Bath library adds iPads to early childhood literacy program

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BATH — Some might say electronic devices like iPads are supplanting traditional print media, but at Patten Free Library they go hand in hand.

A $3,000 grant from the Alfred M. Senter Fund in Brunswick has allowed the Summer Street facility to purchase six Apple iPads, which are being used in the library’s early literacy program.

The devices are intended to bring the building blocks of reading to life in Patten’s new early literacy classes.

Roberta Jordan, an outreach and instruction librarian, heard about a Connecticut library’s literacy program with iPads and was prompted to explore the option for Patten.

“Bath has a great (pre-kindergarten) program; it has six different pre-K sites” as part of Regional School Unit 1, Jordan said, “… but it only serves about half the pre-K population, so not everybody can get in.”

“We realized there was a need there, that we can serve an under-served or not-served population,” she added, noting that while some children may attend private pre-kindergarten, “we assume there’s a fair number that don’t, that can’t afford that, so we thought we could serve those people.”

The library intends to offer classes throughout the year as warranted by demand, organizing small, supervised groups according to age and skill levels, with parents in attendance. While classes are initially being offered just at the library, Jordan plans to hold classes with the iPads at pre-school sites throughout the community.

“Study after study after study shows that … if you’re behind schedule reading-wise when you enter kindergarten, you’ll probably stay behind,” Jordan said.

Lesley Dolinger, the library’s director, noted in a press release that the library is selecting software, or “apps,” for the iPads “that will help our preschool patrons recognize and write letters and numbers, learn letter sounds and sight words, and build vocabulary and reading fluency.”

The tablet’s touch technology and its ease of use lends itself to hands-on literary learning, Dolinger said.

Jordan said the offerings of an electronic book and its print version can work in concert.

“We have a great children’s program here,” she said. “… We have story hours, we have themed days and events, and I think this is just one more thing that will draw people in. And whether it’s the book that they want, or (the iPad), I don’t care. As long as they’re reading.”

Parents and caregivers interested in signing their preschoolers up can do so at the library’s children’s desk or call 443-5141 ext. 16. They can also reach Jordan at 443-5141 ext. 25.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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The Patten Free Library has used a $3,000 grant to purchase six Apple iPads, which are being used in the library’s early literacy program. Roberta Jordan, left, an outreach and instruction librarian at Patten, and Lesley Dolinger, the library’s director, show off two of the tablet computers in their specially designed cases.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.