As a librarian, I am constantly telling parents how important it is to model reading behavior to their children. Books and magazines should be in the home, and care givers should take advantage of reading opportunities outside of the home. I do these things, of course, but as technology creeps more and more into my life, I realize that I am also constantly modeling screen time.
This summer I took my two daughters (aged 3 and 6) away for a month; a month living in a cabin by a lake with no screens. If I wanted to connect, there was effort involved, and I would physically have to take my daughters with me to do it.
At first it seemed a bit hard. What was I missing online? After all, this was during ALA. All those updates and tweets…all those pictures with Neil Gaiman! But what did we gain as a family?
Besides the obvious swimming and playing and outdoor pursuits, I read 24 books. Some were just for me, and many were aloud to my daughters. We settled nicely into a routine of starting and ending our day with family reading. Excitement levels rose as our “finished reading” pile got bigger and bigger.
I know that this fall when I talk to parents, I will be modifying what I usually say. Modeling reading is important but maintaining a balance between face-time and screen-time seems even more so. In an age where young children see their adults (teachers, librarians, parents) constantly plugged in (twittering, fb, texting, calling) it may be more important than ever to take time out, unplug, and simply read together.