It takes a special kind of magic to transform a room into a library✨📚✨

We see an empty or disused room as a room full of possibilities. And as book lovers on a mission to ensure all children have a solid start on their journeys toward literacy, we love to imagine a library filling that space. And if a school, shelter, or community center director has the same idea? A library comes to life!

Have you ever wondered how Books for Kids makes that vision a reality?

48% of US three and four year olds spend their weekdays in preschool. So we wanted to go right to where the children are. Books for Kids has forged partnerships with preschools across the country in order to bring children and families a necessary (but often missing) resource: a library. With 46 libraries currently in our family, which also include other early-childhood locations such as family shelters and community centers, we’ve seen first hand how valuable a library is to a community that’s under-resourced. When school budgets aren’t big enough to meet every need, the idea of stocking and maintaining a library often gets set aside. Schools across the nation have learned to prioritize, making the best of funds available libraries get cut to leverage money for more nutritious lunches or a new social worker. We don’t believe these are compromises a school should ever have to make. So that’s where we come in: providing libraries directly to children who need them. 

Once a partnership has been made and a space, such as an old storage room or an empty classroom, has been identified, it’s time to get building. And that’s when we turn to our friends at Windmill Studios to help us transform the room into a dedicated library. Part of the BFK team for nearly six years, Windmill has beautified spaces right here at home in NYC and has traveled across the country to create libraries in Alabama, California, Massachusetts, and Nevada. No task is too big or small for the Windmill team, and their work is done largely behind the scenes. From annual events to library builds, renovations to repairs, they do it all (and there is much to be done). This work takes many hands, and we’re glad we’ve got partners like Windmill on our side.

“The beautiful children’s libraries that Windmill Studios builds for our schools, shelters, and community centers are transformative. These spaces strengthen and support the reading culture in a building and they provide a much needed place for people of all ages to come together to enjoy the magic of books.”

– Lisa Francese, Books for Kids Program Director

Once the walls are painted, decor is hung, and the shelves are built, we then fill the room with a carefully curated selection of books designed to open up the world for little readers. We want these spaces to be places where children want to be. And when we see kids practically running into the room on library day, we know we did it right.

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An under-utilized space.
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A library on its way to completion and being ready for students. These libraries also add enormous value to schools who want the best resources for their students and need to keep enrollment up each year so that they can continue serving their communities.

This is our mission: to fill in the gaps. The bring life to empty or disused spaces in ways that best serve a community. We want to close the learning gaps. The vocabulary gaps. To ensure no child is denied that simple pleasure of pulling a book off a shelf. These gaps are created largely through inequities in school funding and other systemic injustices which profoundly affect the lives of the families we serve. And until the root causes of these inequities have been addressed, we will be here for as many communities as we can be. It takes the rallying of our generous supporters, the advocacy of early literacy educators, and ongoing partnerships with community leaders to keep these libraries well-maintained, implement literacy programming where that kind of partnership is possible, and to create even more libraries for children who currently lack them.

Creating libraries is an investment in communities. It’s a sign that says no child should be without the books they love and need. A library, lovingly maintained and joyfully used, says “this community matters.”

Like what you read? Please consider making a gift in support of the vision that every child has access to the books they love and need.

The 2018 Angel Compass Gala in Support of Books for Kids + Spotlight on President and Founder, Jeff Buffum!

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This Monday, November 5, 2018 from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm Angel Compass, an NPO network for charities, will be hosting their Annual Fundraising Event in support of us, Books For Kids, and honoring Ron and Steve Sussman! 

Angel Compass makes sure donations make an impact locally by doing the research to find well-vetted, NYC based charities supporting children. Books For Kids is so appreciative to be their chosen charity this year.

Please join the Angel Compass Network and Books For Kids in making November 5th a tremendous success, bringing together close friends and colleagues to have fun and raise funds for our local children in need. 

