Celebrate National Screen Free Week

Last week was the official celebration of National Screen Free Week, but there is never really a bad time to try and cut down on screen time. This goes for children, teens, and adults. Most of us know that too much screen time is unhealthy for various reasons, but this doesn’t necessarily prevent us from spending too much time looking at our screens.

There are an abundance of books and resources for parents who are seeking guidance about media use and how to strike a good balance. The American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines in 2016 that gave recommendations for specific age groups. They also developed a program in which families can create a custom media plan that outlines how technology will be used in their homes and when they are out in the world. Striking a healthy balance is not just an issue that parents and their children face. This is something that many adults struggle with if they are using any kind of digital device.

The list below highlights books for families with children and teens, but it also contains books for adults. There are books that challenge you to temporarily break up with your phone and others that offer children alternative activities to screen time. Finding a balance between technology and the other aspects of our lives is a challenge and these books offer support, ideas, and insight into this modern day phenomenon.

art of

The Art of Screen Time by Anya Kamenetz

Anya Kamenetz, the lead digital correspondent for NPR and mother of two children, has written a book that simplifies the various ideas and philosophies that exist about children and the use of screens. The book takes a balanced approach that has been compared to Michael Pollan’s writing about food. Her message: “Enjoy screens. Not too much. Mostly with others.” The book is divided into two parts: one that addresses screens and children and another that explores parents and screens.

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iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing Up by Janell Burley Hofmann

iRules presents a specific philosophy called Slow Tech Parenting. The author explores the online culture that exists for teens and introduces timely topics that include cyberbullying and sexting. Parents will learn how to develop the “rules” that work best for their family.

teens

Screens and Teens: Connecting With Our Kids in a Wireless World by Kathy Koch

This book champions the incredible technology we have access to and how it helps us succeed in daily life. It also explores the flip side of this, specifically focusing on teens and their devices. Unhealthy habits can develop during this important part of their development and lead them into addictive behaviors as adults. Parents are offered practical solutions to help them navigate their role in creating a healthy balance in their teen’s life.

break up

How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price

Catherine Price treats your phone like any other relationship in your life. Her book will help you re-calibrate and develop a relationship that feels good. She not only focuses on your habits and mindset, but she also suggests how you can make custom changes to the settings and apps on your device.

being mindful

Mindful Tech: How To Bring Balance to Our Digital Lives by David M. Levy

Mindful Tech promotes finding an emotional balance while you are actually using various technologies and devices. Oftentimes, we become overwhelmed when we are online and the author discusses ways to feel more relaxed and integrated. He provides exercises that will help readers gain insight into the way in which they use different technologies such as social media and email.

addicted

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked by Adam Alter

Irresistible explores behavioral addiction in relation to the digital technologies we currently use. It also offers ways in which users can develop more control over their digital habits.

screen free

150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids by Asia Citro

If you are looking for screen-free activities, then this is the book for you. It will give you all sorts of ideas about fun activities you can do with your babies, preschoolers, and school-aged kids.

fun screen free

Screen Free Fun: 400 Activities for the Whole Family by Shannon Philpott-Sanders

Screen Free Fun elaborates on alternatives to screen time and focuses on activities for the whole family. There are ideas for craft projects, outdoor activities, and day trips.

NaNoReMo

November is National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo. Write-ins are happening all over the place, including the library. And some people even go a step further: they become published authors as a result of their hard work and dedication to the craft of writing. How cool is that? One year my husband and I decided that we would each write a novel during NaNoWriMo. While we would be writing vastly different stories and not exactly collaborating, we wrote side-by-side in the same room and bounced ideas and grammar conundrums off of each other. Neither one of us finished our novels, but we had a lot of fun and learned more about each other as a result. Which, let me tell you, after being together for almost half your lives is something special indeed!

But this isn’t a post about NaNoWriMo. This is about a new moniker I am giving November: NaNoReMo, which stands for National Novel Reading Month. Reading books out loud together is something my husband and I have done on multiple occasions. Sharing an experience with someone can definitely bring you closer together, and sharing the experience and enjoyment of a book together is one of my top things for us to do as a couple. It’s free, doesn’t take much time, and can sometimes even be done while doing otherwise mundane or boring tasks. I’m going to share with you a few of our favorite books that we have read together, which will hopefully spark your own imagination and enthusiasm!

1-dad-is-fat

The time we read to each other: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
One of the best things about reading a Jim Gaffigan book is when you can get your hands on an audio recording of it and hear him read it to you. As huge fans of Jimbo, we were tempted to go that route. But instead we decided it would be fun to try reading each other alternating chapters. You read chapter 1, I’ll read chapter 2. One of the best things about this method was sometimes one or the other of us would be sleepy and not be up for reading that night. That’s okay; the other person was ready with the bedtime story. I might be sharing too much of myself here, but there is nothing I love hearing more than the sound of my husband’s voice. When he would read to me, I could feel the stress of the day melt away and if I was awake enough I’d be laughing right along with him as he read. I don’t know if he feels the same way about my voice, but I definitely returned the favor. It was a great balance and the fact that the book’s content was about an experience we haven’t yet shared, parenthood, made the experience educational as well.

