When screen time happens: Virtual read-aloud options

   April 21, 2020

by Erin Ortiz, Community Engagement Specialist

Here’s a picture of my five year old daughter reading a book. I absolutely love when this happens. 

However, when I’m trying to get things done and she is just not feeling this way, or like doing anything creative or independent, I am not against letting her have some screen time. Sometimes I put on a kid movie or show. Sometimes it’s a kid game she can play on my phone (bonus points if it’s educational!)  These days, while so many of us are at home and trying to work (paid or unpaid) while simultaneously caring for our kids, and so many places are off-limits, screen time might happen more often than we want it to - or care to admit. It can be a real sanity saver, though - right, my fellow parents?

But have you met the virtual read-aloud book?

My kids and I love reading books together, as I’m sure your family does. I wish I did it more during our day. I’m sure that we all wish we had the capacity to read a book to our kids while doing that online work meeting or household chore, while making lunch and cleaning up from breakfast at the same time. Perhaps you do have this ability. If so, please reach out to me and share your secret!

With virtual read-alouds, your kids can cozy up and have an actual book read to them while you do whatever it is that needs doing. There are so many read-aloud options out there on different platforms from YouTube to Kindle, or library apps like Hoopla (available with a library card). 

Now, I’m not saying read-alouds will change your life, nor are they the optimal activity to keep kids engaged, but they can be a nice alternative when screen time is going to happen. Another thing I like about them is that they’re typically less than 15 minutes (some are only a few minutes), and when the story ends I can choose to put on another one or be done.

I must admit, read-aloud stories make me a bit nostalgic for those elementary school days when the class would sit on the carpet and the teacher or librarian would read to us. Or, does anyone remember Reading Rainbow

There are so many stories available out there; some are high-quality and thoughtful, others are not. I would encourage parents to search around for stories that fit your children’s interests, needs, age, etc. Here are some storytime channel options on YouTube to get you started: 

StoryTime at Awnie's House

Brightly Storytime

Also, Audible has made their collection of children’s stories free while schools are closed. 

As with anything online, pre-screen potential choices before showing them to your kids. Make sure you are okay with the material. Decide on your time limits. Watch one or two with your kids at first. They will find their favorites, and hopefully you can steal a moment, knowing they are engaging in storytime!