Tickets are $125 – in advance and $150 at the door. If you’d like to bring 3 or more friends, sponsorship opportunities are available with added benefits! Proceeds will be donated towards the impactful mission we serve here at Books For Kids.
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Below is a little insight on Angel Compass’ President and Founder, Jeff Buffum and his connection to Books for Kids and on the valuable mission Angel Compass seeks to serve. 

 

Angel Compass is dedicated to serving New York City youth. Did you grow up in New York City? What do you see as some of the most pressing needs that need to be addressed at the local level?

Although I didn’t grow up in New York City, it’s amazing how much I’ve learned about the organizations here that make such a large impact in our local community. Our Board and I all feel that helping children here locally in New York City is what can make an impact for generations to come. One day or one gift or one moment in a child’s life can change their trajectory forever, and we hope to be a part of that change. Angel Compass has benefitted 9 local, children’s based charities thus far, all focused among children’s health, children’s education and supporting homeless children here in New York City.

What connects you so deeply to Books for Kids’ mission, and what made you decide to choose us as the recipient of your support this year?

What’s amazing about Books for Kids is how well run they are as an organization. Angel Compass spends a tremendous amount of time researching and vetting new charities to support, where it’s important that the funds are donated towards well-run, high impact, efficiently funded non-profit organizations that benefit children here in the local community. It’s important that any charity Angel Compass benefits has 80% or more of their funding going towards programs. Books for Kids has a strong board, a motivated team and great leadership from the top. It’s ultimately the increase in school attendance and literacy that our Board at Angel Compass is most passionate about when supporting Books for Kids.

The Angel Compass model is a great way to turn networking events into opportunities to raise awareness and funds for local nonprofit organizations. What gave you the idea?

When I got started with my wealth management business 10 years ago, I attended many networking events to meet new people, most of which were involved in real estate or finance industries. I soon started hosting my own real estate networking events, but realized it really wasn’t different and it wasn’t making an impact in the local community. With the help of my board members and advisors, I ultimately decided to spearhead creating Angel Compass as an official 501c3, combining the business aspect of events with the charitable aspect of giving back to the local community. I feel it’s a win-win-win for everyone involved. It’s a win for the charity because they get access to new donors, awareness and funds raised. It’s a win for the business professionals because they bring their clients, colleagues or employees to our events to generate more philanthropic culture and more business. And it’s a win for the attendees because they all get to meet great people who are like-minded, generous, have high integrity and may be able to do business with one another. We’re also very focused on building out our website, which we ultimately want to be a platform for others to host charity events and, therefore, create a market for the charity event planning community.

If you could give any advice to other companies who want to make corporate philanthropy part of their regular operations, what would you tell them?

The first thing we, at Angel Compass, want to do is make it easy, fun and worthwhile for people, professional organizations and companies to host their own charity events. The easiest way to do that is to take an already planned event, or easily planned event, and turn it into a fundraiser. That can be something as easy as a happy hour, a cocktail party, run/walk, poker event, wine/food tasting or other fun, social experience. Angel Compass would ultimately like to be the means for helping companies host their own charity events by having a pre-designated list of vendors, locations and ideas for hosting charity events. Then, the next important step is to promote the event on social media, email, any PR and word of mouth through a team effort. The money raised is often in direct proportion to the amount of people involved in the promotional and organizational efforts. The more people involved, generally the more funds that are raised.

What’s a book you remember loving from childhood?

At one point I had all the Berenstain Bears books memorized. I also loved (but was scared to read) Goosebumps.

What’s a book you read recently for fun that you really enjoyed?

Two great books I’ve loved reading are “Good to Great” and “The Tipping Point.” I’m a total nerd when it comes to this stuff and want to learn all about it.

Feel free to forward this invitation to colleagues, friends and family.
We surely hope to see you and yours on Monday November 5! 
Warmly,
The BFK Team

Join the Movement: Giving Tuesday 2018

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What is Giving Tuesday? It’s not just a day to give philanthropically after doing some serious shopping (Black Friday and Cyber Monday, anyone?). It’s a movement. And it’s growing.

