You Screen, I Screen, Hey, What Happened to Books?


The other day my 17-year-old had to go on an errand with me that  he didn’t want to. He looked at me and said, “That’s alright! I will bring my book.”

Today he said as he was leaving to run errands, “I am going by the library.”

What!!!! Yes, it does take some effort up front, but the beauty of having a kid who wants to be reading all the time is worth any upfront effort/library fines/ lost books.

My first child Nikki was a great reader. Usually first children get all of that ATTENTION, right, because they are the first and onlies. I tried with my second child, Ross. It doesn’t come  as easy with most boys. Girls are more verbal and better readers on average. I worked and worked with that kid but he wasn’t interested. Finally, in the fourth grade, he stumbled on the Redwall series. It was the right combination of fantasy and battle, little mouse warriors with teeny, tiny swords.   It was also  a series, which meant there were five or six books after the first one. He was off to the races! I remember the Parent/Teacher conference that I had with his teacher, Mrs. Park. She said, ” All Ross wants to do is read, read, read. He is not getting any of his work done!”


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I was secretly thrilled because I knew if you were a great reader the world was your oyster. Below is a great link of why it’s so important for the rest of your life. Giving the gift of reading to your children, to me, is more important than many after school activities that we are always hustling our kids off to. It’s calming, and  it helps build that positive emotion structure that Dr. Seligman talked about in my previous post. Reading helps your child learn about heroes that get discouraged and small creatures that beat epic odds. Reading about different worlds,  different characters and people   builds deeply into  your child’s inner life of who they are. Below is a link about how it helps your career. I know there are more than 11 ways it has helped me!

How do you promote rabid readers at your house?

  • Be a good example. In their early years they want to do everything you are doing.
  • Make the library a weekly outing. There is something so wonderful about going into a building and walking out with stuff without getting arrested. Especially in the early penny-pinching years. Put up a big sign of when they are due.
  • After getting library books you READ them.
  • I liked reading chapter books at night to my children.  I was recently reading in an old journal from 2001 where I had chronicled a busy day, and at the bottom of the page I wrote, “AND finally at night I managed to read to Abby and Sophie Tasha Tudor’s book on the months of the year. Chase kept making little comments until I “chased” him out of the room!” That made me happy that I managed to do that every now and then. I remember a man in my ward read all the Harry Potter books to his three daughters. I loved that image of a parent having that kind of commitment and it was a time they could connect together each day. It does take time. Hours and hours. The more you do it, the more you will see the value of it and the impact it is having on your children.
  • Have your children read easy books over and over. That is how they become fluent readers. My mother got her doctorate in Early Childhood Education and she taught me how to teach my children to read. She taught me that fluency comes from reading words hundreds of times over and over.
  • You need to limit screen time. When I was raising my children in the 90’s and the 2000’s we didn’t have cable TV.  They could watch movies that we owned or rented and that was it. I have heard of parents limiting phone time now–one friend told me that they get two hours a day after school. If you don’t limit it they will be sucked into the easy watching of meaningless drivel. Books will never compete with screens if your children aren’t really loving reading yet.  My adult children have thanked me for limiting TV.
  • I didn’t let my children have a phone until they were 14. That helped a lot. That is food for another post!
  • Don’t overdue movies in the car. Use that as a last resort on a long trip and after they have read every book in the car twice. That’s a wonderful place where they are “trapped” and they can read. My parents didn’t listen to “it makes me sick to read in the car.” It was up to us to regulate that.  The new normal of having  screens all the time so you don’t have to deal with boredom isn’t normal. Audio books in the car or using “Audible” (an audio book app where you pay per book and listen to books rather than read silently) also is a fun way to listen to books as a family.
  • Libraries have wonderful lists of books to read. Help your child find some good ones from the Caldecott or Newberry Award book lists. They can mix  in this well-written children’s literature with what they have chosen themselves. They will start trusting your judgement as you find recommended books for them off of lists. My library even had lists such as,  “5th Grade Books” or “Young Adult Mysteries”.

There is so much data on how important this early intervention is for your children. From the website I gathered these fun facts:

  • “Parent involvement is the number one predictor of early literacy success and future academic achievement. However, according to a 2007 report by National Endowment for the Arts, there are more literate people in the United States who don’t read than those who are actually illiterate. How do we change that pattern for the future of our children?’


