Is Reading on My Kindle Bad for My Kids?


In the summer of 2011, I got a Kindle. I’d been railing against e-readers for a long time because I love books so much. I love the feel of them, their weight in my hand, the sound of the pages turning, the smell of them, and of course, the worlds that they transport me to. But, my dad was upgrading his Kindle so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to read a few books on his old one.

Addiction happened quickly. Once I finished reading all the books he’d downloaded, I discovered that you can take out books from the library ON YOUR KINDLE. Well, that was it. I was hooked. Beyond hooked, actually. I would read my Kindle any chance I could. I loved its one-handed convenience on the subway, and stayed up late reading book after book after book, flipping pages with the tap of a finger.

I should note that I love reading. As a kid, when I was asked if I had hobbies, my answer was always reading. I used to do a summer read-a-thon for the Multiple Sclerosis Society where I’d get sponsorships for the amount of books that I read. I made a LOT of money for MS research reading all summer long. I believe I received trophies for it. I’m the kind of reader who regularly stays up too late because I can’t put the book down. Library trips require two tote bags to bring home my books. Friends at sleepaway camp would make fun of me because I would bring a crate filled with books every summer.

But now I read on an e-reader. Which is incredibly convenient. But I realized something. My kids don’t know what I’m doing. They just see their mommy looking at a screen and not paying attention to them. They don’t know that it’s literature, that I’m engaging in something important. I want my children to adopt my reading patterns (even if not my addiction-level love for reading), but how can they do it if all they see is a screen?

Catherine Steiner-Adair, a noted psychologist and author from Harvard University, wrote a book a few years back about how screens and technology are changing our lives. She talks about how children actually hate their parents’ smartphones, as they see those phones as something that takes their parents’ attention away from them.

Those kids are right. My phone absolutely distracts me from what’s happening right in front of me—namely, my children. And usually, when my phone is out, I’m texting, emailing, checking Facebook (which is CERTAINLY not more important than my children!), or worst, playing Candy Crush. So I’ve been working hard on not having it out—I don’t take it out at the table, I don’t make phone calls when we’re walking home from school (a specifically important time to actually spend talking to your kids, according to Dr. Steiner-Adair, and I don’t have it out in the car.

But sometimes I do have my Kindle. Sometimes I do read on a screen, and that screen looks just like the distracting screen of a smartphone. So instead of teaching my children the value of a good book, I’m teaching them that I pay attention to things other than them, that I can easily be distracted by a screen, and that the screen is really important to me.

So what am I to do?

I’m working on it. I’ve been going to the library and taking out real books lately. My kids can see that I’m reading, and they can even look over my shoulder and try to identify letters and words. I try to only take out my Kindle at good times—when the kids aren’t around, when they’re asleep, or when they’re fully engaged and playing with each other.

But I’m still addicted to the ease of the Kindle. I just hope that someday my kids will be addicted to reading, too.

What about you—do you have any helpful advice about how to teach your kids about a love for reading while still reading on an e-reader?

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Amy Deutsch

Amy is a Jewish educator and a mom. After graduating from Brandeis University she received a master’s degree at the Jewish Theological Seminary where she was a Wexner Fellow. Over the past 10 years Amy has developed experience in teaching, family education, camp, curriculum writing, and most recently, has begun teaching “Baby & Me” classes.

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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