When Giving Tuesday launched in 2012, $12 million was raised for nonprofit organizations.
Last year? 
Giving Tuesday brought in over $274 million.

On Giving Tuesday 2015, almost 700,000 people made gifts.
Last year?
There were 2.4 million gifts made that day.

Imagine what this year could bring.

So how do you participate? To start, make a pledge that you will kick-off the holiday season by making a charitable gift to support a cause you care about on November 27th. We hope you’ll consider Books for Kids!

Giving Tuesday generated over 1 million mentions on social media in 2017. Let your friends and family in on the secret using the popular hashtags: #GivingTuesday and #GivingTuesday2018. You can also support organizations by using their campaign-specific hashtags. This year Books for Kids is using #GiftOfLiteracy to promote our efforts, and the many efforts of our partners across the country, to elevate early-childhood education and lay a solid foundation for literacy for every child.

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Want to make it more personal? Let people know why you’re giving using the hashtag #MyGivingStory. Or share your generous spirit with the world by posting an #UNselfie after you make a gift.

Giving Tuesday is also a great time to plan your giving strategies and priorities for the year ahead.

Is there a local organization that could use extra hands?

Can you offer pro-bono work to support an organization doing important work that matters to you?

Consider committing to a monthly gift for 2019 that you kick-off on Giving Tuesday this year. Monthly gifts and other consistent funds are vital to organizations as they carry out their missions.

We’re looking forward to standing with you this Giving Tuesday as you commit to making the world a better place for all. Convinced? Head to our CAMPAIGN PAGE.

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Stats provided by Whole Whale.

2 Years with BFK! A Spotlight on Hannah Kowalczyk-Harper

Our Library Specialists are at the core of what we do. Once the library is built, it is the programs and people inside that truly make it a resource as they guide children toward a love of books and a lifelong journey of learning. As R. David Lankes said, “Bad libraries build collections, good libraries build services, great libraries build communities.” And Hannah, our Las Vegas Library Specialist, keeps community at the heart of everything she does. She’s been with us two years and we wanted to shine a little light on her important work.

Hannah has had a deep impact on the children and families that come through her library, so we’re sharing some of those fun and special moments with all of you.

Here are some of Hannah’s favorite moments from her last two years, in her own words:

It’s always really fun to celebrate the changing of seasons with the students at my schools. For example at two of my sites, we’ve had “Fall in Love with Reading” events to celebrate fall. For a parent event at Variety last year, I created a big, fake fireplace so families could “cuddle up with a good book.” If it hasn’t become clear, I love a good pun. After the event, I kept the fireplace in the library until winter ended. Sometimes during their library session, children would say they were cold. My response would be to pull the fireplace closer and let them carefully warm their hands. With warnings to be careful and not burn themselves, they would typically touch the tissue paper and, all smiles, pretend to have burned themselves. I love kids’ imaginations and how they’ll play along with almost anything!

Not only do my students say the cutest things, but they make the silliest faces! Last year, I laughed way too hard at our impromptu “David Face” contest. Prior to going to the library that day, I hadn’t planned on having any contests. But when I told kids to make a face that looks like David from the series by David Shannon, it was too funny for their classmates and teachers not to see. We decided to have a contest where Books for Kids staff would decide which children made the best “David Face” and give them a free book. All participants received a sticker. With fun activities like this, I hope to reinforce that books aren’t just serious, they’re fun!

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Marlowe, Hannah, and the rest of the class enjoying The Black Book Of Colors.

