NEW! Books to Inspire Healthy Screen Use

NEW! Books to Inspire Healthy Screen Use

We love celebrating during the same week as Children’s Book Week because one of our favorite Screen-Free Week activities is reading! 

Each year, we pair up with the Children’s Book Council to curate a list of books that inspire kids and teens to unplug and have healthy relationships with technology! This year, we added six awesome new books to our list! We love so much about them, but here are the highlights, below:

by David W. Miles, illus. by Natalie Hoopes (Familius)
What we love: Simple words and soft illustrations celebrate the idea that books, with no off switch and no need to charge, hold amazing worlds! (Ages 4-8)


Climb On!
by Baptiste Paul, illus. by Jacqueline Alcántara (NorthSouth Books)
What we love: This multilingual (English and Creole) book tells the story of a child who pulls her dad away from the TV to go for a hike. The two bond as they encounter little adventures on the way to the top! (Ages 4-8)


Peacock and Sketch
by Allan Peterkin, MD, illus. by Sandhya Prabhat (APA Books for Children and Teens)
What we love: Kid-friendly commentary on influencers and fast fame! We love the illustrations, the quirky Peacock character, and the message of the importance of real friendship. (Ages 4-8)


Connor Crowe Can’t Let Go
by Howard Pearlstein, illus. by Stefani Buijsman (Clavis)
What we love: It’s hard to put down the screen; this book adds humor to the problem when the screen literally sticks to little Connor! (Ages 5-9)


Treasure Hunt
by Stephanie Wildman, illus. by Estefania Razo (Lawley Publishing)
What we love: A big brother leads younger siblings away from video games and toward a fun treasure hunt! We love to see siblings guiding siblings in healthy screen habits. (Ages 5-12)


Timmy’s Monster Diary: Screen Time Stress (But I Tame It, Big Time)
by Dr. Raun Melmed, illus. Jeff Harvey (Familius)
What we love: This book was written by an ADHD expert for children who need support with device use. We love that it offers concrete tactics for managing screen time, a suggestion made by a peer to Timmy the monster who finds success and a happy balance in the end. (Ages 7-11)

The list also features past winners, which include books for readers ages 0-18! Get the full list here.

What we love about these books is they serve as great conversation starters. We look for books that don’t shame kids about their screen use, but instead are empathetic to how hard it is to put down a device while also providing inspiration to unplug!

We can’t wait to celebrate with you during Children’s Book Week and Screen-Free Week, from May 1-7, 2023! Happy reading!


Find Your Spark With Children’s Book Week 2023, May 1-7

Find Your Spark With Children’s Book Week 2023, May 1-7

Established in 1919, Children’s Book Week is the longest-running national literacy initiative in
the country. Every year, young people across the country participate by attending events at
schools, libraries, bookstores, celebrating at home, and engaging with book creators both online
and in person.

This celebration of books and reading is a time for readers of all ages to share books that they
love, to discover new books, and to engage with their communities.

We LOVE books and we want people everywhere to tap into that same joy. Every Child a
Reader’s mission is clear in its name, and Children’s Book Week is one of the main ways we
work to accomplish our goal.

So, what can you do to celebrate Children’s Book Week (May 1-7) and what resources do we
have to help?

Children’s Book Week 2023 is all about the spark of inspiration that can come from a book. Our
theme is Read Books. Spark Change. which speaks to the power that books and stories have
to inspire positive change. Books can spark change within an individual reader, a family, a
classroom, or a whole community.

Every Child a Reader has created a bunch of free resources for kids and adults to celebrate and
find their spark.

  • The Official Children’s Book Week Poster by Rilla Alexander. About her poster Rilla said
    “For the theme Read Books. Spark Change, I kept coming back to the butterfly effect. And
    how, even if you’re small, you can make a big difference.”
  • Activity pages in Spanish and English. Kids can color their own poster, write or draw a
    story, and more.
  • Find Your Spark Challenge. Follow the steps in the Challenge guide to find your newest
    spark from a book.
  • Bookmarks with activities by five amazing illustrators. Print them all, cut the bookmark
    off to use in your current read and enjoy the fun, related activities.
  • Drawing Instructions. Kids interested in learning more about how illustrators create book
    characters can use these step-by-step instructions to draw all kinds of things.

Anyone can celebrate from anywhere using these resources. You can host a book party, go to a
library or bookstore, read by yourself, or read with someone. Let us know how you are
celebrating on social media using #ReadBooksSparkChange.

We love that our celebration coincides with Screen Free Week. Diving into a good book or
magazine is a perfect way to celebrate both!

Guest post by our Screen-Free Week promotional partner, Every Child a Reader.

