Ceora Brown LIBR 262A

Materials for Children 0-4

Assignment 4: Evaluate digital early learning resources

1.)    Brainy Baby (Producer). (2011). ABCs: Introducing the Alphabet [DVD]. United States: Bayview Entertainment/Widowmaker.

Brainy Baby is an award winning series that was created by parents and educators. Straight from a lesson plan format, the DVD is instrumental in growing preschool development skills. The lessons will engage young learners with real life images and sing-along songs that kids will be familiar with, such as the ABC song. Brainy Baby’s ABCs, will introduce children ages 2-4 to upper and lower case letters, multiple letter sounds, and vocabulary words.  The program starts out with a female voice singing the alphabet song. There is music and digital images of each letter from A to Z. After the song, a female voice pronounces each letter in the alphabet. The female voice is an indication of a familiar person, such as a mother or a teacher. The soft voice is soothing, not threatening, which will allow for a positive learning environment. An uppercase and lowercase letters drop down together on the screen. This is important to teach both letters at the smart time, for future reading skills. Children will see words with a capital letter, and words written in lowercase letters. A “Y” can look two different ways, so they learn the purpose of having a capital “Y” in front of other familiar letters. The teacher also voices out the sounds of each letter two to three times. For instance, “Big A. Little A. A has two sounds. A a a Apple, a a a ape, a a a acorn.”, etc. The teacher goes through about 5 letters, and then repeats the letters through a test: “Do you know what sound the letter A makes?” The child responds: “I know a a a ape and a a a acorn.” The DVD teaches how letters can have two different sounds when uppercase and lower case.

After the annunciation of the letters, there is a call-and-response review section that asks children to try pronouncing the words that they just learned. This is cognitive reinforcement that allows children to practice saying the words.. Children will also hear voices of other toddlers pronounce the words in the same way that they were taught. Children learn from hearing how other children respond to learning, so this is a great feature to have included on the DVD. My only criticism is that the pacing in the question section is quick, and it does not allow enough time for the viewer to respond on their own. A positive reinforcement from the teacher is given when the children (on the DVD) pronounce the words right. This is important because kids will enjoy the praise they get by saying the words right. Hearing positive acknowledgements can encourage children to keep watching and learning. Along with the annunciation and images of words were real images of objects and people associated with the words. For instance, a real video-short of a kitten was displayed as the letter K, for “kitten” appeared on the screen. Still pictures of objects are good for kids to view, but a video recording of real objects moving might help kids learn better because it is not one dimensional. Children can observe mannerisms of an animal in a video rather than a picture.

Over all, the presentation of the DVD was clear, and fun, with a mixture of digital images, real images of children, animals, and objects, and the sound children’s voices as they participate in the letter review. This DVD is great for children who know their alphabets, but cannot distinguish one letter from another. The information is repeated throughout the video, which allows children to hear familiar letters over and over again. The early literacy skills that children will learn are print motivation, letter knowledge, and vocabulary, because there are 1.) pictures of objects for each letter of the alphabet to help express meaning of words, 2.) verbalization of the sounds of the words, 3.) a song to reinforce learning, and 4.) questions to examine what information was learned.

2.) Nick Jr  (Producer). (2006). Blue’s Room: Meet Blue’s Baby Brother. [DVD]. United States: Nickelodeon.

Blue’s Clues uses the genre of mystery to search for clues. In a search for clues valuable learning skills are attained, such as math skills, color and shape recognition, problem solving and social skills.

Instead of the flattened digital image of Blue, she has been transformed into a puppet. Blue can also talk as a puppet. When she was a flat image she only made barking sounds, and Steve did all the talking and interacting. As a puppet, Blue is able to communicate with children directly. Her fun personality and  young voice will keep toddlers entertained for many hours so they are learning and having fun at the same time.  Blues Clues Blue’s Room is an interactive show that is a game between puppets and viewers. In the episode: Meet Blue’s Baby Brother, characters search to find clues, and children learn about shapes, numbers, colors, and letters. The strength of the series, is that Blue asks viewers questions and waits a reasonable amount of time for the audience to respond. The silent space gives children a chance to process the question and formulate their own answers to the puppets. This teaches social skills, because Blue is able to talk to children, which encourages them to speak words out loud. By watching and responding to Blue, children can exercise their vocabulary words out loud without feeling embarrassed or afraid of saying the wrong answer.  The colors are also very bright and eye catching, and the puppets are friendly and polite. In this episode Blue introduces her baby brother to the audience, but they have to search for him in Puppy-ville to bring him home to the family party. There is colorful mixture of puppets, music, and singing.

When they meet a white puppy named Sprinkles, he has no spots—“Will you help Sprinkles get his spots?” is the question to the audience. They go on a journey to find his spots by traveling to Alphabet City, on the journey they run into problems, and ask the audience to help them—so children are encouraged to help solve problems.

