an author now with technology that enables people to download books for free so authors — tho blessedly not for children’s  book authors, so far! — receive much less income than previously when I started out. (Did you see the latest Authors Guild Bulletin?)

I am not a member of the Authors Guild, so I don’t have access to this piece. I’m hoping one of you can fill us in.

 

Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the creative director for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.

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  1. Lolly Robinson Lolly Robinson says:

    I’ll get the ball rolling with a plug for Katie Bircher’s weekly app reviews: http://www.hbook.com/category/choosing-books/app-review-of-the-week/

    My own opinion is that picture books are here to stay, and that apps for children, including the ones based on picture books, will get better and better and — as time passes — will resemble picture books less and less. The best ones (IMO) are those that use their appiness [sic] to the fullest. What I do NOT like, is book apps for young children that take you too far away from the story with games and puzzles and such. At their best, book apps can extend a narrative without getting in the way of its flow.

    To prove just how old school I am, I will recommend the Loud Crow Beatrix Potter apps. (For example: http://loudcrow.com/popout-the-tale-of-peter-rabbit/).

    Here’s an app that’s almost as old as the BP Loud Crow offerings, but much less successful because it is little more than a video of a picture book: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/john-henry/id396158487?mt=8

    One of my favorite really early story apps (not based on a published picture book) is Scruffy Kitty from Winged Chariot: http://www.hbook.com/2013/12/choosing-books/reviews/scruffy-kitty-app-review/

  2. Catherine says:

    I am often skeptical of educational technologies for children. I’m all for finding new, fun ways for children to learn…as long as there is actually learning happening. My knowledge of this area is limited, and I look forward to learning more from Molly and my classmates!

    Circling back to Molly’s question about the importance of children’s books, I think one of the things high-quality literature (children’s books or otherwise) and technology have in common is the ability to connect the reader to the rest of the world. A great children’s book can teach empathy, understanding, and admiration for others. This ties back to the idea of “books as windows” which we have already discussed in class. Great books can show children that they are not alone, that others deal with similar challenges and experience the same wide range of emotions. Similarly, using technology, teachers today can connect a classroom of children in Boston with a classroom on the other side of the world with the touch of a button. Using no more than a tablet with an internet connection, these classrooms can discuss books and trade experiences. Today’s schools are teaching children that will become global citizens in an ever-shrinking world, and both technology and literature can play a role in making sure children understand from an early age that there is no “other” to be despised or feared, but that people are just people—making mistakes and doing their best—all the world over.

  3. Answering Molly’s question about why I chose the class and what importance do I see in children’s books, I must mention that it was because of fascination and inspiration. During much of my childhood, I had not been introduced to children’s books (picture books, etc.) first because of lack of them and lack of cultural emphasis on reading to children at a young age. Stories were told to us by parents, grandparents, etc. , but rarely read, if ever. While raising my children here in the US, I came across an abundance of children’s books and got fascinated not only by the quantity but also the quality: beautifully illustrated books with genres varying from humor to motivational and historical, and more.
    My fascination later turned into an inspiration to bring the world of children’s books to my country, to my friends, who grew up with me and most of whom are parents themselves. Often I hear them lamenting that their children do not enjoy reading. After a bit exploration, I realized two things: the culture still exists that people tell stories but do not “read stories to children” at a young age. Secondly, the children’s books that exist primarily tell the same folklore stories that they have been told since very young age. So, I realized that first families need to be engaged and need to realize that reading to children at a very young age can indeed have an impact on their reading throughout their life (I have experienced it first with my own girls who still young but are avid readers). Lastly, I realize that the books need to be “mirrors” for children as well as “windows” (as we discussed in class) so that they ultimately enjoy reading them.
    So this class will allow me to go into more depths in children’s books world and utilize what I find in my attempts to bring this fantastic world of inquiry and joy to children in my home country.

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