Why our daughters need Screen-Free Week

Why our daughters need Screen-Free Week

According to a recent CDC report, teen girls* today are experiencing record high levels of violence, sadness, and suicide risk, across all racial and ethnic groups.

As the parent of one, this has me deeply concerned.

I know all these problems aren’t solely caused by screen-time (I’m looking at you, pandemic), but there’s no denying it’s a factor exacerbating the situation. 

As The American Psychiatric Association notes, “there is a growing consensus that the decline in [teen] mental health may be linked to the increasing popularity of smartphones and social media.”

This is particularly true for girls and young women who spend a lot of time on appearance-based social media sites (like Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, etc.) As this article in The Atlantic explains:

Social media—particularly Instagram… “subjects their physical appearance to the hard metrics of likes and comment counts—takes the worst parts of middle school and glossy women’s magazines and intensifies them.”

So, what if, for young women (and young men, who are also struggling), Screen-Free Week wasn’t just about family game night, but something more?

What if you reframed this one week break from screens instead as a radical act of survival and self-care?

What would that look like?

It would mean starting your Screen-Free Week planning today.

(And also widening your frame of reference for “teen girls”—these conversations are appropriate for your middle schoolers, too. Death by suicide is the third leading cause of death in children ages 10–14.)

Talk about it

Start by having a conversation with your teen(s) about the CDC findings. (Most teens I’ve talked to never heard about it.)

Ask them…

  • Does this data track with their own experience?
  • Does this track with what they see and hear among their friends?
  • Ask them to share more about their experience.
  • Give them space to let pain into the light and examine it openly and empathetically, without judgment.

If you find that your teen in crisis right now, skip the rest of this post and seek immediate help by calling 988 or their doctor.

Identify the worst offenders

If your teen(s) is NOT in immediate crisis, ask them if there is a particular app, platform, or social network they find most problematic (most will be able to identify it in a heartbeat.)

Rather than just responding with, “Let’s delete it now!” (because many of them will un-delete it later), work together to brainstorm a triage plan for it.

How can you help them mitigate the damage it’s doing today?

  • Can they turn off notifications?
  • Can they unfollow some toxic accounts or contacts?
  • Can they follow a bunch of new accounts that will bring some light and love into their feed?

Coach them on how to create a new normal within the platform itself.

Brainstorm a plan

Lastly, talk about how you and your teen(s) can work together to create a Screen-Free Week game plan to inoculate some of this pain with some radical self-care.

Radical self-care is about more than bubble baths, meditation crystals, and merely taking a break. It’s about make big, perhaps unpopluar shifts in your life to get unstuck and out of immediate danger. 

  • If Instagram makes them feel fat, how can you spend Screen-Free Week helping them feel beautiful again?
  • If they feel like they’re never measuring up online, could you spend the week doing a family gratitude practice?
  • If they’re finding it all too much, can you take the week to help them set up alternate communication channels between your teen(s) and their friends in other, less triggering platforms?

Basically, customize the Screen-Free Week “cure” so it matches the existing wound.

As Debra Houry, CDC’s Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Director for Program and Science says,  

“High school should be a time for trailblazing, not trauma. Our kids need far more support to cope, hope, and thrive.”

That support starts with you. Let Screen-Free Week be your invitation to help your daughters(s) tackle the trauma and blaze a new trail. 

*The stats are even worse for teen girls who are Queer. More than half (52%) of LGBQ+ students recently experienced poor mental health and more than 1 in 5 (22%) attempted suicide in the past year.


There’s something kids actually love more than screens

There’s something kids actually love more than screens

What to do about all the young people on their phones, growing depressed, anxious…and worse?

Well, there’s an ancient plaything kids have loved forever (literally). It keeps them occupied for hours and can actually hold its own against TikTok.

It’s called “the world.”

Screen-Free Week is the perfect time to make an introduction: Kids, World. World, Kids.

Liberate the kids

If we liberate our children from all the time they’re spending online — if we give them back some free time and free play — they’ll have an alluring alternative to the couch. But without much chance to hang out with their friends in real life, unsupervised, the only place they can have fun and socialize freely is online.

That’s bad. My colleague and Let Grow co-founder Jonathan Haidt has chilling graphs that show childhood mental health  problems, and, I hate to write it, suicide spiking since 2012 – the year the smart phone became ubiquitous, even in the hands of teens and tweens.

The only way to get kids off social media is to come up with an alternative that’s even MORE fun. Fortunately, that’s what play and exploration ARE…when kids get to do them.

Playing is what we’re meant to do

It may feel like kids prefer the virtual world to the real one. But when a 2010 survey by IKEA asked them whether they prefer playing with friends or playing online, 89% chose playing with friends. And they were online when they took the survey! Playing outside was their favorite activity of all.