“Cognition Domain: Early Literacy Needs Today”

  •  “Past early literacy research emphasized the importance of daily adult/child reading time, as well as having 100 or more books in one’s home, and its link to a child being academically ready and successful in kindergarten. (my note: they can be library books or books picked up from yard sales.)’
  • “Recent research has proved that reading as a stand-alone activity will not help children with pre-literacy skills (Phillips et al., 2008). Unfortunately, the latest research on parent involvement in early literacy has stressed that children need to be given more specific skills while being read to in order to be successful with early literacy skills (Roberts, Jurgens, & Burchinal, M., 2005)’


I do  remember  my mother  initially reading with me and asking about the title etc. The list below from the web site edutopia,com lists some of  the skills as that will help a new reader. Once they are hooked they are hooked. You won’t have to do this forever. Whenever I told my mother I was bored, she would say, “Go read.”

It is one of the secret’s to motherhood: You teach your children how to  entertain themselves with reading.


“Parent Involvement: What Skills Need to be Part of a Daily Routine?

Parent involvement in early literacy is directly connected to academic achievement.’

“Here are some strategies for beginning and seasoned readers’ literacy success:

  • Point to each word on the page as you read.  (My note: Have the child point, not you.)
  • Read the title and ask your child to make a prediction.
  • Take “picture walks.” Help your child use the picture clues in most early readers and picture books to tell the story before reading.
  • Model fluency while reading, and bring your own energy and excitement for reading to your child.
  • Ask your child questions after reading every book. Reading comprehension is the reason we read — to understand. The new CCORE standards assessing U.S. children’s readiness for the workplace and college ask children at all grade levels to compare and contrast their understanding of concepts. This takes practice. Help your child explain his or her understanding of any given story in comparison to another. Have your child share a personal experience similar to a problem or theme within a story. Higher-order thinking skills (critical thinking) are skills children are expected to use in both written and oral assessments in school. There is no way for a teacher to ask every child to use a critical thinking skill every day. Parents can.’
  • Encourage your children to go far in an area that interests them. That will cement their reading skills even further. Ross went from Redwall, to a Lord of the Rings phase until he settled in his teens on World War II. I had a friend in a book group once who was obsessed with the Titanic. With books you can go deep and wide.

“Beginning and lifelong literacy is transformative and constantly growing. However, the process must begin when initially learning to read, and must be as intuitive to a child as when he or she learned to speak. This can happen through incorporating repetition, proper skills and modeling.’

“It is both relaxing and invigorating to occasionally set aside the worries of life, seek the company of a friendly book…from the reading of ‘good books’ there comes a richness of life that can be obtained in no other way.”

Amen, Sistah!

I know this feels overwhelming. Don’t be overwhelmed. Just limit screen time and start!

This link quotes an author but I didn’t love her suggestions on how to become a better reader. I actually like the comments below her article  better than the article. So don’t read the article but continue to the two quotes below the link:

“The more of them you read, the easier time you have reading the next one and the next one after that.”

” Unplug. In order to create an ongoing prime-time reading opportunity, ignore all communication technology after 8pm (e.g., smartphones, tablets, laptops, even TVs). Don’t worry, the sun will still rise in the east the next morning without you first checking The Weather Channel app! Warning: Initially, you may develop withdrawal symptoms from no access to social media or following the latest Kardashian exploits. If so, only unplug every other day until you build up your resistance.”

My husband became a reader in the last few years. I got him hooked on “Unbroken” and “Destiny of the Republic.” We went on to reading a few more fictional books together, and then I lost him to the world of self-help/business books.  He discovered “Audible”, and it changed his life. He could listen and drive, or navigate an airport, or listen while he exercised. His memory is better than mine and he can recall so much from his reading. This mid-life burst has changed his career. He is brimming with excitement with all of the amazing  business books that are out there.  He listens to at least a book a week. Watching all of this unfold has been such a  wonder for me. Reading is truly such a gift you can give your children–or husband. Get started! It’s never too little or to late!

We are going to pick up my daughter who has finished serving her mission. I will be back in two weeks!








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