McDowell to deliver invited talk at IFLA symposium

Kate McDowell
Kate McDowell, Associate Professor

The International Symposium on Library Services for Children and Young Adults will feature an invited talk by Kate McDowell, GSLIS interim assistant dean for student affairs and associate professor. Hosted by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the symposium will be held June 19-20 in Seoul, South Korea.

The theme of the symposium will be “Reading Towards a Broader World!” Presentations will address ways of engaging children and young adults in reading, cooperation between public and school libraries, and reading therapy programs.

McDowell will address these themes in her presentation titled, “Exploring the App Gap.” She will discuss the planning phase and early implementation of “Closing the App Gap,” a project funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, for which she serves as co-PI with principal investigator Deborah Stevenson, director of The Center for Children’s Books at GSLIS. In collaboration with the Douglass Branch of the Champaign Public Library, the team is investigating use of tablets and tablet-based apps in summer reading programs to bridge the reading gap that occurs for young readers during the summer months. The abstract for McDowell's talk reads:

Closing the App Gap explores the advantages of summer reading programming that includes tablet-based use of apps and e-books with primary grade children. Our planning process will assess the research, collect information about relevant practice, explore possible models of use, identify likely future partners, and conclude with the design of a multisite project. We will also implement a pilot study with our partner, the Douglass Branch Library, whose findings will inform our eventual recommendations.  

As the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading notes, “Reading proficiency by third grade is the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success.” Children in low-income families, however, are less likely to meet important reading milestones, and they are particularly likely to suffer from summer reading loss, the setback of skills over the long summer vacation. Public libraries’ summer reading programs are a documented antidote to summer reading loss, and they are an especially crucial literacy tool in low-income communities where homes have fewer literacy resources. As digital media grows in importance, that resource disparity between affluent families and lower-income families becomes even more pronounced, with a digital divide effect that shapes the experience of emergent readers. Combining the public library’s traditional summer reading strengths with a technology-based approach brings new tools in the fight against summer reading loss, enhances technological literacy, and mitigates the effect of the digital divide on children in lower-income families.

McDowell's areas of research include youth services librarianship, children's print culture history, controversial topics in children's literature, and public libraries as cultural spaces. She teaches courses in youth services librarianship, history of readers, and storytelling. She has published articles in Children and Libraries, Book History, Libraries and the Cultural Record, and The Library Quarterly. Her article, “Surveying the Field: The Research Model of Women in Librarianship, 1882-1898,” won the biennial 2010 Donald G. Davis Article Award of the American Library Association’s Library History Round Table.

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