On the journey, they sing the alphabet song as they drive down the road; then there is a split road with a variety of alphabet letters, H-I-J-K, or L-M-N-O-P. Blue asks the audience what group of letters are next and with help they take the correct road. After singing the alphabet Sprinkles gets his first “pink” spots because he learned the alphabet. He is congratulated by Blue and Joe, which teaches children sportsmanship. Children should be happy for Sprinkles when her learns and gets awarded with spots. The next stop is “Color Town”, and Sprinkles helps fills in the colors of the rainbow with help from the audience, in which he gets his “orange spots”. The next place is the “Numbers Kingdom”, in which they meet the princess of numbers. Sprinkles, Joe and Blue have the open the magic door to find the next clues, but to open the door they must perform the clapping code: 5 times. Sprinkles, Joe, and Blue clap aloud while saying the numbers and the door opens. They invite the audience to count and clap with them. The use of motor skills, by clapping, can help children learn how to count. The next door has the clap code of 6 + 3. They use diamond shapes as a visual way to solve the math problem. They count and clap the 9 jewels. So, motor skills, and the visual image of pictures help children learn early learning skills.  Since Sprinkles learned how to count numbers, so he got his “purple spots”. The character, next, travel into the Shapes Forest. With help from the audience, Sprinkles finds all the shapes: crescent, rectangle, and the triangle so they can take a sail boat to the island. Sprinkles learned about shapes so he received “yellow spots”. After finding all the clues: puppy, circles, and colors, they discover that Sprinkles is Blue’s baby brother and he gets “blue spots”. This episode is suitable for children ages 2-4, because they are practicing and applying what they learn in a creative way. There are songs that are repeated throughout their journey and they also promote the family structure—Blue’s relationship with her baby brother is positive, and it is important to show a friendly interaction between siblings.

3.) Baby Einstein  (Producer). & Jim Janicek (Director) (2003). Numbers Nursery: Discovering 1 Through 5.  [DVD]. United States: Walt Disney Video.

The Baby Einstein puppets help teach numbers and counting in this episode. There are a few puppets including: a orange tiger, three pink pigs, and a brown horse, all whom never speak; instead the puppets shake their head and move objects around. The silence of the puppets seems to be kept simple so that babies can absorb information without processing too many unnecessary sounds. Young children between 12 and 24 months will benefit from learning at a slow pace. This episode takes time in teaching a small set of numbers; babies will learn numbers 1 through 5 only. In this way, the numbers are not rushed and there is more time to playfully teach how to count and associate pictures with the sound of words. There are colorful images of real animals, people, and objects that represent the count of numbers. For instance, there is one butterfly, one blue cup, one girl, and one nose. There are many images that represent one, but they do not repeat the image of the actual number 1. Instead, they pronounce the word “one” as they show an image of one item. The same idea for number 2: two ears, two oranges, two cupcakes, and two eyes. The real images will introduce babies to objects in the real world, so when they go outside they will recognize things they see in the video. The episode does not focus on colors, as much as counting and naming objects. Although many of the objects are colorful, they do not teach the names of colors.

The strength of the DVD is the lack of talking. The female voice is soft-spoken, but her words are only used for counting numbers. In this way, babies can hear a few words, but most of their attention will be in visual and auditory stimulation of familiar objects and sounds: bright colored toys, soft animal puppets, numbers moving from left to right, older children, and classical music playing in the background. I would recommend this episode and the Baby Einstein DVD series to first-time parents because it reinforces number recognition using simple patterns.

4.) Disney Learning Adventures  (Producer).  (2004). Winnie the Pooh: ABC’s Discovering Letters and Words.  [DVD]. United States: Walt Disney Video.

Christopher Robin has created a rhyming book about all his friends and explains to Winnie the Pooh, the connection between sounds and letters, how letters become words, and how to identify rhyming words.  Pooh borrows the rhyming book, to show his friends all the rhymes that Christopher wrote for all of them. Along the way, the pages of the book fly away. In order to replace Christopher’s rhymes Pooh must learn how to write.  Luckily, Owl is an expert in writing, and he begins to illustrate how to form basic letters. Owl teaches Pooh, Tigger, Piglet, Eeyore, Roo, and Rabbit how to start writing their names, with songs and strategies that will also help children remember how to write letters.  Winnie the Pooh ABC’s is an educational lesson that will introduce children how to write the first letter of every character’s name. Learn how to write E for Eeyore, T for Tigger, P for Piglet and Pooh, O for Owl, and R for Roo. For Tigger, the T is straight line across and straight line down. This video is not a lesson in learning the alphabets, because only a few letters are taught. This is a brief introduction on the structure of writing—how letters are written, and how to listen for rhyming sounds. Meanwhile, there is an entertaining story that interweaves educational lessons. The characters figure out how to put all the pages of the book together, by identifying rhyming words. With familiar characters in the Winnie the Pooh series, preschool children will learn how to write the letters P, T, E, O, and R, and rhyme simple words such as “sky” and “high”. This learning DVD is listed for children ages 2-5, a useful tool for preschool children who are just beginning to learn their alphabets.

