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The other day, my 12 year old niece sent me a pdf of a story she wrote. 100 typed pages. It ends not exactly on a cliffhanger, but leaves room for more adventures. My niece explained that she intends to make it a series. Some of the pages (and the cover!) have beautiful artwork. I asked her where she got the artwork or if she had done them herself. She told me she had used Storybird (http://storybird.com/create/). I had set her up with a Storybird account when she was 7 or 8 years old. Storybird is a website that allows kids to write a story. Sounds pretty basic, right? With Storybird, kids can create and share books and poems with a free membership. They can also choose from artwork by different artists to add to their stories and artists can sign-up and show off their artwork and characters. Storybird is a good website to base a program around in a public or school library setting or at least a good site to recommend to kids you see in the library that like to write or tell stories. Storybird both practices and encourages some of the most important aspects of learning – creativity and intrinsic motivation. Not all kids will be phenomenal writers, but with Storybird, they will have the freedom and encouragement to make something they can call their own.
Though Storybird has not changed too drastically since I first looked at it 6 or 7 years ago it has become a richer, more in-depth environment with more artwork and more publicly shared stories. Kids under 13 have to provide a parent’s email address so their account can be activated. While they could potentially just enter their own email, no personal information is listed on their profile, so their experience should still be safe. Also, the stories kids write are automatically private, unless they adjust the settings to make them public. All Storybird users are also cautioned against using or including inappropriate content in their stories, and could find their accounts banned if stories are found with elements that violate site rules. Furthermore, all comments and stories are moderated. And if users are interested in writing for more than just fun, Storybird has also created a paid membership level that adds courses, express writing feedback, and challenges for certificates.
When I was a kid, we did all this sort of thing non-digitally. I remember in kindergarten making a book with my own pictures and gluing and sewing the pages into a cardboard cover. While that is still a great activity, going digital can add more than just a few aspects to writing creatively. First of all, it is instantly shareable by link to friends and family (Like an Uncle). It also is a good moderated experience to help kids become more digitally literate and can help them with their computer skills along with learning about privacy and accounts.
This is a good website to add to your Bag of Tricks. As we talked about in other parts of this Bag of Tricks series, having resources at your fingertips and a basic familiarity with up-and-coming technology can come in very handy for better serving patrons and can also give you a bit more confidence. While I suggest that you create your own Bag of Tricks, I have an example Bag of Tricks to get you started at https://padlet.com/kieran/CSLSHAREANDLEARN.