Library provides Mackay youngsters with digital literacy boost

Mother and child playing with a tablet device.
Image: Courtesy of Mackay Regional Libraries

Mackay Regional Council Libraries introduced ten preloaded Launchpad tablets to children, parents and caregivers in the March-April school holidays, and as part of Library and Information Week in May.

The devices were funded through a State Library of Queensland Realising Our Potential Micro Grant, and aim to introduce ‘educational apps on laps’ to children. The introduction of the preloaded Launchpad tablets allowed families access to digital technology, which they may not have access to at home.

Staff set up drop-in stations with five devices at a time at each of the larger branches, introducing the technology to those participating in the story time programs. Pop-up spots in the community such as at shopping centres were also set up for Library and Information Week, which coincided with the school holiday period.

Parents and carers were given the unique opportunity of being active participants with their children and to share feedback on whether they would loan the devices if given the opportunity. The target audience was 0-12 years, however children around the age of 3-5 years were most interested.

The biggest hurdle staff faced was convincing parents that Launchpads are a simple device, pre-loaded with educational material that would allow both child and parent to interact together, as opposed to a tablet with internet connectivity.

Some parents were quick to say they did not allow their children to access electronic devices. While others wanted to leave the children to play, rather than interact with them.

Staff positively explained the devices were not intended to just occupy the children, but were rather an educational tool created to encourage child/parent interaction and to build on fundamental literacy and numeracy skills.

Staff outlined that there was no need for Wi-Fi to access the content and children would only have access to the preloaded educational content. Staff also informed participants that if the pilot was successful, Mackay Regional Council Libraries would consider adding more loanable Launchpad readers to the collection which would be available for loan.

When asked “What did you enjoy most about your experience today?” some of the comments included:

“interacting with your my child”
“my son enjoyed exploring the new tablets”
“fun games and educational activities”
“an educational toy which is very important”
“Granddaughter and I could work with it together”
“we have an iPad but I like that our children cannot get into anything else, also we can try the apps before purchasing them ourselves.”

Overall this was a very successful program with beneficial outcomes that will lead to further development of this collection soon.

About the author
Shannon de Silva is Librarian of Collections at Mackay Regional Council Libraries.