You're never too young for your first electronic device—at least that's the message behind a partnership kicked off Wednesday morning between the Baltimore County Public Library system and Playaway View.
The system spent approximately $76,500 to make hundreds of video players available to be borrowed at all 17 of its branches, library officials said.
Even a toddler can navigate the Playaway View, a handheld electronic storybook, said Mitch Kroll, CEO of Findaway World, Playaway View's parent company.
"The key thing for us is that Playaway is the first consumer electronic reader targeted specifically for children available exclusively at libraries," Kroll said. "We have no plans to extend beyond libraries."
The Playaway View is intended to teach children to read using a combination of video and text.
Each device comes preloaded with one of 50 story titles, featuring characters from PBS shows including Sesame Street, Arthur and Super Why!. They are available for checkout for a seven-day period by anyone with a Maryland library card.
Crowds of children and parents attended the county's kickoff at the . The ribbon cutting was performed by Super Why!, a popular PBS cartoon character.
This summer, most of the county's 17 branches were issued between 50 and 60 new devices each. Two of the smaller branches, Lansdowne and Loch Raven, were issued about 10 each.
In advance of Wednesday's launch event, an additional 70 were shipped into Perry Hall this week, said Bob Hughes, a Baltimore County Public Library spokesman. There are now 837 Playaway Views circulating throughout the library system.
Each device costs the system $99.99, although the first 72 were issued free by the company. The system spent nearly $76,500 on the devices, said Jamie Watson, library coordinator of collection development.
Kroll said the cost is an investment. "As long as you recharge it, it's built to last a lifetime," he said.
Deon Harvey, who attends storytime activities with her daughter at the library at least once a week, said she was reluctant at first to try the new reader until she discovered more about its content.
"She already watches enough TV," Harvey said. "But part of what convinced me was when she said a lot of the stories they read in storytime were also on the Playaways."