Playing is what all young mammals come pre-programmed to do. While I, too, am currently addicted to my phone, I of course didn’t have one as a kid, which means that a lot of my free time was truly free – to ride my bike, play with friends, read, draw, spend time in the woods. Classic. It wasn’t that interesting – except to me.

Because without a wildly attention-grabbing movie theater/game device/popularity meter in my pocket, I had to engage with whatever else there was: friends, fun, nature, boredom.

How do we fight back?

But in the past generation or two, as children’s free time and independent moibility (getting around on their own) have declined, kids have been in decline, too. This started happening long before the invent of the smart phone, but it sped everything up, and social media seems like the most corrosive part of that change. How to fight back?

1. We have to start renormalizing kids out and about on their own. Otherwise, the only world left for them to explore is online. In keeping kids “safe” from strangers, traffic, bugs, and bullies, we’ve kept them UN-safe from anxiety, depression, and suicide.

2. We should also work to popularize programs like ”Wait Until  8th,” where parents jointly agree to wait til their kids reach 8th grade before giving them a phone.

3. We suggest you ask your school to start a Let Grow Play Club. It’s so simple! The school stays open for mixed-age, no-devices, free play after school. There’s an adult (or teen) in the corner with an Epi pen. But other than that, it’s old-fashioned fun. The kids organize the games. They solve the spats. They figure out stuff kids have always figured out, like how to deal with a cheater, or a little brother who keeps running onto the field. Kids become engaged and confident when they get to do things like that. Real things.

And as one 4th grader told me when I asked whether he prefered playing in real life or online: “You can make friends online, but when you take the headphones off, there’s no one there.” Added his friend, “I like real life.”

Kids are desperate to play and be together. If the only place we allow them to do that is online, that’s where they will go.

Give them back the real world – without adults constantly supervising, organizing, and “helping” — and you just may have to clang a cowbell to get them to come in for dinner.

Let freedom ring.

Skenazy is president of Let Grow, a nonprofit promoting childhood independence and resilience, and founder of the Free-Range Kids movement.


Make your own rules for Screen-Free Week

Make your own rules for Screen-Free Week

There are no rules for Screen-Free Week! Plan whatever works for your family, organization, or community. Not sure where to begin? Let these stories from past Screen-Free participants be your guide!

Heather Ristau’s Story

“I look forward to Screen-Free Week every year. As screens and technology become more prevalent in our lives every day, we have to make a conscious effort to put the phone down, close the laptop, and keep the TV off.

For my husband and I and our two girls (ages 9 and 6), Screen-Free Week gives us the extra push we need to reset our habits as we move into the warmer months. We are lucky in our community to have people who put together a lot of fun resources and activities for the week. Some they plan themselves and others they just help spread the word about.

We’ve done everything from scavenger hunts to stargazing with high powered telescopes. That was our favorite activity last year. We went to a local state park where an astronomy group had their telescopes set up. The girls especially loved seeing the craters on the moon and watching the bats swoop through the air all around us.

We spend a lot of time outside already, but Screen-Free Week helps us put down technology and get outside even more to try new things in our community or to just take extra time as a family to read books or play games. We love spreading the word about Screen-Free Week and encouraging other families to find and enjoy the peace that comes with being Screen-Free!”

Ten Ten Recreation’s Story

“We celebrate Screen-Free Week with contests and initiatives with our before and after school program kids.

Those who choose to participate take a pledge to remain screen-free during Screen-Free Week (other than for educational purposes). Parents report how many days their child stayed off of screens, and for each day, the child will receive a raffle ticket for a cool prize.

Also, to promote being active, we plan to have kids run sprints in their gymnasium this year. For every sprint kids do in a minute Ten Ten will donate $1 to a local charity as a group.”

    Jacquelyn Schwanz’s Story

    “Screen-Free Week is a yearly tradition and the cornerstone for the transition to screen free summer!

    We live in Michigan where winter is unpredictable but spring and summer are phenomenal.

    Screen free week is our kick off for the summer and from day one,  we strive to not have screen time until the frigid months.

    Our children are four and two, and neither have ever missed the movie nights or cartoon afternoons as we are having too much fun gardening, exploring our property, and rock hunting. We are looking forward to participating again this year and advocating for Screen-Free Week to turn into Screen-Free Year!!!”

    Thank you to Heather, Ten Ten Recreation, and Jacqueline for sharing your stories with us! If you’d like to participate in Screen-Free Week 2023, take the pledge today. Or, if you’d like to plan an event, please visit our resource library