Picture Book Resources
Dot by Randi Zuckerberg, ill. by Joe Berger
Dot knows how to use all the technology. She knows how to swipe and talk and click. But she also realizes there are joys to be found in the outdoor world.
- Screen Time vs Social Time: This book does a great job of portraying keeping a healthy balance between unplugged activities and technology use. It’s very relevant for today's kids. Use this to start a discussion about healthy balance in your family, and devise a plan together of how much screen time is enough.
- Language Arts: There's some clever word choice in the book, verbs used to describe tech activities are also able to describe outdoor activities. Language arts classes could use the book to talk about multiple meanings for words.
Look by Jeff Mack
Gorilla is really trying hard to get the little boy's attention. He has something amazing to show the boy, but the little boy is very absorbed in the TV and can't be bothered. Eventually, Gorilla does get the boy's attention, but definitely not as planned.
- Unplug Activity Ideas: Little ones should find the gorilla's antics entertaining as he tries to get the boy to notice the books in the room in this story. Adults will like the message to unplug and read every once in a while (hopefully through less drastic methods though).
- Emergent Reading: I continue to appreciate what Jeff Mack can do with just two words throughout an entire book. In this one, the entire text consists of the words "look" and "out" in various tones and arrangements. A good book for little ones to learn to recognize two sight words and be able to “read” the book for themselves.
- Context & Word Meaning: As just mentioned, there are only two words used throughout this book, but with illustrations and punctuational context, Mack manages to give the words various meanings. Use this one to talk about how to use context to determine different voice inflections and meanings for words.
InvisiBill by Maureen Fergus, ill. by Dusan Petricic
Bill just wanted his family to pass the potatoes, but his family was so distracted...Bill went invisible. His mother's temporary fix was worse than the original problem, so Bill decides to do something drastic.
This is a bit of a tall tale to encourage families to unplug and spend time face to face.
- Social Time vs Screen Time: This picture book addresses a very common issue, the tug of war between screens and family time. Read this and then discuss with your family or friends the boundaries for screens at meals and other times.
- Tall Tales/Parables: Thankfully, no one literally turns invisible when they are ignored due to devices distracting people. This is a modern tall tale - or you could even argue a parable - that points out a modern issue. It illustrates one of the purposes of such stories, to explore an issue in a somewhat ridiculous and less-threatening way.
Inside Outside by Lizi Boyd
A little boy and his pet dog and turtle enjoy activities both inside and outside through four seasons.
- Emergent Readers: This book is wordless, perfect for little ones learning about reading concepts.
- Art: There are clever die-cuts that allow parts of future and former spreads be part of the next spread. An unplugging activity could be trying to do some of this type of art that requires some good brain exercise and problem solving.
- Unplug Activity Ideas: I love how the boy keeps himself entertained with fun activities that require no electronics. This is a great book for kids who say they are bored. Can they find an activity the boy is doing that perhaps they could do?
- Seasons: This book explores inside and outside activities through the four seasons, but being wordless these aren’t labeled. Can readers identify each season? What clues help them?
This Is Sadie by Sara O’Leary, ill. by Julie Morstad
Sadie is a girl with a grand imagination and a love of stories. Find out all the places her imagination and stories have taken her.
Sadie is a girl after my own heart. I spent many days as a child imagining fantastic adventures with my siblings with things like boxes and sofas and backyard bushes for props. And of course, stories from books spurred along many of those adventures. A fantastic read for imaginative kids who love stories (or nostalgic adults who still like stories).
- Unplug Activity Ideas: Sadie is a great role model full of ideas for how to occupy yourself without an electronic device.
- Imagination: This book is a grand celebration of the power of imagination.
- Characters to Love: I just adore Sadie. She can join the ranks of Anne Shirley and Jo March for being a stellar female character with a grand imagination.
On Sudden Hill by Linda Sarah, ill. by Benji Davies
Birt and Etho are best friends who imagine all sorts of fun with their cardboard boxes up on Sudden Hill. But will their friendship survive when a new boy Shu joins the group?
- Friendship Flexibility: This is a great choice for kids dealing with changes in friendships, especially the arrival of someone new. It ends happily for all and shows that changes aren’t always bad.
- Unplug Activity Ideas: The boys in this book have all sorts of fun with cardboard boxes. What can you create with a cardboard box or other repurposed item?
- Compare/Contrast: Read this one and Not a Box for a compare/contrast activity.
Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
Rabbit is playing with a box, but even though it may look like a box to you, it is definitely not a box to rabbit. It is a rocket, a building on fire, a mountain, etc.
- Compare/Contrast: Read this one and On Sudden Hill. Both books feature boxes that are not just boxes.
- Geisel Honor: This book won a Geisel Honor in 2007. Find out what a Geisel Honor is.
