Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Share a Story, Shape A Future: Literacy 2.0 - The Impact of Video on Literacy

Using Video to Unwrap the Gift of Literacy

Logo created by Elizabeth Dulemba 
There are electronic gadgets all over my house, in every room, of all shapes and sizes.   My wife and I collectively call them "screens."  We are delicately trying to balance the time our kids spend in front of the iPad, Television, Nintendo Wii, online computer games, Leapster, all while trying to encourage activities without screens like crafts, reading, playing outside, playing with toys, etc.  The difficulty is that I like the screens just as much as they do because there is some really cool stuff out there.  The computer games they play are educational, the TV shows they watch are teaching them math and reading skills, and the iPad and Wii offer endless ways to watch and interact with video.  

I try to make decisions on whether my kids are actively engaged in the activity or passively letting time slip away when I determine if it is a good time for "screens" or not.  It is usually pretty easy to spot a three year old boy mindlessly clicking through a computer game or looking like a zombie in front of the TV. His eyes become glazed over and he hardly moves a muscle. When I see this I try to switch gears to another activity.  But, if my kids are telling me about what they are learning and their posture shows me they are engaged in the activity (or let's be honest, if I have laundry to do) then I am more willing to have them spend extended periods of time in front of the screen.

My children can access video throughout the day in a variety of ways; through a television, iPad, or computer.  My three year old son knows how to stream show episodes from Sproutonline.com or Nickjr.com.  I have watched him be highly entertained for about 10 minutes and then quickly fade thoughtlessly away.  We also stream shows via Netflix before heading up to bed each night. The  "Zombie Alert!" alarm is activated usually within 15 minutes mostly because they are completely exhausted from the day.  I find myself feeling guilty when my children are passively watching television or a video (unless of course there is a bathroom or basement to clean). However, I don't feel guilty all the time having my children consume video through a television, iPad, or computer.  I have found that it can be quite an active experience. This experience can even have a huge impact on learning and literacy if I use it correctly.

When I was asked to comment on video and how it effects the future of literacy for the Share a Story Shape a Future event,  I immediately started looking for current research online looking for some cool facts and figures.  However, I was unsatisfied with the results as nothing really jumped out at me. This caused me to reflect on my experience reading with my children and writing my blog.  I thought of the videos we have watched together, the conversations we have had, and how video has made a positive impact over the past year on their literacy experience.

I jotted down two things that I always try to do when showing a video to my children.  First, I always want to use video that is from quality sources (YouTube can be a tricky place sometimes).   Secondly, the video has to have a purpose.  My children love watching Reading Rainbow, PBS (Super Why, Between the Lions), LeapFrog, videos of author interviews from YouTube or sources like Reading Rockets, and Scholastic Story Treasures Animated Stories. These videos can unwrap the gift of literacy by extending meaning beyond the pages of the book, teaching basic skills, entertaining, and providing primary sources of information for my children.

The Reading Rainbow television show, which first aired in 1983, is a great example of how video can extend meaning beyond the page of a book.  At the beginning of each show a book is read and then the host, LeVar Burton, brings the book to life with an experience.  If the book was about marine life then he may go on a boat with a wildlife expert and examine fish and crabs. (I have found many Reading Rainbow episodes located on WVPT's Vimeo Channel. You must join the group to view the videos.) I have used Reading Rainbow videos to the extend meaning of a book but other videos on the web can be used too.  Most recently, I used a Mythbusters video clip to extend the meaning of Dr. Seuss's Bartholomew and the Oobleck for Dr. Seuss's birthday. I stumbled upon the video when I did a simple search on Google for "Oobleck."  The video was perfect! It gave a perspective of oobleck that was not available in the book and was something I was unable to replicate at home.

PBS shows like Super Why and Between the Lions and our family's favorite LeapFrog Learning Videos are wonderful for teaching basic skills. These shows are just as entertaining to my children as cartoons but offer introductions to reading skills that can help build a foundation for reading and writing.  My daughter loved the Leapfrog videos and after watching The Letter Factory video obsessively when she was two years old she learned the sounds of every letter.

Scholastic StoryBook Treasure videos are also favorites at our house.  We checked them out frequently from our library until we decided to buy the complete library.  The videos are narrated versions of many popular stories that include animation and visual word support.   I view these videos as completely entertaining, but active learning is happening with the read-along text and the quality literature. There are even DVDs that focus in on just one author.  I will giving my children the Ezra Jack Keats DVD when we celebrate his birthday on March 11.

When researching for my blog I love finding videos by the authors that write the books my children read.  Many are found on their own websites or on sites like YouTube or Vimeo.  My children are able to hear and see the authors talk about their books or even draw the pictures of the book.  I feel these primary sources are very powerful in the literacy experience.  My kids can see that ideas and imagination turn into books. I have used these videos before and after reading a book or completing an activity. (We watched a video by Jarrett Krosoczka painting before trying our own hand at the task.)

I see video capable of unwrapping the gift of literacy by extending meaning of a book beyond the pages, introducing skills, entertaining and primary sources.  But, there is another element of video that I think is extremely important but different than what I have mentioned.  To this point has been focused on consuming video. However, video can be extremely powerful literacy tool when it is produced.  As a teacher and now with my own children we have made many of our own videos. Our most famous video is definitely the video we made for Mo Willems' birthday.

I feel videos can be produced for many of the same reasons you would consume video:

1. Make your own video to extend the meaning of a book by creating your own Reading Rainbow-like experience (Click here to view our Mr. Gilly Video based on Andrea Zimmerman's Trashy Town) or acting out roles from the story in a new way. (Mo Willems Birthday Video is a good example.)