Each year I have some returning students and meet lots of new children that I haven’t worked with before. This year, one of my new students is Marlowe*. Being blind, we wanted to make sure Marlowe still felt represented in the library. The moment I asked Lisa about braille books, she started looking for books we could add to our collection. I wouldn’t be able to do my job nearly as successfully without Lisa’s constant support and the enthusiasm of the entire Books for Kids staff. I chose to read The Black Book of Colors not just to Marlowe’s class, but to the all the children at every site. Students loved touching the bumpy pictures in every class. However, it was extra special during Marlowe’s class when she enjoyed the book and never wanted to stop touching the pages. Several staff members have reached out to me and said that Marlowe loves the library books she takes home. She finishes a book and then starts it over again right away. Sometimes it can be difficult for teachers and librarians to see the impact they make, but in this case, I can tell something special is happening.

As a staff, stories like Marlowe’s are shining light posts that take us from day to day and year to year. When books can bring that special feeling of being seen to a child and bring a class together, it is all the proof we need that books can change lives. We hope these stories have given you a glimpse into the world Hannah has created for the kids in Las Vegas.

Thank you, Hannah, for all your work and all your love over the last two years. Books for Kids is glad to have you in the family.

 

*Name has been changed for privacy.

Spotlight on our literacy leaders: the Library Specialists!

“The most important asset of any library goes home at night – the library staff.”
–Timothy Healy

Without our dedicated Library Specialists, our work would be incomplete. They work each week with our teachers and families to make the library come to life for the children. We often share our favorite parts of the job with each other, but we especially want to share them with you, our supporters! So what is it really like working in a Books for Kids library? Let’s hear what our Library Specialists have to say about our work…

Hannah: Las Vegas, NV
“I’ve been with books for kids since September 2015. I believe our most important job is helping to instill a love of reading in young children. Through listening to and interacting with stories we read, these students can explore feelings, relationships, and the world. When we send books home, both checked out books and gift books, we give families extra opportunities to enjoy literacy together and foster a bond over a love of reading.”

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Kids in Las Vegas gather for StoryTime with Ms. Hannah.


Vanessa: Boston, MA
The group photo is a favorite! It is lending time. The books to borrow have been selected and everyone is getting an early start on reading and waiting to check out.”

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Lending-ready books mean kids get to borrow their favorites again and again.

Jackie: New York, NY
“The big smiles and hugs that I get when the children enter the bright, colorful space brighten my every day. What I love about coming here is how much the families and children relish getting a book to take home every week and are so conscientious about returning it so their children can get a new one. It makes me so appreciative of the work Books for Kids does in enriching these children’s lives.”

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Kids in Ms. Jackie’s StoryTimes know they get to bond over books each week with their dedicated Library Specialist.

Ashley: New York, NY
“I love blending early literacy education with performing arts to get the children excited about reading more in and out of school. I enjoy bringing the characters to life and teaching the children a dance or movement to go with the story so they can have something to take away and get excited about for the next time they open a book. We work with a lot of bilingual children and songs have been a useful tool in learning and understanding the books we are reading (Vocabulary, Pronunciations, Rhythms, etc.). I love to see my kids light up when they see me pulling out the book for StoryTime. I create a little suspense and magic each time I reveal the next story. It’s a joy watching the children at my schools grow and their love for books increasing throughout the school year!”

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StoryTime with Ms. Ashley is anything but dull, especially when Peppa Pig is involved.


Tanya: New York, NY
“This student was very quiet in StoryTime and was often looking at the rug or had her hands over her ears. She connected with the book I was reading a few times but then went back to looking at the rug. BUT….when I brought out Peppa, her head flew up, eyes bright, and she began cheering and dancing around the room! She totally came alive in that moment. So it just goes to show the power of picking the right book for each individual child and what that can do! Needless to say, I will be bringing in more Peppa to this class in future!”

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During our final Build-a-Home Library giveaway this year, kids went CRAZY over the Peppa book they got to take home to keep forever.