2-ready-player-oneThe time we listened to an audiobook instead of watching TV: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
When Ready Player One first came out it didn’t even become a tiny blip on my radar. It’s the worst-kept secret that I detest dystopian novels, and this promised to fit the bill. But then the library acquired the audiobook and I saw that it was read by Wil Wheaton. After a quick fangirl dance of joy I promptly checked it out. On the drive home from work that night I listened to the beginning of the story, and over the next couple of weeks I finished the first few discs on my commute. It was a great way to pass the time while fighting rush hour traffic, but I had a better idea. I knew this story would appeal to my husband, so that night I brought the whole set into the house, set up some equipment, and started from the beginning. We were both riveted, and over the next several days we skipped the usual evening television programming in favor of listening to Wesley Crusher relate the story of Wade Watts and his journey into the OASIS system in search of James Halliday’s three keys and, hopefully, his ticket out of poverty.

3-the-martianThe time we read the same book back-to-back: The Martian by Andy Weir
This was another not-on-my-radar book that I almost missed. A few months before the Matt Damon movie was to be released in theaters, my husband read a story about the movie and knew he wanted to see the movie but read the book first. He devoured the book. I mean, he’s a quick reader anyway compared to my reading speed, but in this case he actually lost sleep in favor of finding out if astronaut Mark Watney, who was stranded on Mars for several years, ever made it back to Earth or not. He then began his campaign to get me to read it, too. Our reading tastes don’t often overlap so we aren’t in the habit of pestering each other to read a book we enjoyed. But this was different. He warned me about some technical jargon and heavy use of math (what does that say about me, that I need a math trigger warning?) but said the humor and writing style would win me over, and the suspense would keep me up as well. While I admit that I started reading the book in a thinly-veiled attempt to shut him up, the joke was on me. I absolutely loved it, and consider myself fortunate to have read the book before seeing the movie. Through no real effort my brain read the book in Matt Damon‘s voice.

4-romeo-and-or-julietThe time we will take turns choosing how the book goes: Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North
So I don’t know about you, but my Octobers are always super-busy, very stressful, and as a result I always get sick. This year was no exception. It was such a struggle to get through the month that November has so far been a kind of recuperation period. That’s all ending this Veterans Day when both my husband and I will finally have some quality time together. We’ve planned to read this book by Ryan North, aka one of the funniest guys in comics today, aka the crazy mad awesome genius behind The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl series for Marvel. He has reworked Shakespeare so that the reader gets to choose the ending. That’s right; it’s a choose your own adventure for adults, and it has been sitting on our shelf at home for months collecting dust, waiting for its turn in the TBR. Our plan is for one of us to read while the other one drives; that is to say if I’m reading, he’s telling me which choice he wants as we go along. I really can’t wait for this one, as it’s another new type of book that is sure to help rejuvenate our spirits before we plan to travel back home for the holidays (stress x 1000).

So there you have it. Whether you’ve been married for decades or just swiped right, I urge you to file this one away in your relationship database. Let’s make America read again!

Catastrophic Happiness

catastrophic happiness catherine newmanWant to hear something weird? I love reading parenting books, but I’m not a parent. How-tos, essays, memoirs, cartoons, pretty much everything except those photographic encyclopedias that help you diagnose your baby’s latest rash. No. Thanks!

Seriously though, it doesn’t take a parent to appreciate these books and I think reading some of the how-to books makes me a better aunt. The memoirs, however, are what I pick up when I want to see the world through my own mother’s eyes and imagine how different my life would be with littles. I usually go for funny, but I can also handle cute and heartwarming. And I found all of that and more in Catastrophic Happiness by Catherine Newman.

If you read Real Simple magazine you probably recognize the author’s name. Newman is the etiquette columnist and always handles readers’ questions with grace and verve. Yup, sometimes the answer is that you have to stand your ground and be firm with your mother-in-law/child/spouse/co-worker/florist. The same holds true for parenting, which makes me still hold out hope that the editorial staff will eventually let Catherine write a parenting advice column.

Catastrophic Happiness isn’t like most parenting memoirs I’ve read–and trust me, I’ve read a bunch. Most focus on what it’s like to start parenting life with your newborn. Babies and toddlers can provide endless entertainment and joy, so the plethora of anecdotes usually proves meaty enough for a book. Or several.

This is exactly why Catastrophic Happiness is so incredibly awesome. We get to share in the trials and tribulations of the not-so-cute phase of raising kids. The book starts out with Catherine’s son Ben and daughter Birdie already starting school and it follows them up into the start of their teenage years. These are the years that can get messy, or distant, or strained, or just plain…blah? I’m not really sure, but for some reason they aren’t usually the focus of a book. But this is definitely a mistake, as Catherine proves chapter after chapter.

I laughed. I cried. I read so many passages out loud to my husband that I should have contacted the publisher to see if they would let me record the audiobook. Catherine Newman has a particular way with words that will have you writing down quote after quote. She turns a phrase like no other. I wanted to include a passage to illustrate what I mean, but publishers get a little bit Genghis Khan about comparing quotes from an advance reader copy to the finished product, and our finished copy hasn’t yet arrived. You’ll just have to wait and see for yourself!

Catastrophic Happiness hits bookshelves on April 5th, so there’s plenty of time to get a copy for your mom/sister/wife/cousin/friend for Mother’s Day. Regardless of whether or not you’re a parent you should read this one, to yourself or out loud to someone you love.