I posted last Wednesday about our early progress with Screen Free Week (which was April 29th through May 5th). Baby Bookworm ended up having a quite successful Screen Free Six Days.This doesn't quite have the same ring to it as Screen Free Week, but it was the best we could do. She woke up with a cold yesterday and was miserable and in need of the comfort of Mary Poppins (plus I was in need of the comfort of a shower and time to fold the laundry). But I did still distract her from watching television by taking her on a Barnes and Noble run yesterday. So all was not lost.
In the end she had a week without any iPad or iPhone use, not even looking at pictures. And she had six days with no television (at least at home - not sure if she saw any when she was at her friend's house). As I mentioned last week, this resulted in:
More time for creative play (e.g. pretending to be on airplane, or camping).
More books read.
More direct interaction with my husband and myself.
These are all good things. And the whining over not having the iPad or being able to watch TV definitely declined over the week (though the requests did not cease completely). I found that I was able to use my iPhone in front of her - she seemed to accept that as a different thing, and didn't ask for it. Of course this was a bit hypocritical on my part, but I was doing my best.
I'm sure that we'll try Screen Free Week again next year. And I'm considering only allowing television on weekends going forward (we do all love to watch movies together). How about all of you? Did anyone else attempt Screen Free Week? What were your outcomes?
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Screen Free Week is being observed this week, April 29th - May 5th. Random House has been urging families to Unplug and Read. As you might infer by the fact that I'm blogging right now, I'm not going screen free myself. However, I am attempting to keep my 3 year old daughter, Baby Bookworm, free of screens. Because she never uses screens during the day anyway, this mainly consists of three things:
Not letting her use the iPad in the morning after breakfast (something that I often allow, so that I can read the paper, shower, etc.).
Not letting her watch television in the evening (we sometimes watch a movie or television episode after dinner - she's currently in the middle of Season 1 of Full House).
Not using my iPhone when she is around (because this makes her want to play with it).
So how are we doing on these three things?
Monday morning she cried for a few minutes over not using the iPad. But then we did some gymnastics, pretended we were taking an airplane to Los Angeles, and read two books. Tuesday morning she didn't even ask for the iPad, wanting instead to play a game in which I was the baby, and she was the daddy. I convinced her that "the baby" wanted to read books, and she went and dug out some of her early baby books for us to read together. Wednesday morning, again, no request for the iPad. We did puzzles, read several books, and packed up for a pretend trip to the beach.
Monday night she protested quite loudly about wanting to watch "a movie" (she calls everything on the TV a movie). But only for a couple of minutes. Then we went into the playroom and played Little People, and she went on a pretend camping trip with my husband. Tuesday night she asked a couple of times for television, but was even more easily deflected by puzzles and pretend camping. We also read a lot more books before bed than usual, because we got started earlier (see stack to the right).
Not looking at my iPhone screen when she's around has been the hardest one for me. Baseball scores! Facebook! Checking my email! But I don't think that she has even noticed. This one is going to be a lot harder on the weekend, when I'm with her all day.
We're only a couple of days in, but already, I'm noticing a few things.
It doesn't take very much time to make or break habits when you're dealing with a three year old. I was surprised that on the second day she didn't even ask for the iPad. It's possible that we'll get the to end of the week, and she'll completely stop asking for the iPad at all.
When she's not watching TV or using the iPad, she is engaging in more creative play. We did at one point pretend to be watching television, I must admit, but she was perfectly happy to pretend, and didn't ask for the real thing. While I do think that she learns some things on the iPad (we have apps that are helping her with letter recognition, for example), I have to think that active pretend play is more beneficial at this age. We are also reading more books, which is certainly a good thing.
I think that the reason she is ok with giving up the screens (which she loves) is that she gets more of mommy and daddy's time and attention. If I was trying to send her off to play by herself in the mornings, I don't think that this whole thing would be very successful.
There's no question that this is a sacrifice in terms of my time. I feel like I'm starting off every day behind, because I get so little time to myself in the mornings. I'm not sure whether I'll be able to continue after this week is over. But there's also no question in my mind that this Screen Free Week is having good outcomes for my daughter.