5.) Brainy Baby (Producer). (2012). Peek-a-Boo: Creative Exploration [DVD]. United States: Bayview Entertainment/Widowmaker. ISBN: 1-931959-52-8.

Brainy Baby features Peek-a-Boo, which introduces infants and toddlers to: classical music, colors, shapes, movement, sizes, toys, language, songs, rhymes, and peek-a-boo games. Real live images of toddlers, babies, and parents play peek-a-boo games by opening and closing their eyes. A female voice says the words “peek-a-boo,” and then young children also join in to say peek-a-boo. There are color wheels, lava lamps, wood puzzles, spinning tops, and images of shapes with bright colors. Babies and toddlers will develop eye stimulation. There are images of mother’s and daughter’s singing songs together, and clapping hands. This presents the motor-skills that children should be developing at an early age. The sequence of events is not consistent, there is no beginning, middle, or end, although each sequence of events contain the same elements: color, shapes, movement, and music. There is a mixture of graphics and realistic images. The graphics of the peek-a-boo game, include an image of a graphic image of a dog hiding behind a house, then popping out of each corner. Then, there is a real live video footage of children playing the peek-a-boo game:  each toddler hides behind a different colored cloth, or umbrella—then the peek-a-boo games start. The images of parents singing nursery rhymes to their infants or toddlers, will show other parents how to bond, sing and interact with their children at home. There is classical music playing in the background to make a peaceful leaning environment. There are baby toys, present to stimulate hand-eye coordination. Babies in the episode will grab, reach, pick up and play with building blocks, or wooden toys that roll. Peek-a-boo is a great resource for young children and parents, because it reinforces creative exploration through engaging fun games, seeing real-life objects and fun rhyming songs, to which babies and toddlers can relate. Playing peek-a-boo games with a baby will enhance positive emotions–smiling, giggling, bouncing– and help stimulate their brain, which forces them to begin imitating other children and their parents.

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Assignment #3 Evaluate Early Literacy Tools

1.)    Zero-To-Three http://www.zerotothree.org/

Zero-to-Three is the national center for infants, toddlers, and families–a nonprofit organization. The mission of the organization is to inform, train, and support parents and professionals in their efforts to improve the lives of infants and toddlers. The online database promotes the health and development of infants and toddlers, by providing resources for parents and educators to read, interact with, and become knowledgeable about the development and educational needs of babies and toddlers. The database includes a navigation bar with the following headlines: Behavior and Development, Maltreatment, Care and Education, Public Policy and About Us. The Behavior and Development page defines child development as starting at the first three years of life, and provides a list of key behavior and development topics—Brain Development, Challenging behaviors, Early Childhood Mental Health, Early Development, Health and Nutrition, Mental Health Screening and Assessment, Play, Social Emotional Development, Sleep, and Temperament and Behavior. Each of the topics include information, interactive tools, handouts, charts, tip sheets, and PowerPoint slides to help parents support the development of babies and toddlers. This is an excellent resource for parents and educators because the database includes a wide variety of information in a detailed and easily accessible format.  Parents and educators will learn the process of brain development, by which they can begin to understand what babies and toddlers need to learn at their most crucial stage of life. There is an “Early Care and Education” section that includes a “School Readiness Interactive” from birth to age 3. In the school readiness interactive, parents and caregivers will learn about the four key skills: language and literacy skills, thinking skills, self-confidence and self-control. There is a “Baby Brain Map” that shows how the baby’s brain develops based on an age range. By clicking on the 2 to 6 months age, the map will present different hotspots, such as language, touch, movement, vision, and hearing. Click on the hotspot and the question and answer section will provide information about that area of the brain. The “What you can do” area provides details on how to motivate babies and toddlers during each stage of development.  There are video clips that show babies (0-12 months) learning language and literacy skills in a parent-child activity.  This enables parents and educators to interact with the resources and learn to encourage children to read and respond to language. The interactive tool is based on a booklet with an interesting title: Getting Ready for School Begins at Birth (Metlife Foundation). The strongest function of the database is to provide scenarios that will give parents fun early learning ideas to practice at home with their babies and toddlers, concerning language and literacy. Because the website focuses on children from zero to age 3, and provides a wide variety of information about child development, behavior, and education, I would suggest it as a good resource for parents and educators to learn about this age group. I rate this online database  five out of five gold stars.