2. Teach basic skills of reading and writing by making tutorial videos or even recording a child's reading for them to enjoy watching and self-evaluate.  (The Beginning Reading Help Blog has great examples of this - Click here for an example)

3. Videos can be made for pure entertainment and enjoyment of bringing a book to life with a simple play or puppet show. (Click here to view our version of Remy Charlip's Mother Mother)

As a parent, I want to unwrap the gift of literacy for my children.  I have seen great value in using high quality video to enhance reading and writing.  My children are naturally drawn to video and since the screens are everywhere I might as well put them to good use!  By planning ahead, I can use video as a powerful tool to keeping my children active and excited about books and learning.

Here is list of few authors, off the top of my head, that provide lots of great video:
1. Todd Parr - YouTube Channel, Website
2. Jarrett Krosoczka - Website, YouTube Channel
3. Charise Mericle Harper - Website, Blog, YouTube Channel
4. Frank Asch - Website
5. Jan Brett - Website
6. Seymour Simon - Website, Blog
7. Walter Wick - Website, YouTube Channel
8. Mo Willems - Website
9. Vicki Cobb's - We Dare You Videos

Additionally, Reading Rockets and Just One More Book have lots of great author interviews. Plus, many authors are offering Skype Virtual Visits. I have never experienced this, but it sounds very cool! (Check out the Share a Story, Literacy 2.0 post by Mr. Hankins about his Skype experiences - Awesome!)


  1. My kids loved the Scholastic Storybooks when they were younger. I checked mine out from the library too. Amazon sells the 50 movie set from the video you posted and two other 100 sets. I made a post about these sets a little while ago. They were more than 50% off.

  2. Eric, I love these ideas for extending the value of already valuable children's literature. I believe a balanced literacy diet consists of variety, just like with food. I also find technology inherently motivating for kids, especially good technology. And I think your "eyes glazing over" test is a really good one.

  3. Thank you so much for putting so much time and effort into one post, not too mention so many fantastic resources and ideas!

    I don't think there's a parent out there who can't relate to what you're saying here, about the whole idea of being surrounded by advanced technology. When it's coming at you from every direction, it can become overwhelming. So, when you can get first hand recommendations to help you narrow the choices down a little bit, it's a huge help. Thanks!

  4. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    @michelle - we did get them half of from Amazon. We thought it was an amazing deal. The deal is still going on. I got an email today from the them. I guess they want me to buy them again.

    @bookchook - it is all about balance, isn't it?

    @dawn - You're welcome. I am glad you found something of value.

  5. Piggie has a future ... Gerald, well ... he needs to read more books!

    You raise some very keen observations about how we are going to create "balance" and what that is going to look like for our kids.

  6. Love this post, and I love the idea of videotaping the kids.

    My boys don't watch TV during the week, but on the weekends I've started turning on English subtitles so they can get a little bit of reading in while watching DVDs.

  7. Excellent post. We also love the Scholastic Storybooks and have a set of Reading Rainbow DVDs as well. My daughter enjoys watching the book trailers for new releases, especially for books that she has read.

  8. You might get seasick watching my videos - some serious camera shake.

    I love the idea so I might just use a tripod. What do you think?

    Fantastic post - love all the ideas!

  9. @ Terry - Yeah, Gerald needs some help.

    @LitLass - If you have Mac computer you could easily make your own subtitled movies - That might be fun!

    @brimful - we have been getting the Reading Rainbow DVDs through Netflix the past two weeks! We love LeVar!

    @Melissa - Tripod is very important. We have a standard tripod and one called Joby that has posable legs that can be attached to anything!

    Thanks again for all the comments! And Positive Feedback!

  10. These videos are amazing -- it's especially exciting to see how kids can connect with authors through various web videos. The only thing I got to do with computers in school was play "Oregon Trail" ... Ah, to be young and have dysentery.

  11. Oh my! I'm totally cracking up over Jonathan's comment! LOL That's too good. Oh, the good ole' days of the Apple II. Hehe.

    Okay, more seriously...this is fantastic Eric! Truly! You are an amazing parent! It's such a tricky balance with kiddos and technology, especially when the "shiny" appeals to us as parents as well. I for one, am not always great at this, but I'm so glad you shared so many great resources.

    Video has been an excellent source for our family as well. We LOVE the LeapFrog Learning DVD's, both the kiddos have used them (and still do). We also use book trailers a lot. If I find a good one in the evening while they're sleeping I'll show it to the kiddos to get them interested in a book that maybe wouldn't have normally caught their eyes. Something about the music and movement on the screen makes the book more appealing. One of our favorites is John Lechner, his book trailers are fantastic!

    Wonderful post Eric! Thank you so much for participating today! I really appreciate it!

  12. @Jonathan - Oregon Trail was awesome! Loved the comment!

    @the1stDaughter - Thank you! and great idea for using book trailers.

  13. Eric,

    This was really well done! I always appreciate your posts because you offer so much besides just sharing information about the birthday author.

    We've recently discovered Scholastic Video and they have become favorites very quickly. Tessa learned about the Pigeon and Knuffle Bunny through one video which I think helped her transition really easily to the books, which haven't just become favorites - but practically obsessions. It's interesting too that at least w/ Tessa, the obsession is the book, not the video.

    I will check those links out and again thanks, as always, for your insights.

  14. This is an absolutely wonderful post! I love the ideas, the links, and the creativity that is used throughout. Thank you!! Definitely one I will be referring back to!

  15. You would also like Vickie Cobb's website where she encourages readers to film science videos that explain the concepts in her books. My son and I had great fun with this one summer.


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