App Authors Project Creates Digital Opportunities for Kids in Libraries
Champaign, IL (June 15, 2016)—The Center for Children’s Books moves to the summer phase of its App Authors project with a free six-week program, held at the Douglass Branch Library in Champaign, designed to teach young people to create apps. The program gives children a chance to explore, play, and eventually create their own apps. It engages participants regardless of experience level, giving them valuable context, familiarity with problem solving, and the opportunity to develop critical thinking skills—and to have a lot of fun.

App Authors: Closing the App Gap II is a three-year project to develop curricula for app-building in school and public libraries. The pilot program was pioneered this spring in partnership with Champaign’s Unit 4 Schools at Kenwood Elementary School, and next year it will be repeated there and at the Douglass Branch as well as expanding to include the Frederick County Public Libraries in Frederick, MD and the Springfield Public Library in Springfield, OR. The third year will see the program repeated at those sites plus two to five new library venues, allowing us to reach hundreds of children directly and to refine a program that other libraries can adopt for their own use. The Institute of Museum and Library Services awarded the Center for Children’s Books $248,205 to support the project.

This is the second phase of the CCB’s Closing the App Gap work, which addresses the app gap, the income-related disparity in young people’s access to handheld technology. It’s long documented that income disparity affects kids’ reading levels, and the twenty-first century has resulted in the digital divide, the difference in access to technology between children in low-income families and those in higher-income families. Access to technology plays a considerable role in determining career paths available to children, particularly paths in STEM fields, so it’s a divide that needs breaching; as places of access to technology and empowerment for youth, libraries can help close the gap.

The project is led by Dr. Deborah Stevenson, Director of the Center for Children’s Books, with co-PIs Dr. Kate McDowell, Associate Professor, and Dr. Rachel Magee, Assistant Professor, all at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The Center for Children’s Books is a research center devoted to the study of youth, literature, and media. To learn more, visit the CCB website at http://ccb.ischool.illinois.edu.

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