2.) Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY) http://www.hippyusa.org/

HIPPY is a school readiness/home visiting program, which allows low-income families (parents and children) to be successful in reading. The HIPPY program is a great resource for parents because it is designed to provide a developmentally appropriate curriculum so parents can learn how to teach their children how to read in the home. The method of teaching is lead-by-example, in which a coordinator assigns teachers to visit homes and teach parents how to be involved with their children’s education. The program seems to be designed specifically for low-poverty families in critical situations, rather then for higher class families who want additional education for their children.  The database provides a curriculum that is designed for children ages 3, 4, and 5. The database is easy to navigate, and the information is clearly presented. There is a sidebar of links, each featuring one aspect of the HIPPY model (click on The HIPPY Model Link) including: curriculum, role play, coordinator, home visits, and starting a program. After clicking on one link, there is an explanation of the element; it is detailed, providing a clear example of how “role play” would work in a home setting. There are a list of advantages to using the program, which will encourage parents to join HIPPY.  The HIPPY program will help parents teach their children early literacy skills, because it is a 30 week literacy curriculum. This is a unique program because it bridges the home and the school together and allows parents to get a jump start on their children’s education. I would rate the HIPPY program 5 out of 5 gold stars because the purpose is to teach a parent early literacy skills.

3.) Healthy Families America http://www.healthyfamiliesamerica.org/home/index.shtml

Healthy Families America (developed by Prevent Child Abuse America) is a home visiting program designed to meet the needs of abused, neglected and at-risk children. The program can begin as early as the prenatal stage, or after the birth of the baby, and up to age five. Since the program adheres to the many different situations of families struggling with violence, the practice standards will provide a quality early learning process that can be designed to meet specific needs of families. The database provides easy access to information about the program including a .pdf file of the brochure, with details on HDA’s services, staff workers, and benefits of the program. There are more .pdf files, including research on the success of the HFA program, which can show parents and educators that the program is a resource that has proven to work for people in similar situations. Several evaluation studies found that the HFA program improved parent-child interaction and school readiness. The goal of HFA is to promote child well-being, proper growth and development, the prevention of abuse and neglect and to strengthen the parent-child relationship. The database provides information to get parents enrolled in the program by stating the benefits of the service. There is a scroll bar, where caregivers can locate their state and find a representative, who can assist them into enrolling into the HFA program. The proper care of babies and young children is important; before literacy can develop, the emotional element must be supported by a healthy environment. The HDA program can get parents ready to interact with their children so the mental health of infants, toddlers or preschoolers can thrive. The database assists parents who are in need of a service to connect to their children, and build a healthy social-emotional development.  The program will encourage parents and caregivers to develop healthy relationships with their children, because parents and caregivers will be active participants in the program. Many different families (blended, foster, adoptive) can benefit from this program because it can help caregivers teach children regardless of the different nationalities, cultures, language barriers, and diversity issues. The HFA program is similar to the HIPPY in-home program, because they focus on the relationship between infant and caregiver, the caregiver and home visitor, and the home visitor with the child development coordinator. The home visitor will be a model for parents/caregivers so they can teach early literacy skills to children from difficult backgrounds. I rate the HFA resource five out of five gold stars.

4.) CLASP http://www.clasp.org/issues?type=child_care_and_early_education

The CLASP organization focuses on high-quality child care and early education and promotes policies about child development and the needs of low-income parents. The policies are developed to support child care and early education needs at the federal, state, and local level. There are a series of studies to prove that the policies and early childhood education programs are actually contributing to the needs of children and of their caretakers. The programs, such as Head Start and Early Head Start, state pre-kindergarten programs, and other birth to five early education are studied to ensure that they provide the right educational support for children and families. The database is simple, with a search bar for easy access to child development questions. By typing in the phrase “early literacy” the database provides a series of links to .pdf files, power point slides, reports, articles, or other websites that will provide information relating to the search request.  The database has a wide variety of information that is separated into different tabs in the red navigation bar. For parents and teachers, who would want to know what the government is doing to help poverty-stricken families there is a “federal policy” link that will provide updated information about important bills, grants, acts, and state/federal budgets relating to early childhood development. The “newsroom” link provides daily information that relates to low-income families, such as education, unemployment, welfare issues and concerns. The “experts” tab allows parents and educators to locate articles written by professionals who have written publications about low-income and poverty-related issues. This lets people know about the research done in the field of early literacy and childhood development. Although the website has a wealth of information about policies that are being discussed or developed to support childhood education, it is not family friendly. The database is more of an awareness report on low income family issues. The policy that would assist parents or educators with early literacy skills the most would be the project entitled: Charting Progress for Babies in Child Care because it is research that provides the key principles of what babies and toddlers need, which will help states make decisions for infants and toddlers in childcare. The research and policy ideas will be able to assist parents and educators with ideas that support the development of infants and toddlers. In addition, parents and educators will have an awareness about state decisions made on the topic of child care. I would rate the database 4 out of 5 gold stars.

