Screen time in our household is quite limited. For a variety of reasons, we got rid of Netflix, our DVD player, our TV, and one of our smart phones (replaced with an old-school clam style dumb-phone). We use our computers for work and writing blog posts (Life With The Crew, Hare Brain Investments, etc).
What do we do with all of our non-screen time? We play outside, we cook, and we read. On an average winter day, I would guess my daughter spends at least three hours outside, and on an average summer day, I would guess that number creeps towards five hours.
This is not to say that my daughter completely ignores screens. She exhibits curiosity about the work being completed, but generally she remarks “just computer work” and walks away from the screen asking that we play rather than work.
Instead of watching TV shows or movies (she has seen neither), we read to her. On an average day, we read to her about two and a half hours – one hour in the morning, one hour at ‘nap’ time and a little more than half an hour at night. The books run the gamut from the Little House on the Prairie series to children’s readers to her current favorites – “Bilbo” (The Hobbit) or “Frodo and Strider” (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy).
There are some dark moments in the books – when Beorn has the goblin head on a pike and warg skin drying in the sun; she knows that passage as: “Beorn had a warg in a cage and a goblin in a trap.” Rather than “Slicing a head” clean off, the orcs are simply “bonked” on the head with the sword.
We have now completed The Hobbit three times and are working our way through The Lord of the Rings. I know these books are challenging for her to understand but she gets the large plot pieces. The nuanced plot pieces and symbolism escape her grasp.
A lot intrigues me about the reading experience with her. For one, she does not miss a single word. She may not understand the entire story, but she can probably repeat it verbatim. I also believe the stories are hard enough for her to understand that she has to use all of her energy to comprehend them. What intrigues me most is that when I read the story, she settles in to listen. She does not fidget, pay attention to the dogs, or entertain any other distractions. She sits next to me and as I read, she gets that thousand yard stare, which I usually associate with extreme tiredness, but for her, I believe it is extreme concentration. She will sit with that vacant unblinking stare for 45 minutes while we read chapter upon chapter of the books.
Yesterday we read at least two hours of “Frodo and Strider”. At 9.30pm I was ready for bed and told her that it was time for bed. She immediately burst into tears sobbing “I just want to READ. Why won’t you READ to me?!?”
My wife and I chuckled. There are worse things for a kid to be screaming.