Amanda: New York, NY
“I first met this mother when she stopped by the library to look at books with her son. Now they stop by the library together every Tuesday. This student loves books about animals and listens intently during every StoryTime. He likes stories about bunnies most of all. His mother says, ‘I have been reading to him since he was one day old.’ (And it shows) I have been truly touched by their bond. They are both always smiling and laughing together. They demonstrate the powerful impact that reading to your child can have on essential development and on the parent/child bond. This mother said that for her son’s first birthday she gave him a Dr. Seuss themed party and everyone that came got a goody bag with a Dr. Seuss book, which they brought to the library to show me. It is a bound book she made for him full of poems, quotes, and photographs from his Dr. Seuss party. In the photos from the party, there is indeed Dr. Seuss everywhere, from the cake to the tablecloths. What I noticed, however, was a photo of the student’s mom and dad wearing t-shirts that said, ‘Thing One’ and ‘Thing Two.’”

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Our libraries provide joyful spaces for children and their families to share special moments.

Sam: New York, NY
“There are few things as exciting as hearing children exclaim, ‘It’s library day!’ when they see me in the halls. I wish I could be at my schools every day to continue my not-so-quiet StoryTimes and spread the love of reading.”

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Ms. Sam is at it again, proving that the library is a space for learning AND laughs, with her not-so-quiet StoryTimes.

Where’s All The Noise Coming From?: A Spotlight on StoryTime

Where’s All The Noise Coming From?

The library!

But, I thought libraries were quiet?

love storytime, and that is definitely not a secret. But I also love StoryTime. What’s the difference you might ask? Storytime is the actual reading of a book to at least one person. The StoryTime Program at Books For Kids includes much more than just reading stories to children. It is composed of library storytime, book lending, book distributions, and family, teacher, and community literacy-based events.

So what is StoryTime like with Ms. Sam? LOUD! The louder, the better, in my opinion. When we read books that are interactive and fun, students should be able to participate. Reading is a social activity. When an adult reads a book they love, they share it with their friends. The same is true at the BFK libraries. During book lending, students proudly show their book selections to their friends. This is one of the reasons we have waiting lists for certain books (I’m talking about you, Peppa Pig).

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Over the past two years, I have formed strong bonds with the children in the libraries I visit, and Wednesday afternoons and Thursday mornings are my favorite days of the week. When the children see me in the halls, their eyes get big and they say something along the lines of, “I forgot my book!” or “MISS SAM! It’s Thursday.” I hypothesize that our StoryTime program assists the teaching of calendar skills, as each student surely knows which day they visit the library with their respective Library Specialist.

IMG_4666.JPGOn library day, I arrive at the school at least thirty minutes early. This is when I run into children as I am collecting their returned books and checking in with teachers. Once this is finished, I select the books to read.

I use StoryTime to introduce new books and also revisit familiar, favorite books. Some of the favorites in our libraries are: Don’t Push the Button by Bill Cotter, Open Very Carefully: A Book With Bite by Nick Bromley and Nicola O’Byrne, and The Polar Bear’s Underwear by Tupera Tupera. The more we re-read these books, the louder the library becomes because the students are reading along with me. Aside from the major benefits of re-reading, reading loved books is exciting. The students also know my major weakness: book requests. If a child walks into the library and asks me to read a specific title, I simply cannot resist! How does one say no to a three-year-old who asks, “Can we read Pete the Cat Buttons today?” meaning Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons.

After the stories are through, it’s time for lending! I absolutely love this process because the students have complete freedom over which book they choose. Usually, at the beginning of the year, students will simply choose the books that are on display, but after a couple of months, they know where their favorites are and ask for books read previously during Storytime.

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As I was greeting the rest of the class at the door, someone decided to be “Miss Sam” and read Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus to the class!

I have been a Library Specialist with Books for Kids since September 2015, and I have read over 1,400 books during StoryTime. Almost 1,400 of those readings have been a boisterous event, but as Maya Angelou said, “Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” If I don’t follow Maya Angelou’s lead, then what am I doing in a library?

 

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Reading the Build-A-Home-Library book, Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria Tiene Una Llamita in English and Spanish with Mr. Chris

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By Samantha Murray Doktor, Books for Kids Program Officer.
Follow Sam her on her literacy Instagram account @gabandgrow for more book recommendations and tips.