- Unplug Activity Ideas: Go get a box and see what your imagination turns it into.
- Imagination: Introduce young ones to the concept of imagination with this creative bunny.
Something Extraordinary by Ben Clanton
A little boy has many, many wishes swimming around in his imagination, but he finds the best things of all are the little miracles that happen in real life.
I loved the illustration style, but the conclusion of the book is best of all. A good book to encourage kids who often have their heads in the clouds to come to earth and find some real things to enjoy once in a while. (Though not minimizing the importance of imagination either.)
- Unplug Activity Ideas: Challenge kids to find every day items that are actually pretty extraordinary. What new treasures will be discovered?
- Art: The illustration style of this is quiet, with just touches of color. Explore how that enhances the message.
- Imagination vs Reality: Several of the books in this list celebrate the powers of imagination, but this one also warns about the dangers of staying in your imaginary too long and missing out. But it also doesn’t minimize the importance of imagination. Another one to talk about having a healthy balance, this time between fantasizing and engaging in the real world.
Blackout by John Rocco
One night, the city is bustling as normal and the people are busy doing what they normally do when all of a sudden all the lights go out. The night patterns are broken and the people get to spend time doing things with others they don't normally get to do.
- Unplug Activity Ideas: The people in this story are forced to unplug by a blackout. In the process, they discover several fun activities that don’t require electricity. Have a pretend blackout day and do activities without electricity.
- Caldecott Honor: This book won a Caldecott Honor. Look at the illustrations and decide why you think they won this honor.
- Social Time vs Screen Time: This is another book that reminds readers of the importance of social time. The characters in the book discover friends and fun with others because they are unplugged. It points out that sometimes we need to slow down and step away from electronics to get to know people.
Adult Nonfiction Resources
Two resources for parents & teachers who want more ideas of how to get kids to have a healthy balance of technology and socialization.
Growing up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World by Gary Chapman & Arlene Pellicane
"In this digital age, children are spending more and more time interacting with a screen rather than a parent. Technology has the potential to add value to our families, but it can also erode a sense of togetherness and hinder a child's emotional growth. In Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World, you'll learn how to take back your home from an over-dependence on screens. Discover the five A+ skills needed to give your child the relational edge in a screen-driven world: affection, appreciation, anger management, apology, and attention. Today's screens aren't just in our living rooms; they are in our pockets. Now is the time to equip your child to live with screen time, not for screen time. Constant entertainment is not the goal of childhood. No phone, tablet, or gaming device can teach your child how to have healthy relationships; only you can. Growing Up Social will help you:
Equip your child to be relational rich in a digital world
Replace mindless screen time with meaningful family time
Establish simple boundaries that make a huge difference
Read what's working for the screen savvy family down the street
Prepare your child to succeed down the road in relationships and life
Learn healthy ways to occupy your child while you get things done" –from back of book
Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World by Kathy Koch, PhD
"Technology is one of the benefits of living in today's world. It is a non-negotiable for success in our educational, vocational, and social cultures. Yet, with all the advantages there are inherent dangers, deceptions, and abuses. Teens often look to their digital tools to make them happy, when you set boundaries or take them away they feel frustrated and incomplete. Unhealthy habits formed in this stage of life easily carry over into adulthood and addictions to technology make other addictions more likely. Screens and Teens applauds the good aspects of the digital age, but also alerts parents to how technology contributes to self-centered character, negative behaviors, and beliefs that inhibit spiritual growth, prescribing manageable solutions regardless of the level of their teen's involvement. Unmasking the lies teenagers tend to believe, like "I must have choices," the book majors on truth, acknowledging that Truth alone brings contentment, freedom, and success" –from back of book
P.S. One More Picture Book!!! (added an hour after first publication)
Chloe by Peter McCarty
I forgot this fantastic picture book before! I just had to come back and add as a post script for this blog post.
Chloe is the middle rabbit in a family of 21 bunny children. They love their family fun time. But when Daddy Bunny brings home a TV for family fun time, Chloe and Bridget don't think it's so fun. They find a better way to have fun together with some simple supplies.
A not-to-disguised message to get away from the tv and interact. (Or possibly on the magical intrigue of bubble wrap popping.)
- Art: I like McCarty's soft illustration style. Sometimes the illustrations in this one get a bit interpretive and modern (like the page where the Bunny family is all in a swirly pattern around Chloe to demonstrate she's in the middle of the family). So probably a good one for Secondary art classes to analyze for style.
- Unplug Activity Ideas: If you're having trouble getting kids away from the TV to interact, this could be a good read to introduce a brain storming session for other activity ideas or to discuss why Chloe might have been upset about the arrival of the TV (but you better have bubble wrap and a box on hand).