5.) LeapFrog http://shop.leapfrog.com/leapfrog/?storeId=store_us

LeapFrog designs and markets digital educational products for children. The products are meant for the interaction between child and machine to provide an effective learning experience anywhere. The LeapFrog online database  is bright green, with large links for parents or teachers to access resources easily.  Parents or educators can select the age group for more information on learning devices for children. The ages range from 0-12 months, 12-36 months, 3-5 years old, and 5-9 years old.  The database provides “quick links” for parents to access educational activities, and infant development topics. A long list of fun activities is provided so parents can model the activity at home and bond with their babies; Thus, helping the baby’s brain develop. LeapFrog is a great resource for parents to find information on how to interact with their babies, and learn about literacy techniques and the skills that their babies will learn by performing the activity. LeapFrog encourages interaction between parents and children.

The LeapFrog database also provides a checklist of things that toddlers should learn before entering kindergarten. By providing this checklist, parents will have a head start in helping their babies and toddlers get the language and literacy skills they need to be successful in kindergarten. When searching for products to purchase, there is a search bar, where parents can choose an age, a skill area, and the type of learning system, for instance, 0-12 months, Language and Literacy, and Infant and Toddler toys. After selecting the right category, pictures of toys appear along with the price and features of the product. The Lettersaurus is a dinosaur toy that can help children 12-months old explore letters, sounds, colors and music. These types of games are early literacy games that are interactive. Children can begin to sing the Alphabet Song along with the toy and touch buttons for a fun learning game. When parents are not available, children will be able to interact with toys that will help them achieve literacy and language skills.  Underneath the description of the toy is a rating scale by other users, who have bought the item. Their feedback can be useful in determining if the toy is beneficial for learning. I rate LeapFrog 5 out of 5 gold stars because the database does not only sell products, it provides additional resources and activities for parents to perform with their children.

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Assignment 1: Evaluate Selection Tools

                                      Selection Tools and Review Sources Assignment         

1.) Kirkus Reviews https://www.kirkusreviews.com/

The Kirkus Reviews online database of book reviews is straightforward. Information can be located easily in the left-side navigation bar. Under the browse-books sidebar, there is a link to the children’s and teens book reviews. After clicking on the children’s link, there is another break down of information containing a wide range of age groups: 0-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-11, middle school, and high school.  After clicking on an age link, there is a listing of the most recent children’s books. Underneath the title of a book are facts about the book, including author, illustrator, publication date, age range, and review. There is a small sample of one review, and a continue-button-link for viewing the entire review. Alongside the title of the book, is the date when the book review was written. Kirkus reviewer’s usually review books that are pre-published. In this way, an honest and unbiased opinion about the book can take place before public access. Kirkus archives old issues of children’s book reviews into their database. I was able to locate a few old children’s books.  Kirkus covers a wide range of books because they can provide access to 300,000 reviewed titles. However, Kirkus only provides one book review per book, for online users—unlike goodreads.com.  Aside from the structure of the website, Kirkus is a well trusted source for book reviews because it has been around since 1933. The Kirkus slogan is: “The World’s Most Toughest Critics” and the word “tough” suggests that they are expert book reviewers. Kirkus requires reviewers to be knowledgeable and experienced. The reviews are short and concise, giving detailed descriptions of the writing style, plot, awards won, comparison to earlier works by the same author, quotations from the story, and illustrations within the story.  The review is one paragraph long, and ends with the book format and age range inside parenthesis.  I would rate Kirkus Reviews five gold stars out of five.

2.) Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/

Goodreads is a free online database that allows people to search, review, and suggest books to read to other goodreads users. Under the explore link, there is a list of genres, including a children’s section. After clicking the children’s link, the newest releases of children’s books are available. On the right side, there is a “related genre” category box, which displays a wide range of materials including different types of children’s books: chapter books, picture books, pre-k, story time, and more. After clicking on the Chapter books link, the books are displayed by the “Most-Read-This-Week” category.   Hover the curser over an image of a book, and see the statistics of the average rating by users, the amount of ratings the book has received, and the publication date. There is an overall review by a goodreads professional editor, but the name of the editor is not displayed. Below the featured review are two headers: 1.) Friends Reviews, and 2.) Community Reviews. The community reviews are a list of goodreads users, from all over the world, who give their opinions and ratings of books. These reviews are not necessarily professionals critiques, because they are reviewed by everyday people who simply enjoy reading the genre. This database is great for librarians who want to read how everyday people respond to books, before adding them into the collection. The goodreads database is useful because it covers many different genres of children’s books, and the website is simple to use. Tracking books, and connecting with friends, make goodreads an interactive website— where a wealth of information can be shared.

