Top Ten Picture Books to Use to Teach Digital Literacy by Erin Marone
According to Common Sense Media, children spend an average of six hours a day with media while teenagers spend an average of nine hours a day with media. With screen time at an all time high, it is important educators tackle digital literacy topics within their curriculum such as balancing time off and online, standing up to cyberbullies, and making safe choices on the web. Using picture books as conversation starters in the classroom can enforce safe online habits and encourage students to maintain a balanced media diet.
Goodnight iPad by Ann Droyd
This parody of a classic picture book hit the shelves over 60 years after its predecessor was published and televisions were making their way into households. The creatures in the book say goodnight to their Facebook, cell phones, and videos instead of mittens, mush, and socks. Comparing and contrasting Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown with this book will allow readers to analyze and discuss how our culture has changed since the introduction of electronics and social networking by close reading both the text and illustrations.
Hello, Hello by Matthew Cordell
In this simple text with watercolor illustrations, a girl is ignored by her family who are entranced by their gadgets. The text addresses the need to balance both your online and offline lives; as those who choose technology over the “real-world” are portrayed in black-in-white. At one point, the girl slips out of her house to unearth a fascinating outside world. Upon her return, she collects objects from outside to remind her family of nature. Her family transforms into color as she presents each member with an object or gift– a sweet, subtle reminder of living a balanced life.
The Wretched Stone by Chris Van Allsburg
In The Wretched Stone, we relive a ship’s last passage amidst a text heavy in alliteration. The culprit to its demise is a mysterious stone, which causes the ship’s crew to turn into apes as they stare at it. After doing a close read, one can infer the author created the stone to represent a “glowing” television set. See how the power of the “stone” causes chaos on board, but note that those who read were able to recover from the stone’s powers faster. Use this text for author’s purpose and symbolism when discussing living a balanced life of screentime and screen-free time and the effects of media on our culture.
If You Give a Mouse an iPhone by Ann Droyd
Following the footsteps of Goodnight iPad, If You Give a Mouse an iPhone tackles our technology dependent culture with the mouse, Applesauce, being a symbol for Generation Z, and the boy taking on the role of a parent. The book opens up with Applesauce talking to the boy who doesn’t want to be disturbed. Therefore, he gives Applesauce his phone. Applesauce becomes too busy with the phone that life passes him by until his device runs out of juice. Without the phone, the boy and Applesauce bond as they spend time together device-free! This text can be used to reflect on our own digital dependency and for conversations about author’s purpose.
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry
Stick and Stone is a perfect book to use for your primary students to introduce the topic of upstander behavior and to start a conversation with students on how cyberbullying is just like bullying in real life. When Stone (the target) is bullied by Pinecone, Stick (the upstander) stands up for his friend by telling Pinecone to leave him alone. What makes this book unique is that Stone reciprocates by helping Stick when he is stuck in a puddle. The puddle could symbolize any Internet or social media situation one needs help navigating through. Stick and Stone help each other and their friendship grows making their relationship a win-win!
It’s a Book by Lane Smith
It’s a Book takes a sarcastic approach to the need for both print and digital resources in our modern world. This text is a jumping point for a conversation about the future of digital media and how we will access and evaluate information. In It’s a Book, Donkey doesn’t know what a book is and is confused as to why Monkey likes it. However, he vows to discover its potential. Lo and behold, Donkey becomes entranced with the book showing that sometimes, all you need is a book–and only a book!
The Very Inappropriate Word by Jim Cobbin and Dave Coverly
One of the downsides to the web is that the anonymity of communicating online may encourage some to say or write things they wouldn’t express face-to-face. The Very Inappropriate Word can help explain how words, both on and offline, affect how others feel. The book’s text encourages us to look at the poetic nature of our language and how certain words sound as Michael collects words. When on the school bus, Michael hears a “new” word that is “bad” so he hides it. While hidden, Michael notices the word more frequently so he decides to show it to his friends. A chain reaction is born as others (including himself) say the word until Michael becomes immersed in beautiful language again and throws the “bad” word away.
Blackout by John Rocco
This Caldecott Honor Book is similar to a graphic novel with is text features and speech bubbles. The beautiful illustrations, focusing on light and dark, start out with a girl wanting to play a board game, but everyone is too busy to play with her. (Think Hello, Hello.) So she ends up playing video games by herself until the power goes out and the family is forced to spend time together. That is, until the lights come back on, then they go back to what they were doing before. Slyly, the girl decides to turn the lights off herself to get her family together to play the board game. Blackout showcases the importance of family and connections in a digital world.
Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino
Humans and robots roam the world in harmony in this futuristic book where school is just a little bit different–especially for robots. Doug plugs-in each morning to download information. During his daily downloading, Doug becomes distracted and wonders about life outside his window. What is the value of learning these facts without the ability for experience, connections or memories? So, what is a robot to do, but unplug! Doug learns firsthand everything that downloading couldn’t teach him–like the loud s-c-r-e-e-c-h of a train or how much fun he has playing with a friend. Doug Unplugged can be used in the classroom with the conversations around balance, information literacy, interaction or education.
When Charlie McButton Lost Power by Suzanne Collins
Told in rhyme, this story focuses on a boy playing computer games when he loses power. Different than Blackout, this is one boy’s battle with his electronic dependency. Charlie must steal a battery from his sister to continue to play a video game. He struggles with his conscious when ultimately he decides he has fun playing with his sister–so that there is life beyond gadgets. What makes this author’s take on digital citizenship unique is that students will be able to relate to Charlie’s need for video games and the feeling of despair when forced to unplug. Part of being a responsible digital citizen is the ability to know when to participate in online and offline communities, which Charlie uncovers throughout the storm.
Erin Marone is a certified school building and school district administrator who is currently a Library Media Specialist and Lead Technology Teacher at Dayton Avenue Elementary School in the Eastport-South Manor School District. She is Suffolk’s School Library Media Association’s 2016 Library Media Specialist of the Year, a Common Sense Education Ambassador and a Certified Google for Education Trainer. In addition, Erin is an adjunct lecturer at Stony Brook University where she teaches graduate courses on all things Google. When she isn’t teaching, she can usually be found on her laptop; surfing book blogs and watching YouTube videos (all with a cup of coffee in hand and her cat, Bella, in lap!) Follow her on Twitter at: @ErinMarieMarone.