It's not too late to jump in to Screen Free Week, if any of this sounds interesting to you. My personal view is that it's a good excuse to look at how much time your kids are spending on screens, and see what happens if you scale that back a little bit. I'll report back again after the end of the week.
Random House Children's Books is strongly promoting this year's Screen Free Week, April 29th - May 5th. They are urging kids and parents everywhere to Unplug and Read. Today they published this video, in which four well-known author-illustrators (Bob Staake, Chris Raschka, Dan Yaccarino, and Tad Hills) call for kids to unplug, and spend their time doing other, more active things. It's well worth a look.
There are lots of great reasons to get kids to unplug, though of course it's hard to do. More time to read, more time to play, more active play, more use of the imagination.... The list goes on.
Here are a few things I've noticed about screen time and my three year old:
The more time she gets, the more time she wants. This goes for movies and iPad time, her primary sources of screen time. Screen time is highly addictive.
When she's absorbed in the iPad, she is oblivious to things going on around her.
When she watches movies in the evening, she doesn't sleep as well. She tends to wake up during the night, and wake us up, because she's afraid of something. Presumably, she is having bad dreams.
When we watch television in the evening, we end up with less time for reading books, mostly because my husband and I get tired, and can't stay awake to read as many as our daughter would like.
This is not to say that we don't derive any benefit from this screen time. Most of the apps that she uses on the iPad are educational in some way. She does puzzles, she learns some vocabulary, she does some concentration-type practice, etc. And when we watch movies as a family, we build a common frame of reference. My husband and I can share movies that we love with her. We now sing songs from The Sound of Music most nights before she goes to sleep. And of course, screen time sometimes provides a break for me, time to read the paper or take a shower in the morning. But I try to keep it to minimum, because of the above behaviors that I've noticed.
So what I plan to try to do during Screen-Free Week is replace my daughter's several mornings per week iPad time with reading together, even if it means I have to find time to shower and finish the paper later in the day. I'll also see what I can do about not watching any television in the evenings. (We don't watch much, but as I said, she gets a bit addicted, and always asks. She doesn't get any screen time during the day as it is.) I'll be interested to see how that affects her sleep. I'll report back.
How about you? What are your plans for Screen-Free Week?
This tip is one that I've taken to heart as I grow my own bookworm, and one that requires some degree of sacrifice. My husband and I have decided not to let our daughter watch any television until she's two years old. It's not easy. Baby Bookworm is very curious about the TV, so if she's around, we pretty much always have to have the TV off. She occasionally catches sight of a TV when we're at a friend's house or a restaurant, but that's about it.
This has meant that I don't get to watch very many baseball games (I even cancelled my beloved MLB ExtraInnings package), and that my husband and I don't get to watch TV shows together until she's in bed (by which time I'm usually ready for bed, too). Football season is going to be a real challenge. But when I see my daughter at 14 months picking up books on her own and turning the pages, and pointing to pictures in books so that I'll tell her what they are, I do think that it's worth it. (But I also understand why not every family does this -- it's definitely a challenge.)
Tips for Growing Bookworms: #8 Be Selective in Television Watching
This is Part 8 of a continuing series on encouraging young readers. These ideas were originally captured in a post that I did on my blog in 2007, 10 Tips for Growing Bookworms. Here at Booklights I'll be expanding upon and updating each idea, and adding links for more information.
Tip #8: Be selective in television watching, and limit total time spent. There has been various studies that suggest that children under the age of two should not be allowed to watch any television. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, recommends that television viewing for children under the age of two should be avoided. The PBS Parents website has an excellent FAQ on TV and kids under age 3), compiled by children's media expert Shelley Pasnik. It includes links to the full AAP policy statement on young children and television.
For older kids, as reported in an article by Annie M. Moss in the Journal of Early Childhood Literacy (Vol. 8, No. 1, 67-102, 2008), an examination of various studies concluded that "(1) moderate amounts of television viewing were found to be beneficial for reading; (2) the content of programs viewed by children matters; (3) programs that aim to promote literacy in young children have been found to positively impact specific early literacy skills; and finally, (4) there are limitations to the existing literature".
The message that I take from this, and other reading that I've done, is that it's a good idea a) to limit the amount of time that kids spend watching television, and b) to be selective about what your kids (especially younger kids) watch.
