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As many of you readers may know, Keene Memorial Library has been introducing different material types of the past couple of years, such as Playaway MP3 players and Playaway Views. We have worked closely with our vendor Findaway to learn about new materials available and how they impact learning and literacy.

At the American Library Association conference Elisa Cruz and I attended in October 2017, we learned about a new product called Playaway Bookpacks. The new Bookpacks are an MP3 player preloaded with a story that plays alongside a book provided in the kit. For those of you my age or older, you may remember the old 45 RPM vinyl records that you played alongside your book that “chimed” and told you when to turn the page. My favorite was Tina the Ballerina. This new format is the same concept with new technology.

The Bookpacks are designed for a “grab and go” lifestyles in an easy to use MP3 device. They also are designed for every type of reader. They can be used to entice emerging readers and build early literacy skills or they can be used by proficient readers to help introduce books above their current reading level. The main purpose of the Bookpacks that drew our attention was the ability to help reluctant and struggling readers. These Bookpacks create deeper engagement and inspire positive attitudes about reading. As part of the dyslexia grant we received last year through Friends of Keene Memorial Library, we were able to order 41 Bookpacks for young readers. Some of the children’s titles include stories from Fancy Nancy, Curious George, Storybook Classics, Clifford and Sophie. We also have Young Adult titles such as Wrinkle in Time, Charlotte’s Web, Lightning Thief, and Call of the Wild.

These materials are designed to help struggling readers increase their literacy abilities. In libraries we often see that sometimes changing the media format for children can make a huge difference in reading levels. For example, many people didn’t understand that reading graphic novels benefits literacy rates of children. Although the format is different and not a standard novel format, the books still contain words that the children must read and are accompanied by pictures and drawings. Sometimes, they are Japanese manga and you read the books from back to front, right to left, but the children are still learning how to read. According to American Libraries Magazine, “The new tool (BookPack) is intuitive to use and offers educational benefits including increased reading comprehension, retention, vocabulary skills, phonemic awareness, and fluency.” The State Library of Kansas has made Bookpacks available and said, “I believe Bookpacks support reluctant and struggling readers, home schoolers, English Language Learners and adult literacy programs with the goal of promoting literacy and life-long learners.”

So if you stop by the library, look for the shelf of orange Bookpacks, or ask the nearest staff member where to find these wonderful new additions to our library. We look forward to hearing your feedback!

Tina Walker is Director of Keene Memorial Library in Fremont.

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