Growing a Book Lover in a Digital Age

Are you interested in encouraging your children to read?  If so, here is some advice from Rachel Payne, a Brooklyn mom and the Coordinator of Early Childhood Services  at Brooklyn Public Library.   She is a co-author of Reading with Babies, Toddlers, and Twos

kids reading

My kids love my iPad. If they even see it, they go crazy. While it has its benefits (long plane rides, educational games, etc), when I see my two year old expertly finding his favorite app, I am always reminded of what a different world it is from when I grew up!  Being such an avid reader my whole life, I’ve found myself hyper-aware of how to make sure my kids stay intrigued about reading, visiting the library, and just settling in (and down) to a good old-fashioned book. Rachel Payne, Coordinator of Early Childhood Services at Brooklyn Public Library, has discussed with us how to raise a book lover in this digital age.

By: Rachel Payne

I was in the doctor’s office with my three-year old son the other day. He was bored silly and kept getting up to turn off the lights in the waiting room. After I few dirty looks, I reluctantly pulled out my iPad. I had recently downloaded the Goodnight Moon app, which I was reviewing for work; I reluctantly let him play with it. Like many parents, I feel a twinge of guilt whenever he looks at a screen. He thought the app was hysterical, particularly the section where you can tickle the “three little bears sitting in chairs.” That night, he pulled out his well-worn, board-book version of Goodnight Moon, which he had shown no interest in as of late. It was wonderful to see him return to an old favorite – and it was app that brought him back to it!As a librarian at Brooklyn Public Library, one of the co-authors of the upcoming Reading with Babies, Toddlers, and Twos, and a mom, I have been wondering how to raise a book lover in this digital world. When should I use e-books, apps, and digital media with my son? How often? And how can I make sure he keeps his love of reading? I am still thinking about this and listening to what other parents and colleagues have to say, but I don’t think reading and digital media are mutually exclusive. Here are a few thoughts about encouraging reading in a digital age:


o Read books with your newborn. It is a wonderful bonding experience and a great way for her to begin learning the sounds of human speech.o Babies like books with playful rhythms, pictures of other babies, and familiar situations. For more titles, check out Brooklyn Public Library’s booklist for babies.

o Start the habit of bringing your little one to the library. BPL’s annual event for babies and toddlers, The Big Brooklyn Playdate, is coming up on April 24 at the Central Library from 10:30-Noon. We would love to see you there!

o Go digital? The American Pediatrics Association doesn’t recommend screen time for kids under two, so you probably want to stick with print books rather than e-books for now. Board Books, especially the “touch-and-feel” variety, provide your child with so much sensory input without turning it into sensory overload.


o At this age, many kids begin walking away when parents try to read to them. This doesn’t mean they hate reading! Keep reading while your kids are playing and exploring. They’re still listening.

o Pick books about things that interest your child. Got a truck lover? Get a truck load from the library!

o Active toddlers love action. Pick interactive books with flaps to lift and stories with repeated refrains or animal noises. For more ideas, check out BPL’s booklist for toddlers.

o Go digital? There are a lot of fun picture book apps with delightful interactive features available for kids above two years old. Try a few, but don’t throw out your print books. Today’s kids need to learn to turn pages as well as swipe screens.


o Some 2’s and most 3’s are beginning to be able to sit still for longer stories with characters and plot. Simple folk and fairy tales (like The Three Bears) are perfect starter storybooks.

o Kids are starting to show off what they know at this age! Try “concept books” (ABCs, 123s, opposites, etc.) and nonfiction. Some nonfiction is a little long, so read and talk about what interests your child. Ask your librarian for suggestions.

o Preschoolers love to get silly and play with words and there are plenty of books to egg them on. And if you haven’t discovered the books of Mo Willems or Jan Thomas, you are in for a treat yourself. For more ideas, check out BPL’s book list for preschoolers.

o Go Digital? It is fine to introduce your kids to e-books at this age and many picture books are available in e-book form for download from the library. If your child loves a certain topic (e.g. dinosaurs, fairy tales), get an app AND a book about it

School-Age Kids

o Whether kids are mastering reading on their own or reading independently, don’t stop reading aloud to them! I love the story about one dad who read to his daughter every day until she went off to college. Kids can usually follow a story written at a higher level than they can read on their own, so this will help expand their reading comprehension and vocabulary.

o Let your child pick the books she wants to read for pleasure. It can be hard to watch your child read Captain Underpants for the umpteenth time, but, hey, he’s reading! Don’t worry, he’ll move on eventually.

o Practice what you preach! If you tell your kid that reading is important, but never read for pleasure yourself, there’s a mixed-message right there. If you do most of your reading on a tablet or e-reader, what you read is not visible to your child. Let her know you are reading the new book by your favorite author or the latest edition of The New Yorker.

o Go Digital? The kids we’ve talked to at the library enjoy e-books as well as paper books. If they are into the story or the subject, they don’t seem to care the medium. Also, reading and using digital technology do not have to be mutually exclusive! If your kid loves the Percy Jackson books, check out some fan fiction online. Fascinated by penguins? Read about them and watch some YouTube videos. Check out KidZone at Brooklyn Public Library for fun sites to visit, booklists, and more.



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