Limiting Television Time: Here's one simple fact, in the context of growing bookworms: time spent watching TV is time NOT spent reading books. In general, allowing hours and hours of television watching per day is not going to help you to raise readers. When kids watch stories on TV, everything is spelled out for them. When they read stories in books, they use their imaginations more. They picture the characters. They can imagine that the characters look like them. They become accustomed to filling in some of the details in their own minds. They see the words printed on the page, and learn what they mean.
I also think that books are better in general than television shows in terms of helping kids to expand their vocabularies. Kids who are read to from birth will hear many more different words over the course of their preschool days than kids who spend most of their free time in front of the TV. Especially if those television shows primarily use words like "bam".
Using Television Wisely: Of course television is quite enticing for kids. If you're going to allow your preschoolers to watch television, there are a couple of things that you can do to make TV work in favor of, instead of against, literacy skills. The first is obvious. Pick television shows that are educational and help your child's development, instead of violent or mindless cartoons. There are a number of educational shows that focus on vocabulary, but also strive to make reading fun. I've heard particularly good things about WordGirl and Super WHY!, for example.
Another tip is one I learned from Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook (a book that every new parent should have a chance to read). Jim suggests that if you are going to have the television on, you can turn it into a "mechanical reading tutor" by the simple act of turning on the closed captioning. He cites examples of children in Finland who don't start school until age 7, watch a lot of television, and yet have high reading levels, explaining that they typically watch quite a bit of non-Finnish television, and make heavy use of closed captioning. It's like an interactive reading tutor, with the televised characters acting out the words. Closed captioning provides a steady stream of words across the bottom of screen, words that your child will notice and, eventually, decode.
Jim concludes: "It stands to reason that reasonable doses of captioned television can do no harm and most likely help greatly with reading. There is enough research to indicate significant gains in comprehension and vocabulary development (especially among bilingual students) when receiving instruction with educational television that is captioned." You can read more details here.
Conclusions: If you want your kids to love books, you have to give them time to love books. And that means quiet time, when the television isn't blaring in the background. Time to immerse themselves in other worlds, worlds that will build their imaginations. Time to just read.
But variety is important, too. If your kids are going to spend time watching television, the best ways that I know of to make TV work in favor of literacy are to select television shows carefully, and to turn on the closed captioning.
How have you balanced television and books in your house, in your quest to grow bookworms?
I received this announcement from Amy R. Baroch at PBS, and thought that some of you would be interested:
"PBS Engage is featuring children’s book author, Susan Meddaugh as part of the ongoing PBS Engage series called "Five Good Questions." Susan is the renowned author and illustrator of Martha Speaks, the book that inspired the new PBS Kids show.
The series features a PBS celebrity or insider and asks visitors to send in questions to be answered the following week. The blog series has been very successful and we are thrilled to have Susan Meddaugh as our feature this week.
Quick off-topic post to let you all know that the fabulous post-apocalyptic television dramaJericho returns with the first of seven new episodes tonight (on CBS at 10:00 pm). That these episodes are airing at all is a success story for the show's fans, who vehemently protested the show's cancellation after last season, and earned it a reprieve. In light of the strike-driven dearth of new television material these days, I think that Jericho has an excellent chance to build a strong audience, and return next year. If you enjoy plot-twisting drama, with strong, appealing characters, Jericho is well worth checking out. You can watch all of the episodes from last season online now. And if you're a fan of post-apocalyptic storylines, as I am, then you've probably been watching all along. Don't miss the new season!
During the next three months, PBS's Masterpiece Theatre will be showcasing "The Complete Jane Austen". They'll air versions of all six Jane Austen novels, as well as a new dramatization of Jane Austen's life. The action starts tonight with Persuasion, and continues with:
There are lots of tidbits on the Masterpiece Theatre website, including an interview with Persuasion star Sally Hawkins, a "Men of Jane Austen Gallery", a Jane Austen biography, and a downloadable PDF of the entire upcoming television Jane Austen schedule. To me, winter seems like an excellent time to curl up on the couch and immerse oneself in some Jane Austen. And if you can't wait until February for Pride and Prejudice, you can always buy that one on DVD. I did, and I consider it one of my favorite purchases ever. Happy viewing!
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