Saturday Stories: Earth Day with Kids

Butterflies fascinated me as a child. They still do, and I have to believe at this point that no matter how old I get I’ll always have to stop whatever I’m doing when one flutters by and shout the obvious: “Look it’s a butterfly!” People raise their eyebrows now as if to say, Yes, Sam. What powers of observation you have. We have eyes too. But when you’re a kid, such exclamations are met with a much different reply. A chorus of people will smile and praise your wonder at the natural world and ask you what you know about butterflies and what books you’ve read and if you know that a caterpillar actually becomes a butterfly.

This fact is still as shocking to me now as it was then.

I had to know more, and books were my way in. My parents shared with me the classic Eric Carle tale, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Lois Ehlert’s Waiting for Wings. And whenever we visited my grandparents we stopped by the Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. It became my new favorite place.

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My mother and I “waiting for wings” to appear at the Butterfly Center. 

From there I moved on to non-fiction books and promptly decided that my favorite butterfly wasn’t a butterfly at all, but a moth. The Luna Moth became my obsession, and suddenly there was a lot of reading to do about the differences between moths and butterflies. Then in the third grade our teacher did a butterfly project with the class where we raised Monarchs and released them. I can still see them flying away from me. I won’t forget that moment, or the books I read, or standing with my mother looking for butterflies in the museum.

Earth Day is the perfect time to spark a year-long love and sense of awe for nature in children and in yourself. It’s important to teach about sustainability and how to meaningfully interact with the environment, but it all starts with that sense of wonder and appreciation for all the Earth does and is. We keep many books about nature in our libraries (we have a whole shelf for the topic plus additional books in the non-fiction section) and love to work with teachers and caregivers to help them develop creative ways to encourage children to care about their world, no matter where they live- rural, urban, or suburban.

The list of ways to inspire children to love and care for their environment while still keeping literacy goals in mind is endless. It’s all about making connections and reinforcing learning while you’re out and about in the world together.

Was you child enamored by the pigeons on the walk home? Remind them of Pigeon, the lively main character of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems, and read it together at home or in your local library.

Are you planting seeds together now that spring is here? Share Lois Ehlert’s Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf to learn about the life cycle of a tree.

One of the best ways to reinforce vocabulary acquisition and letter recognition in young children is to point out signs as you go through your day together. We may look past all those “Don’t walk on the grass” warnings where grass seed or flower bulbs have just been planted, but it will be a new concept for children and will reinforce words they’re learning.

Here are some of our favorites books about nature and environmental awareness that both children and adults will love to share together:

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The Earth Book 
by Todd Parr

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Charlie and Lola: We Are Extremely Very Good Recyclers 
created by Lauren Child

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The Curious Garden 
by Peter Brown

By Samantha Salloway, Books for Kids’ Administrative Assistant and caretaker of our blog. She spends her time doing all manner of reading, writing, editing, and learning.

From Page to Screen: Addressing Screen Time for Children

“From birth to about three years of age, each second represents the creation, by the brain, of seven hundred to one thousand additional neuronal connections.”

Dana Suskind

Lately, I have been on what feels like “A Screen Time Crusade.” Whether I’m informing parents of the dangers of their child spending too much time in front of a screen or questioning our nation’s obsession with technology-literate toddlers, I am working to educate caregivers and help them combat the potential consequences of prolonged exposure to screens.

Research about the long-term effects of screen time are still developing, but because we know that interacting, playing, talking, and reading with our children is crucial to maximum brain development, we also know that constant screen time will not match or exceed the value of face-to-face learning. For this reason, among others, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends children under 18 months old should only be in front of a screen while video chatting. Children ages two to five should not exceed one hour of screen time each day, and that is only for high-quality and interactive programming (AAP).”

