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Little Leapers bridges the digital divide for kids 3 to 5

More than 40 guests, including families, children, Harford County officials, library representatives and members of the Harford County Public Library Foundation attended the launch of the Little Leapers 3.5 program on March 5 at the Edgewood library.

This innovative program will offer the library's youngest customers the opportunity to use iPad minis in the children's departments of the Edgewood, Aberdeen and Abingdon branches and through the Rolling Reader and Silver Reader.

The iPad minis are part of the next phase of Little Leapers, the highly successful STREAM program launched in 2013. Little Leapers offers more than 100 pre- and early-literacy kits to children from birth to 5 years old, to learn about science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math. Little Leapers 3.5 is geared to children ages 3 to 5 using iPad minis and apps to engage young minds in STREAM topics and to familiarize children with digital devices before they enter school.

The Edgewood, Aberdeen and Abingdon libraries each offer 10 iPad minis at their branches. The Rolling Reader and Silver Reader each offer two iPad minis. The Silver Reader was added to the distribution so grandparents can become knowledgeable about the program.

The iPad minis are loaded with 25 to 30 children's apps selected by Harford County Public Library's early literacy librarians to help teach STREAM concepts. The selections are a mix of free and paid apps, so parents can easily replicate the app list at home.

"Little Leapers 3.5 is our response to help narrow the digital divide we are witnessing in Harford County," Mary Hastler, director of Harford County Public Library, said. "As digital resources continue to grow, it is essential that every child has access to mobile technology and the opportunity to develop 'technology-handling' skills. We are proud to provide this opportunity to children throughout Harford County, including those who may not otherwise have a chance to explore it."

Little Leapers 3.5 will give children and caregivers the opportunity to engage together in imaginative apps, learn "swipe" technology and hone critical digital literacy skills. Parents and caregivers will also receive assistance and learn techniques to help their children enhance creativity skills and to explore tablet technology.

"This program is really good for young children and very important for this generation where everything is technology based," Chioma Nwafor, parent of 4-year-old son, Kelechi, who were at the Little Leapers 3.5 kickoff, said. "We are so glad to be here. We come to storytime every Wednesday and now we will make time to play with the Little Leapers 3.5 iPad minis, too."

The Morris A. Mechanic Foundation donated $10,000 toward the project, which includes purchase of the iPad minis, apps and tables and chairs used in the children's departments. The project total is estimated at $24,000 and also includes funding from the Harford County Public Library Foundation and the Harford County Public Library.

"Little Leapers 3.5 provides access to technology tools and interactive media experiences for every child. We look forward to expanding the program and are committed to continuing to develop new resources and programs for every customer," Hastler said.

The Harford County Public Library Foundation is a 501(c) 3 charitable organization established to raise funds to augment the financial resources of the library and to promote awareness of library services. For more information, call 410-273-5601, ext. 2283.

Harford County Public Library operates 11 branches throughout Harford County. The library serves more than 180,000 registered borrowers of all ages and has an annual circulation of more than 4.8 million. Harford County Public Library is committed to connecting people with information and promoting the love of reading within the community. More information may be found at hcplonline.org.

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