3.) Common Sense Media http://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews

The Common Sense Media database is designed for kids and families who are just entering the technological world. The focus is to provide a safe website for kids, where the information is current and trustworthy. The homepage has four main boxes. Each box is described as follows: Reviews, Education, Advice, and Policy. Under the policy tab is a disclaimer, which alerts parents that the reviews and information on the website are age-based. Age-based websites can help parents understand what is appropriate for their children to read or view. On the left is a “find-reviews” sidebar. Underneath the sidebar is a list of ages ranging from 2 to 17. Next, is entertainment type, including books. The next two sidebars are “theme” and “browse”. On the middle page are images of the current movies, DVDs, TV Shows, bestselling books for kids and teens, applications, music, websites, and video games. After clicking on age 2, there are a list of book reviews (for age 2) next to the current date of publication.  After clicking on the title there is an age bar with 2 circles. There are two review sections, including  reviews by Common Sense Media, and reviews by parents and educators. To select, click on each check-box, and users can narrow down their search by age, genre, and type. The media and books are rated based on age appropriateness, which is from a development criteria designed by well-known authorities. Some of the Common Sense Media reviews are only one sentence long, so it does not provide much information on the book, or plot. The reviews by parents and educators give biased opinions, as to whether they liked or disliked the book. The website is easy to navigate, but the quality of content for the reviews is low. The website starts from age 2, so there is no link to choose books for babies. However, there is a search bar where the user can search by book title. I was able to locate board books for babies, but the book was listed in the age 2 category. Overall, I would rate the website 3 out of 5 gold stars. The website has great tools for kids and parents, but the reviews are not strong enough. I expected this website to present better reviews since parents are basing their media selection on review comments.

4.)  The Children’s Book Review http://www.thechildrensbookreview.com/

The structure of the website is clear and readable. There is a long list of categories on the left-hand side, including ages 0-3, 4-8 and 9-12. The category list includes a variety of ways to search for information. Users can search by genre, gender, or type. Beside each review is a picture of the book cover, the date, and the name of the reviewer. After clicking on the image of the book cover, the link takes the user to an Amazon.com product detail and shopping cart page. The product description describes the story’s plot. Below the product description is another review—a customer review.   The customer reviews are long, almost four small paragraphs.  In the Children’s Book Review database, there is biographical information on the reviewers, so users can see their qualifications. Most of the reviewers consist of professionals who are involved with children’s books, such as a bookseller, an editor, an author, an illustrator, or an educator. The database only includes book reviews on the best books for children. Therefore, the site is limited in providing reviews on a wide range of children’s books.  Users cannot search for books that are not listed as best books, which is unfair because there is great wealth of issues, themes, and creativity in all books. I would rate this selection tool four-out-of-five gold stars. This database is a great tool for librarians, who want to keep their collection current. I would use this selection tool to identify what new books are considered the best for children. For older book reviews, I would consult Kirkus.

5.) Junior Library Guild http://www.juniorlibraryguild.com/

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a book review and collection development service for librarians. The only books that are reviewed are the very best of children’s and young adult books. The purpose of the database is to help librarians develop their children’s collection. “Only the best books are put into the hands of eager young readers”—is the JLG’s motto. Pre-published books that are included in the database have become future award winning books, or favorite reviews. The  reviewers know how to select winning books, before they are published.  The JLG reviews are done by professional editors who are familiar with children’s and young-adult literature. Before books are published, the JLG’s editorial team reads and reviews more than 3,000 books. This is a wide coverage of material available on the database.

The JGL reviews are biased because they only include their opinion of what they think is the best books. JGL is associated with School Library Journal, Horn Book Magazine, and Library Journal—which are trusted resources that many librarians use to select materials. Selecting books to include in the JGL database is similar to what a librarian would have to do when adding books into the collection. Are librarians biased when they make a selection, or reject a book? Part of the selection process is to have a criteria, or selection policy, and then make a selection based on the criteria. For instance, “we will not add another Italian cookbook to the collection because we already have 5 Italian cookbooks on the shelf, and we have limited shelf space”. Librarians must find books that will circulate among the public. JLG editors are similar to librarians, in a sense that they are biased because they are selling books: which books to carry, which books to promote, which books to sell—the nature of the beast. Why not choose to include all books in their database—like Kirkus Reviews, or Goodreads? The JGL editors have already made their selection of what to carry, and the fact that they reject books suggests that they are targeting a certain audience: librarians. They want librarians to fill their shelves with books that they believe are the best. The JGL editors define the “best” books having good storytelling, topic variety, illustration, and art direction.  Out of 3,000 submissions, the JGL reviewers only chose 497 books, meaning that a lot of books were rejected.

