February 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Technology Can Inspire Families to Read More. Here’s How to Make it Work in Your Library.


Can you spot the early-education computer? The small-but-powerful Starling pairs with a smartphone to give parents engaging feedback on their interactions throughout the day.

At first, it’s hard to believe this cute little star is a highly advanced, wearable computer. It’s also an early-education juggernaut that’s being recommended by pediatricians, utilized by speech language therapists and incorporated into library early-learning programs across the country. School Library Journal recently reviewed the Starling and called it “a surprise discovery” and “a potential game changer for librarians”. You can read the full review here, but first, discover what the Starling actually does.

The Starling is a small wearable device that counts the words a child hears throughout the day. The device pairs with a smartphone app, which not only shows parents (and the organizations they work with) meaningful data on their interactions, but prompts them to speak more with daily tips, guidance, and weekly challenges. The result is that parents read, speak, and even sing more to their children, increasing their children’s potential while having a blast doing it.

Versa Me

Download this free PDF guide to adding technology to your programs.

Enter Heather Hageli. Heather is the Early Literacy Coordinator for the Vernon Area Public Library (VAPL), serving the village of Lincolnshire, Illinois, and parts of neighboring municipalities. The VAPL’s 50,000 square foot building is full of excellent resources found in most libraries. Heather just brought in a batch of Starlings and is quickly making her library a pioneer in early-education preparedness.

“Our library doubles as a community center, and we support the needs of our families,” Heather explains. “We have story time and early-literacy programs that start at birth.” When Heather’s colleague returned from the ALA Midwinter Meeting this January, buzzing about the cute, little Starling wearable she discovered at the conference, they knew they had to have one for their library.

The Starling seemed like a perfect fit for families who wanted to give their little ones a head start in life. The library spent a few weeks working with the Starling’s co-founders, testing out a trial Starling, and getting parent feedback. After seeing the enthusiastic reception from their parent patrons, VAPL decided to order more devices and become an official Starling Partner. Their strategy? To circulate their Starlings as a part of their new “Grab and Grow PLUS Packs.”

Starling Library Kits

You can use the Starling’s new Starling Library Kits or do as Early-Literacy Coordinator, Heather Hageli has done and create your own “Grab and Grow PLUS Packs.”

“We curate different Grab and Grows with different themes, anything from dinosaurs to manners,” Heather says. “The Starling is featured in our PLUS packs. We include the Starling, a children’s music CD, an interactive toy, a copy of 30 Million Words by Dana Suskind, and a short info sheet from the Starling team about the power of words.”

The library is also boosting their story time sessions with the Starling. “We are having the librarian wear a Starling of their own while running the program and then showing parents at the end how many words their children have heard during the session. It’s a great way of reinforcing that message about the importance of talking, reading, and singing with babies and young children!”

Vernon Area Public Library patrons can get familiar with the Starling in the Grab and Grow PLUS Packs, and if they love it they can purchase one with the VAPL’s special discount code. “Parents get to check out the Starling for three weeks, but for a lot of them this is just a teaser. They want to make this device a fixture in their lives.”

With one little star-shaped device, Heather boosted her community programs, invigorated her storytimes, and inspired her parent patrons to begin their children’s education early through the power of words. And Heather isn’t alone. Libraries across the country are working with the Starling team to find unique applications for this kind of technology. You can call to speak with a Starling team member at (650) 239-6791 or download a free, helpful guide to adding technology to your early development programs: Using Technology to Engage (and Inspire) Your Patrons.


Facts Matter: Information Literacy for the Real World
Libraries and news organizations are joining forces in a variety of ways to promote news literacy, create innovative community programming, and help patrons/students identify misinformation. This online course will teach you how to partner with local news organizations to promote news literacy through a range of programs—including a citizen journalism hub at your library.
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