The Question Box: “How can I discourage my kids from going directly from Zoom classes to another screen?”

Dear Joan-

My kindergarten and third-grade sons are doing remote learning, and after Zoom-school ends, all they want to do is play video games or watch television. How can I make sure they become good readers and not just screen zombies??

Connecticut Mom

Our answer

Dear Connecticut Mom:

Wouldn’t it be great if they raced from their Zoom classes to grab their books, and then sat down to read/ask to be read to for an hour? Yeah…hardly common. I personally found it so hard to watch my boys watch screens for extended periods of time, and that was well before remote learning. But what they want to do with their leisure time is relax and enjoy, and for most of them — as for most of us — reading isn’t the go-to.  So now what?

Here are the 4 things I would do to make sure they aren’t missing out on what they need to become strong readers:

  1. Make some screen rules and stick to them. For one thing, it gets so tiresome to talk/argue all the time about whether they can use screens, so find a time period you can tolerate, write it down and post it somewhere visible, and then stick to it. Remember, you’re the parent and it’s for their benefit in the end 🙂
    • I’d personally choose a time that worked for me, too, so I could get my own work done or dinner made…
  2. Make sure to have back-and-forth conversations and talk about high-impact words. Honestly this is exactly why we built Abound — children need to have language moments that build the skills they need to read well, and parents told us that coming up with questions and words to talk about is hard. But if you use Abound to ask the open-ended questions each day and read/listen to the books each week, you can help make a difference without a heavy lift.
    • Find a routine for when you use Abound. It will be easier to remember if you always do it at breakfast, for example, and the talk could spark a conversation that you remember!
  3. Find some books to excite them. I know, easier said than done, but the story has to captivate them enough so that they are eager to find out what’s going to happen next. So how to do that?
    • Find another book by the author of the last book that your child loved. If you can get him hooked on a series, you have lots of books all queued up for the weeks ahead.
    • Start reading a book aloud that you think your child can read easily, and will love. If he says he doesn’t want you to (as mine often did, just to be difficult?), happen to start it at his bedtime, when listening gives him a chance to stay up later (everything is appealing if the other option is going to bed, right?). Once you get him hooked on the story, he will be more likely to want to read it on his own. (Then let him stay up a bit later reading the book another night!)
    • Get a recommendation from a friend or cousin or older brother your child adores. Play up how much they thought he would like the book.
  4. Start an audiobook for the whole family to listen to. Listening to audiobooks builds key skills and creates shared ideas to talk about later. And you’ll all be happier with a story playing!


  • Remember that children will not want to read if they are struggling to read. Make sure they are meeting benchmarks by doing the Abound CheckIn every 8 weeks and talking to a child’s teacher about any results that surprise or worry you, and
  • Cut yourself some slack. This is really hard. If some days they watch more programs or play more video games than they “should,” let it go and start again the next day.

I hope these suggestions help. Feel free to reach out to me at for more guidance, or just to commiserate 🙂


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