What is wrong with reading a non-best book? Just because the JGL editors say these are the best books, does not mean that the books (that were not selected) do not have good subject matter, or great language.

A good librarian should not use only one database, but cross reference different websites to get different opinions ad reviews about a book. The JLG reviewers receive books that are unpublished and figure that they can sell the books to librarians who do not have the opportunity to cross-reference reviews and opinions on unpublished books.

On the JLG website, there are four different categories including: Books and Levels, Browse by Reading Level, Book Search, and Backlist Catalog. In the “Books and Levels” category, users can search for books by grade level: elementary, middle school, high school, and public libraries.  In the “Browse by Reading Level” category users can see subject and reading level, such as: easy reading, independent readers, biography elementary, mystery elementary, and more. After clicking on one of the links for a reading level, the books that are forthcoming will appear. For example, clicking on a link that is “Mystery Elementary” will list forthcoming mystery elementary books, such as “It Happened on a Train: Brixton Brothers” that is due to come out in March of 2012. This database is useful for librarians who want to have the newest material present for children in the library. There is a backlist of books with older published works included on the website.

The JLG journal provides reviews on books using detailed descriptions about the plot, illustrations, as well as quotations from the text. The review includes a description of how the text is used in the books. The editors use many strong adjective words to describe the illustrations within the books. The plot is described, as well as the identity of characters. An explanation of what the characters will face in the books is mentioned in the JLG reviews. A brief description of the author’s background is included, such as hobbies, or how the author’s personal history relates to the book, or what gave the author inspiration to write the book. Some reviews include a series of repeated questions, as a way of telling the reader what they can expect in the book. In addition, the reviews sometimes include an entire scene straight from the book, which gives readers a sample of the style of language used in the book. The JLG reviewers also include how the book is important, or how the book contributes to our social, economic, or moral values. The JLG reviews database is a great selection tool for librarians and teachers to build their collection. I would rate the database five out of five gold stars.

Compare and Contrast

Kirkus and Goodreads review databases contrast, because the requirements to become a reviewer are different. Goodreads book reviews can be written by anyone. Kirkus reviews must be written by a professional reviewer, or an expert in the field/genre. The mobility of the website is similar: easy to search for a book review, via search box. However, both databases compare in their suggestions for further reading, and will lead users to notice other books of the same genre.  The only difference is that Kirkus critics recommend every book they critique. There is never a negative response to the book, like “Don’t buy this picture book”. For Goodreads books are recommended based on friends’ recent reads and ratings, or people with a similar taste in genre. If the book was not a good read, the user can rate it negatively. This contrasts with Kirkus’ unbiased review style. Goodreads will also recommend books based on the books that have been read by the user, which is similar to Kirkus, whose critics suggest other books in the same genre of the book currently viewed by the user.

Goodreads and Common Sense Media compare in their review process. They allow anyone to provide a review. The only difference is that Common labels parents and educator’s reviews. In this way, users can see how parents, or educators feel about a book. This is good for kids who are looking for a good book, and want the opinion of an adult figure before reading the book. Both databases allow people to rate the books using a like or dislike link poll. Clicking on the poll link will show users whether the book is a good read.

The Children’s Book Review (TCBR) is similar to the Kirkus Reviews database, because the reviews are only written by qualified professionals in the field of children’s books.  TCBR sells books through Amazon.com, which provides customer reviews about the books. However, on the official website, the reviews are written by professionals who understand child development. By having two databases with qualified book reviewers, users can use these websites as a way to select books that will help with their children’s development. Customer reviews on websites , such as Goodreads and Common Sense Media are based on personal interest—I liked this book, or nah, I did not like this book. When professionals review books, they have the children’s best interest in mind. They are evaluating the book based on child development.  Will this picture book, board book, or chapter book help kids achieve literacy skills? –This is the type of question that reviewers on Kirkus and TCBR ask while reading children’s books. On the other hand, books that are reviewed by customers, who are parents, provide good information on the success of the book, because they are interacting with their child and the book. Parents might say: “My three-year-old child loves the illustrations in Peter Rabbit books,” and this is a good source of information, too. Databases like Goodreads, Amazon, and Common Sense Media allows anyone to voice their opinions on a wide range of books.

The Junior Library Guild’s(JLG) database is similar to Kirkus Reviews in several ways: 1.) They   both have a large database, with archived reviews of at least 300,000 reviews, 2.) They both review pre-published materials, and 3.) They both include reviews from experts in children’s and young adult literature. JLG also compares with The Children’s Book Review because their reviewers are experts at reviewing children’s books. JLG and Children’s Books Review are similar in their selection of materials. They both review only the best books for children. JLG is a professional database that contrasts with social databases like Goodreads and Common Sense Media because the reviews give more insight into the life of the author, the characters, quotations from the books, and how the book influences humanity. Social databases only rely on the public’s opinion of a book’s quality.

