1The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2011 that 83.2% of children ages 3-17 live in a home with at least one computer and 60% of those children can readily access the internet from some location. It is no secret that our children’s lives are consumed with technology. They use at school, at home, and when on the go. As a Librarian in a public institution I find that when school aged children arrive in the library they automatically migrate past the shelves of books to the computers to play games or engage in some other form of interactive activity. Every once in a while I will meet the eye of a parent who is attempting to share a book with their toddler that would prefer to be sitting in front of a computer. If they give in to the desire of wanting to use the computer, the book is left on a table to shelve or tucked away to take home for reading later. Although I am a professional in the field of promoting literature by way of books, I am often challenged with figuring out ways to engage with young people to encourage reading. It is not easy to compete with a digital screen when you are a collection of still images and/or words in paper and ink. So how can we encourage our children and other young people in our lives to read in a digital world?
LEAD BY EXAMPLE
As adults our lives are consumed with the use of digital technology. Whether you are in your place of employment, in the comforts of your home, or out and about, digital technology is a central part of it all. I know this all too well for myself. We can be examples for our children by carving out time to put our devices away, turn off the television and read a book or magazine. Consider having family reading time when everyone in the house is reading in their own little corner even if it is for 20 minutes. If your children see that you enjoy reading they are likely to pick up that habit as well.
BOND THROUGH BOOKS
If you struggle with finding time during the day to have family reading time do it just before bed. Bedtime stories can be a special moment for your child. It is not only a way to build a loving bond with your little one, but it can greatly build your child’s vocabulary, language development skills, and reading comprehension. If you haven’t already and are considering reading with your child at bedtime you may want stock up on books; it is likely be a favorite and become a nightly ritual.
EXTEND THE EXPERIENCE & MAKE IT FUN
Consider extending the experience of reading a book with your child by doing something fun that is related to the book’s topic. Create dot art with your toddler after reading Ten Black Dots by Donald Crews or build towers with blocks and Legos after reading Dreaming Up: A Celebration of Building by Christy Hale. If your child is school aged, have a rooftop or outdoor picnic after reading Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold or make a pot of gumbo after reading Go Go Gumbo by Adjoa Burrowes. Create pencil drawings or sidewalk chalk art with your pre-teen after reading Zetta Elliot’s Bird or a poster sized family tree to pair with Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. The possibilities are endless.
BUILD A LIBRARY
As parents we want to see our children as independent readers that will choose books without us forcing them to do so. This doesn’t always happen, but we can encourage this by creating a space where books can be stored and easily found by youngsters. Try buying a bookshelf or baskets that you can place books in to put in their bedrooms or other parts of your home that your children can get to without having to wait for an adult. If you are worried about finding books to fill your child’s personal library that represent them or may pique their interest subscribe to Just Like Me! for the monthly box and you’ll have a great selection of books that will grow with them in no time.
Since it is evident that digital technology is likely here to say, use it to your advantage in getting your child to read. With the invention of the smartphone came the explosion of the digital app. There are a multitude of apps that provide access to e-books for children. E-books are great because they can be accessed on the go and make for easy packing. Imagine taking a suitcase full of books on an airplane or in a car for your little one to read while traveling. This can take up a great deal of space, be bulky and heavy, and who wants to unzip the bag to pull out or put away a book each time your child wants a new one. A great alternative would be to have several books stored in your tablet or e-book reader that can all be accessed through one device. If your child is not reading yet or may not prefer reading on a screen try an audio book that can be listened to with headphones or connected to a car’s speakers through a USB cord. My favorite e-books company is Tumble Books where you can find animated talking picture books of previously published books for young readers. Most libraries across the U.S. will allow you to access TumbleBooks for free when you sign up for a library card.
GET OUT AND READ
Who says that reading and learning about books has to always be done at home or school? Activities and events away from home that engage young people through storytelling is a perfect way to get them excited about reading. There are plenty of places and events that you can take your child to enjoy books. Try attending a story & craft hour at your neighborhood library, a child friendly book festival that includes storytelling and other activities, or a children’s book author reading at the local Barnes & Noble or independent book store where you can buy a book and then have it signed by the author as an added bonus.
Click the links below to learn about my top picks for book festivals that focus on African-American Children’s literature or promote diverse authors.
Don’t see your state represented in the list above? Find a book festival in your state by using this list compiled by the Library of Congress.
What are some of your ways to encourage your child to read in a digital world? Share it with us in the comment section. Happy Reading!
1 U. S. Census Bureau. (2013). Computer and Internet Use in the United States. Retrieved August 12, 2016, from http://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2013/demo/p20-569.pdf