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And Sometimes the Device IS a Babysitter

winnieaudibleI’ve had a severe case of pneumonia ever since I came back from Chicago (truth be told, I even cut the meeting short because I felt so bad!) It hurts to move, I can’t catch my breath and I mostly lay around on the couch all day long. (No, this post isn’t a pneumonia pity party, I do have a point.)

My son has been home from school as well, and often I don’t even have the breath to read him a story. I’ve had to stop halfway through a book, apologize to him and try to explain that mommy’s lungs are sick and she can’t read to him anymore. It royally sucks for both of us and it freaks him out. Pneumonia has given me first-hand experience with the need (yes, the NEED) for different formats of digital books for very young children.

I still hear people spouting the evils of screen time for young children, and doubts or judgements from librarians about parents who make use of various forms of digital information with their young ones. I’ve had the experience over the past month, however, where I have simply not been physically able to read to my son.  In my workshops & articles I’ve been advocating supporting different literacy levels, different languages in the home, different caregiver capabilities, avoiding judgement, and paying close attention to content, context & the individual child, and now here I am. Living some of that.  Digital books in various formats have been saving my wheezing, exhausted hide lately and I am so grateful that I know what’s safe and age-appropriate for my son, so I know that if I happen to nod off on the couch, he’ll be ok. He’s reading high quality books or engaging in age-appropriate play, and his momma is right there with him (even if she’s having a codeine-induced catnap).

Here are some of the things we’ve been doing:

I signed up for a trial of Audible and we’ve been listening to one of the best produced radio-style audio books I’ve ever heard: Winnie the Pooh (Judi Dench!) We listen to these stories while we’re eating breakfast sometimes (my coughing is worst in the morning and I try just not to talk at all for awhile) or sometimes Jude will be playing on the floor and he’ll ask to listen while he’s talking to himself and his toys. One thing’s for sure: You never can tell with bees.

A book app we’ve enjoyed reading is A Frog Thing, which is about a little frog named Frank who wants to fly, which is not a “frog thing.” Different voice actors in this one, too. Carisa gave it 4.5 stars, and I agree. It’s a good one. I like books about creatures who make things happen against all odds. You know what Jude (4 years old) said to me about Frank the frog? “He’s an anthropomorphized frog because he talks.”  I don’t think his brain is being fried by extra iPad time or our quarantined home.

Jude has also been experimenting with Toca Builders. When I’m able to talk we have great conversations about what he’s making, what the characters are doing, what the colour palette should be like, why he can’t drop boxes in the water etc.  When I’m not able to talk, I help him “spit” paint all over his digital architectural creations. Here’s a screen shot of the things he’s been building while mom’s been too sick to read to him.


Toca Builders

I say this all the time, and I’ll keep saying it. We as librarians MUST NOT judge parents about their media consumption with young children, especially if they’re asking for our help in the library. We have no idea what they’re dealing with. We model healthy media behaviors in storytime. We offer recommendations for the very best content in every format we can. End of story.


Jude reading his favourite fairytale books in the messy living room/infirmary.