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Finding books for children just got easier for teachers, librarians, and parents.

Screen shot of the Kids' Book Finder app in the app storeImagine you are a third-grade teacher looking for a book that will attract and hold the attention of your rowdy class of 24 students. You noticed they really enjoyed the medieval unit and would like to find a book appropriate for their age range on that subject to keep the ball rolling. As this third-grade teacher, you could do one of two things: you could spend hours in the library looking through the children’s chapter book section desperately hoping that you will find the perfect book for your class, or you could use an app on your phone that could do that for you.

An app that could act as your personal book recommendation tool and prevent you from being locked in the library for three hours? That exists? Yes. It’s called the Kids’ Book Finder app.

In 1996, Michael Tunnell and James Jacobs, both McKay School emeriti, developed a CD database that accompanied a textbook titled Children’s Literature Briefly. The first three volumes of this textbook came with a set of three CDs, each disc searchable by book subjects, title of books, and awards received. Volumes four and five of this textbook did away with the CD database and instead used an online resource.

Rather than the students paying to have this resource for one semester, a free database of book recommendations was made available for everyone. In order to keep the database relevant in the age of smartphones, BYU contacted one of their alumni, Paul MacKay, who received both his bachelor’s and master’s degree in computer science and now works as a software engineer. MacKay did the programming necessary to develop an app known as Kids’ Book Finder. The work Tunnell and Jacobs started years ago lives on today through BYU students who update the app’s records, increasing its database year after year, book after book.

The purpose of Kids’ Book Finder app is to be a resource for librarians, teachers, parents, and students. Terrell Young, a professor of children’s literature at the McKay School, stated, “You can search the database by author, award, genre, topic, and grade level.” With so many search engine features incorporated into one app, finding new books is a breeze.

“For instance, a teacher could search for historical fiction about the [American] Civil War ranging from third-to-fifth grade level to have those books as a supplement for a history unit on the Civil War. The search results can either be emailed to the teacher or saved to a Word processing document,” said Young.

What once was a daunting and time-consuming task for teachers, librarians, parents, and students can now be a quick and easy experience through the Kids’ Book Finder app.

Writer: Hannah Antillón

Contact: Shauna Valentine (801) 422-8562