What are babies really learning if they are passively watching material while simultaneously over-stimulating their brains with the pace, sounds, and colors of videos and “educational resources” presented to them on a screen? “In 1970, the average age in which children began to watch television regularly was 4 years. And today, based on research that we’ve done, it’s 4 months. It’s not just how early they watch but how much they watch. The typical child before the age of 5 is watching about four and half hours of TV a day. That represents as much as 40 percent of their waking hours” (Dr. Dimitri Christakis on NPR’s When It Comes to Kids, Is All Screen Time Equal? September 11, 2015). Each of those seconds matters, and it’s important to not waste time with screens that overstimulate the brain with flashing colors and sequences that are too fast to process. These types of programs teach the brain that life is constantly moving, changing scenes, and that one can receive immediate gratification. This is why it’s not surprising that one study from Seattle Children’s Hospital found that, “For each hour of daily TV viewed by the child before age three, the risk of Attention- Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) by age seven increased by 10 percent,” (Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook, 145).

Have you ever come up with amazing ideas in the shower? Perhaps while walking your dog? Maybe when you’re about to fall asleep? That’s because you’re allowing your brain to reflect on the day and make new connections. We all know we should not fall asleep in front of screens, “but scientists point to an unanticipated side effect: When people keep their brains busy with digital input, they are forfeiting downtime that could allow them to better learn and remember information, or come up with new ideas” (Matt Ritchel, Digital Devices Deprive Brain of Needed Downtime, New York Times, August 24, 2010).

All parents and caregivers want their children to achieve their greatest potential, which is why we must lead by example. It breaks my heart when I see adults wearing headphones or earbuds, ignoring the child’s needs and curiosity of their surroundings. Not only is wearing headphones during daily interactions sending a message (intentionally or not) to the child that their questions, desire for interaction, and love are not important, but they are learning that those adult behaviors are acceptable, and they will do the same as they age. Just like we model good reading behaviors to our little ones, we need to model appropriate usage of screen time. We cannot avoid technology, but we can put the screens away in order to be more present in our children’s lives. How about pointing out the signs and logos in your neighborhood, grocery store, or on the bus? It’s an easy way to read, wherever you are. And is there anything better than reading together? You can also make sure you are prepared for times when you may need to occupy your child by carrying board or paperback books, paper and crayons, or word games you can play together.

Not all screen exposure is harmful to children, which is why the AAP includes video chatting as the acceptable form of technology use for children younger than two. Another way you can make screen time valuable is to use closed-captioning. “Enabling the TV’s closed-captioning is the equivalent of a newspaper subscription, but unlike the subscription, it costs nothing” (Jim Trelease, The Read Aloud Handbook, 153). This is especially beneficial to lower-income families who may not have access to a library or additional income for books.

Screen time is an almost unavoidable activity in all of our lives. In order to make the most of technology, participate with your child, even if it’s simply asking a question when the program is finished, discussing the topics covered, or pointing out features from the program in your real life. Make the screen time valuable, and share the experience.

Your turn! What are some of your favorite strategies for making the most of and limiting screen time? Let us know in the comments below.

Book recommendations to enjoy with little ones:

screen time recs

Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty & illustrated by David Roberts
Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis
Not Quite Narwhal by Jessie Sima
Play by Dr. John Hutton & illustrated by Sarah Jones
Tek: The Modern Cave Boy by Patrick McDonnell

And a book recommendation for those interested in further reading:

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The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease

by Samantha Murray Doktor, Books for Kids Program Officer
Follow Sam her on her literacy Instagram account @gabandgrow for more book recommendations and tips.

Stories to Learn From: Women’s History Month and Beyond

womens history collage

March was Women’s History Month, but that doesn’t mean that because March is done we have to stop learning. We created a book list so that you and your family can keep the learning going all year round. Picture books are great for introducing young readers to famous women in history while novels and biographies can be perfect for older children looking to learn more about an era in history or a woman they admire. Whether reading about the arts, science, or politics— you can be sure there’s an admirable lady for kids to look up to and learn from.

Happy reading!