That’s Enough Screen Time, Little One
I am a middle child, through and through. Mischievous, attention-seeking, too smart for my own good, and always in trouble. I was a poster child for talking back, rolling eyes, and plotting everyone’s evil demise. In second grade, my family went to Disney World for a week, and I never saw the fireworks display because I was grounded every evening. That’s pretty much how most of my childhood went, punished and forced to entertain myself.
But during all the time spent alone while punished, I developed an insatiable love for reading. I began to read like it was as essential as food and air.
When I was seven, I remember sitting down with The Three Musketeers, reading about the poor, magnanimous D’Artagnan and his quest for fortune. D’Artagnan’s bravery inspired me, and the drama directed my imagination to illustrate the glorious words on the page. I couldn’t get enough of reading, and my escape into literary land was no longer viewed as a punishment for my impish behavior but was instead embraced for its exuberance and inspiration.
My mother signed us up for library cards at a very young age. We went to the library weekly, checking out picture books when we were young, song books and chapter books as we grew. As a daughter of a life-long educator, my mother inspired reading from infancy throughout childhood and into adulthood. But how do we translate this love of reading that started over 35 years ago to our kids now?
In a world of electronics, social media, technology, and entertainment centers, the love of reading has gotten lost in all of the flashing lights and attention-grabbing, brain-melting, theatrics.
Kids expect to be amused and never bored, with as little effort as possible from them. A sign of our times, for sure. And a product of our own somewhat poor parenting decisions. Desperation in the moment, wanting to avoid fits, needing our alone time, and the affordability of electronics all lend to our choices of allowing our children to be oversaturated with screens of all kinds. But that is not how we grew up. Most of these electronic devices and technologies didn’t exist. So how do we live in this culture now and encourage reading and growth activities with our kids?
With my daughter, I followed my own mother’s path and forced a home environment where reading was a norm, encouraging my little one to open her mind and allow her imagination to flourish. Knowing my daughter loves to laugh and solve mysteries, I tended to always read books about boogers, and naughty animals, and jokes, and whodunnits. She has thrived in reading and is reading 4 grade levels ahead of where she is in school.
My daughter’s diligence in reading was not always easy and I certainly did not teach her alone. My mother worked tirelessly with her, and I enrolled my kiddo in summer reading programs. Even that is not the entire recipe though.
Here are some other tips that can help accelerate your child’s reading, and I’ve learned that these work if you are willing to put in the time and communications:
- Encourage competition by asking your school to implement an AR reading program. In this program, kids read books and take quizzes, earning points and developing critical reading comprehension skills.
- Match technology and electronic times with time spent reading. I’m not above bribing a child, especially when it is something that I know will be beneficial in the long run. This is a reward-type system that works great in my house. For every book my first grader read, she was given an allotted amount of TV time.
- Talk to your kiddos about the wonderful world of imagination and help them write their own books. In doing so, you teach them about characters, plots, resolutions, and lessons learned. Work with them to write their own stories.
- Enroll your child in https://readingprograms.org/, there are numerous schedule options and it’s both virtual and affordable.
- Show your child that you read too. Have coffee and reading dates, book clubs, and movie nights to watch a real-life movie of a book your kid has read.
Finally, and most importantly, don’t stop reading! It’s a lifelong opportunity to learn and grow, and your kiddos will never forget the impact that the written word had on their lives.