8 by Eight
Screen Free Week! A few years ago, I attempted my own version of Screen Free Week. It is almost impossible to avoid screens during the work day, but I pledged to turn off all screens at 5 pm for the remainder of the evening. Given that part of my job responsibilities at the time was social media, of course I blogged about my Screen Free Week experiment. The irony was not lost on me. Maybe it's time to resurrect the challenge. Are we all up for trying Screen Free Week? Work has to be an exception, but try Screen Free as a family during the evenings and on the weekend. It's important for parents to model screen free lifestyles for kids. If you or your family attempts the challenge, let me know how you fare and what you do with your time instead.
As for a Screen Free book list, I think that most picture and board books are screen free. Certainly images of devices with screens are appearing in books, but they are still few and far between. I decided not to focus on books that have messages about devices and screen time. Instead, I selected books that I believe model the ideals behind Screen Free Week and books that offer some suggestions if you find yourself unsure of what to do with all that extra time. There are seven books on this month's list. Book 8 is reader's choice. After all, that's one of the best parts about reading!
First, play! In Blocks: Let's Share, "Ruby has red blocks" and "Benji has blue blocks." At first, Ruby and Benji exhibit parallel play. They work on their own block projects, but near each other. Then Benji decides he would also like to have a red block, and the challenge begins. The tussle turns into chaos when they crash their two projects. Now we have red and blue blocks all mixed together. They think. They decide. They share! They play together! Looking for something to do during Screen Free Week? Bust out the old wooden blocks. You won't regret it.
Next, make music! In We Are Music!, we move from percussion (clapping, tapping, and drums) to flutes and lutes to string instruments. Then we celebrate the blues, swing, rock, metal, rap, and electronic. As a celebration of musical eras and the universality of music, let We Are Music inspire you to entertain each other with rhythm, beats, and song.
After that, take a walk with Bark Park! one of my favorite books. Even if you don't have your own dog to take to the park, you can go on an adventure with this book. Look closely at the opening endpapers (those illustrated pages pasted onto the book covers). You'll see rope, balls of various sizes, squirrels, and ice cream cones. Ask your young reader to see if they can find any of those items in the pictures while you're reading. Your little detectives will find all sorts of hidden objects and they'll be able to help you with this book as they quickly learn and join in the fantastic refrain, "Dogs at the park . . . Bark! Bark! Bark!"
Look! and Hello! go together. Both books are written and illustrated by Fiona Woodcock. I selected them for this list, because the illustrations show a brother and sister outside enjoying the day. In Look they eat their food, put on their boots, zoom to the zoo (hooray!), see a kangaroo, some bamboo, a butterfly swoop, and a baboon. Of course, later they share a book. See the pattern?! If not, just look! Hello follows a similar structure, but in this book the siblings traverse a valley and a hilltop to a BRILLIANT amusement park where they collide, yell, and gallop. Perhaps you'll go on your own summer adventures; visit some sheep, or send a message in a bottle.
Where's Rodney? celebrates the majestic outside. Rodney is inside, but he really wants to be outside. His teacher reminds him that if he can't focus in class he won't be able to go on the field trip to the park. Rodney knows all about the park and it is not that big of a deal. However, when his class visits a national park, he finally has a chance to be outside. Truly outside. And it is majestic.
A list of books for Screen Free Week wouldn't be complete without honoring libraries and librarians. Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré is a lovely introductory biography of Pura Belpré. First she moves from San Juan, Puerto Rica to Nueva York. The words and stories she learned from her grandmother move with her. Eventually she finds a job in the public library. She discovers that the stories of her grandmother aren't to be found in the library so she begins telling stories, staging puppet plays, and writing books. With stunning visual and textual references to planting seeds and growing stories, Planting Stories is a celebration of storytelling in all its various forms. Let Belpre's story inspire all of the generations in your families to tell and share their stories.
Finally, talk. Just talk. Grab your family's favorite book. Books are great conversation starters. But talk. Talk so your kids learn vocabulary. Learn sentence structure. Learn communication. Talk so they know you love them. Talk about making dinner, and while you're running errands. Tell them about your day. Ask about theirs. Talk about feelings. Make up stories. Learn sequencing. Discover narrative. Develop empathy. Play. Sing. Read. Talk. For Screen Free week and every other week!