Reviews on items in the style of Kirkus Reviews:

1.) The Quiet Book. By Deborah Underwood.  Illustrated by Renata Liwska. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2010. 32 pages. $12.95. ISBN: 978-0547215679.

How many ways can you describe quiet? In this picture book, a collection of friendly animal characters, including bears, bunnies, owls, porcupines—and more, describe the kinds of quiet in 29 ways. From “first one awake quiet” in the morning, to “sound asleep quiet” in the evening, this book explores everyday activities, emotions, games, nature, and physical actions that are quiet. The pencil sketched illustrations of animal characters accompany very short phrases that help describe each kind of quiet. Instead of “Be Quiet!”—Underwood explores “Quiet” as having multiple meanings, which allows children to emotionally accept the word without a negative connotation. This is a perfect bedtime story for parents to ssshhh their toddlers to sleep in a positive way.  (Picture book. 3-5).

2.) First the Egg. By Laura Seeger. Roaring Brook Press, 2007. 32 pages. $14.99. ISBN: 978-1596432727.

This Caldecott and Theodore Seuss Honor award winning book traces the first stages of life and the age old question: Which came first, the egg or the chicken? The beautifully painted oil-on-canvas  background adds rich color to each of the pages, while large text  helps to describe the transformations. Each page begins with “First” then moves onto reveal what transformed on the following pages. Begin with an egg, then a chicken will follow, begin with a seed and a flower will bloom. This picture book is chalked full of different transformations, and the die cuts accentuate the objects, while adding creativity to the page. The words are very simple. (Picture book. 2-6)

3.) Prudence Wants a Pet. By Cathleen Daly. Illustrated by Steven Michael King.  Roaring Brook Press, 2011. 32 pages. $16.99 ISBN: 978-1596434684.

In this rectangle-shaped picture-book, Prudence desires a pet. Any pet. But, Prudence is not allowed to have a pet: ““No,” says Dad, “pets cost too much to keep””. So, using her imagination, Prudence adopts a tree branch, a shoe, a twig, even a tire, while continuing to be a very responsible pet owner. The illustrations show a collection of playful interactions between Prudence and random objects that are not suitable as a pet. Prudence is a loveable character, who shows great patience in wanting a pet. It is not enough for Prudence to play with an object, she desires love and affection in return. She does not cry, whine, or fret to her parents to give her a pet. Instead, Prudence locks herself into a closet. Only then do her parents realize how disappointed she is and then they surprise her with a real pet for her birthday. Stephen Michael King’s illustrations clearly accompany Daly’s series of short sentences, and they add humor to the story, expressing many of Prudence’s interactions. There is a large amount of white space on the pages, which allow children to view the expressions of the character’s faces clearly, with a splash of color only for clothing and objects. (Picture book. 3-5)

4.) Blue Chameleon. By Emily Gravett. (2010). Simon and Schuster, 2010. 32 pages. $16.99. ISBN: 978-1442419582.

We can see the feelings of Gravett’s chameleon displayed by his hue—Blue! Trying to fit in, the lonely chameleon mimics different colors, patterns, and shapes of objects, like a “Yellow” “Banana,” and a “Stripy” “Sock”. There is a single word for each page, accompanied by a color-pencil sketch of the chameleon and the objects.  Chameleon moves along from object to object trying to make a friend. But the objects never reply to the chameleon’s “Hi,” “Hello.” or “Howdy”. At one point, chameleon jumps across the entire picture book trying to catch the green grasshopper. Just as the Chameleon quietly disappears—lines are as white as the pages—a friendly “Hello?” is the only words that appear on the page. The picture book ends with chameleon finding a suitable friend–another chameleon! (Picture book 2-5)

5.) Me Hungry. By Jeremy Tankard. Candlewick Press, 2008. 40 pages. $15.99. ISBN: 978-1406319330.

In Tankard’s prehistoric picture book, a boy says “Me Hungry!”, but his parents reply “Me Busy”. The boy goes on an adventure to hunt a rabbit, a porcupine, and a tiger. Oh My! But, oddly enough, the biggest creature, the Mammoth, becomes friends with the boy and helps him find food. When dinner time is ready, the boy is too busy to leave. Illustrations with ink and digital media add a cartoon flare to the characters, while the typeset in Stone Hinge complements the prehistoric setting. A different shade of bright colors for each new page keeps each new scene refreshing. Although there are few words, they add silly humor to the story.  (Picture book. 3-6)

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