Unplug Your Kids with Books


Image Courtesy of Australian Booksellers Association, National Bookshop Day Facebook Page

With the rise of always-on technology, it’s harder than ever to maintain a healthy life balance. One simple way to manage screentime at home is to set a regular Family Reading Time. Unplug your kids (and yourself), open a book, and relax. Read alone or read together–just make it light-hearted and fun. At least 30-45 minutes gets the best results!

One family with three young teenagers has instituted nightly Family Reading Time. The rule is at 9:00, all devices are switched off and plugged into the docking station under the stairs. The kids can read in bed for at least a half-hour before lights out. Do they all like it? No, but the rule is firm, and it’s not up for discussion, so there are no fights. Another family  who has a set reading time decided that the reading had to be “real” books (with text). No comics, anime or manga.

Benefits of slow reading

  • It’s healthy– reading from an early age throughout life reduces the risk of memory loss later in life
  • Reading for pleasure correlates positively with academic success
  • Reading literary fiction helps develop empathy and understand other people’s beliefs
  • Slow reading reduces stress and helps with focus
  • It’s a positive counter-balance to the pull of social media, gaming and technology overload

The Slow Reading Movement

People around the world are seeking relief from ringing phones, pinging texts, and the relentless stream of information that is the Internet. All over the place, new groups are popping up with an aim to provide a quiet place to read. It sounds quaint–and it is!

The Wall Street Journal featured an article about slow reading, which you can read here.

Are e-Readers Allowed?

So, you’re thinking Family Reading Time sounds like a good plan. But maybe you’re wondering: what if my kids like to read e-books? Should this kind of technology be allowed in this plan?

Some staunch slow-reading advocates say, “Stay away from technology; it’s too distracting.” Interestingly, researchers have noted that the way we read internet articles is different from the way we attack the text in books. It comes down to eye movements. We have trained ourselves (or we’ve been trained by technology?) to read in an F-pattern, skimming and scanning, rather than the linear pattern required for “deep reading.” Some pundits suggest reading on a device may induce the lighter kind of reading.

The other factor is the internet. e-Readers and tablets usually come equipped with connectivity. Notifications of incoming mail and messages will ruin the benefits of slow reading. So if you or your kids have to use a device, it’s a good idea to unplug from the Wi-Fi network during family reading time. Just activate airplane mode to read in peace. If the temptation to switch it on is too strong, best to stick with physical books.

The other advantage of hard-copy books is that the item serves as a reminder–a cue–to read! Maybe even to relax!

Go ahead! Set a Family Reading Time and see if it helps manage screentime in your house.