Blogger Spotlight: Digital Storytime


Welcome to the next edition of the Oceanhouse Media Blogger Spotlight! Today the spotlight’s on our friend Carisa Kluver from Digital Storytime, who got the opportunity to check out There’s a Map on My Lap!: All About Maps from the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library Series. See what she has to say about her favorite app as a mom and more below!

Oceanhouse Media (OM): When did you launch your website? How has it evolved since the beginning?

Carisa Kluver (CK): My husband Marc and I launched in the Fall of 2010. My blog launched in February of 2011 and we founded (our free app site) in 2012. I had been assisting my husband, an app developer, with marketing efforts for a smartphone app he developed in 2009 for Android. The experience was eye-opening.

Everything was a bit chaotic online when searching for kids apps, and I was surprised at the quality of the reviews (or lack thereof). I didn’t find many sites that were providing app reviews worthy of the picture book genre, in particular. Having worked for years with young families as a social worker and being the mother of a preschooler, I was alarmed at some of the content I came across aimed at kids.

I also found a lot of promotional and advertorial content on review sites, which concerned me as a parent and former educator. How were teachers and librarians going to find and recommend quality digital books without a trustworthy online resource, I wondered? And then it occurred to me that I was in as good a position as anyone else to take on the challenge.

The site has evolved over the past three years quite a bit, adding a deal page that automatically lists price drops and category listings for different subjects. We have also changed the look of our sites a couple times, including hiring a graphic designer to help us personalize things a bit more. Because we have a custom website, built into a database structure (and in-house IT support), we can do a lot of things other review sites and websites can’t do, like scan for accurate prices 4x/day and even reproduce our content almost instantly for book app formats like Google-Play, Kindle Fire & Nook Color.

OM: What is the mission or goal of your site?

My goal when I began the site was to provide a user friendly source of quality, thorough reviews of enhanced picture book apps. I wanted it to feel like a digital book store in some ways, with a quality, curated selection. So many wonderful kids app review sites are out there promoting great games and educational apps, but the focus on reading makes our site unique. It also allows me to review a lot more of the depth and breadth in the book category.

A secondary goal of my site was to influence the industry in a positive way by providing developers with insight into what parents and kids want (and need) in book apps. My blog, The Digital Media Diet, has given me a wonderful platform to share best practices and my thoughts on the evolving marketplace. I feel very honored that so many people read it everyday.

OM: Which app can you – as a mom – not live without?

CK: I don’t use a lot of ‘adult’ apps, since I’m constantly vetting new storybooks most of the time, but I really love the Epicurious app and most days I have my iPhone plugged into our stereo with The Mountain (103.7) app – my favorite radio station from Seattle (especially nice since I moved back to California).

I also count on the Dr. Seuss & Oceanhouse Media Bookshelf apps almost every night – with all the books so easy to access in one place, it’s often the first place we start when looking for a good bedtime read. We also read print books most nights, but my little boy really likes to start off with Dr. Seuss.

OM: What is the most popular bedtime story at your house right now?

CK: Hands down, Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book – it has been our favorite in print and digital for over a year now. We also read The Kissing Hand a lot. My little boy kisses my hand nearly every day when I drop him off at school, in fact. I know he won’t do this forever, so I try to enjoy it as much as I can while it lasts.

OM: Who is your son’s favorite storybook hero?

CK: Right now my kiddo is obsessed with Big Nate … not sure if he qualifies as a ‘hero’ though. He also loves the Magic Treehouse and Magic School Bus series (might be something about ‘magic’). My son doesn’t really like traditional superhero’s (we don’t have a TV or watch many movies, so he hasn’t been exposed to a lot of mainstream media), but he’s really into physics and time travel, so I’m reading “A Wrinkle in Time” to him aloud by chapters, each night (after the required Dr. Seuss book app first, of course).

OM: Who is the most tech savvy person in your house?

CK: Absolutely, without question, my husband – Marc Kluver. He designed and built my website from scratch and solves most of my technical problems (sometimes I have to beg, but he’s MY hero). He’s really Digital-Storytime’s secret weapon. ;-)

I share many app reviews with him before publishing, too, so he can help me accurately weigh in on the technical issues I find when testing book apps. He is self-taught and started with Assembly language at the age of nine. I’m sure my son will someday be as savvy, but for now, Marc holds the title.

OM: Who is your all-time favorite Dr. Seuss character?

CK: I’m pretty fond of the Lorax and Horton, but those Sneetches are truly amazing – star-bellied or plain-bellied. They just have such a great lesson to share.

OM: How many states in the U.S. have you visited? Which state is on the top of your to-visit list?

CK: I think I’ve been to most of them, actually – at least in the airports. I used to travel a lot for work when I did trainings for health education teachers. Now I am doing something similar, by collaborating with librarians nationally. I have lived in Alaska even.

I don’t think I’ve been to Maine … but really, I’d love to rent an RV for a year and just travel to all the lower 48 again with my son. I love history and learning about things in the actual place where they happened is such an amazing experience. When I was a kid, I used to beg my grandmother in North Carolina to take me to all the civil war battlefields and lots of old cemeteries. She thought I was a bit ghoulish, but I was always an anthropologist at heart.

OM: If you had a time-travel treasure map that could take you back in time, which ancient civilization would you visit?

CK: What a great question! I would love to go back to the time of the Enlightenment and Renaissance, although it would be hard on me to be ignored just because I was a woman. I might get myself into some trouble there, I’m afraid. I think we live in a time that is nearly as exceptional, though – I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Thank you very much to Carisa for participating in our Blogger Spotlight! We have more on the way- stay tuned!

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