How many of you have received more screen-time requests from your kids this summer? Yes… we have as well. With most everything out of whack, there’s obviously a lot more time for our ten year old to fill during COVID-19.
To help relieve some of the pressure to grant more screen time, my wife and I decided to redirect the reading piece of the equation. Our son really enjoys spending time with his books, and due to the circumstances, more of that has been happening lately via our iPad.
Obviously, since we’re no longer taking our weekly trips to the library, we’ve been backfilling that gap with library e-book lending apps like Libby and Hoopla. Sure there are still physical books around our house to read, but the reading apps have replicated our boy’s treasure-hunt experience to uncover new library books every week.
Time to Put the iPad Down
And while that has generally been a successful solution to feeding our boy with new titles to read, it’s also increasingly positioned our ‘family’ iPad as the dominant object he stares at.
And this same screen houses his Minecraft app as well as any number of video apps to watch, including his favorite “Captain Underpants” series on Netflix.
These other apps are just an inch away on the screen and so easy to tap! No matter ‘the rules,’ the mere presence of a glowing iPad as an active reading device has invariably opened up more screen-time opportunities for the other non-reading apps.
Does an E-Book Reader = Screen Time?
I thought about how we might separate his ‘reading’ from his screen time. And of course, an e-book reading device seemed to be an easy solution. Why not just get him a Kindle?
Now, I know there are any number of debates about whether using an e-book reader is also screen time. That said, after some conversation, my wife and I decided it would still be better to move his ‘reading’ onto a different device. That choice would then allow us to leave our iPad out of the picture more often.
It’s Time for a Kindle
Amazon offers the Kindle Kids Edition. It’s a 10th generation Kindle, bundled with a case and a one year subscription to Amazon’s FreeTime Unlimited app, which houses thousands of kid-friendly books for our son to read. (The Kindle also comes with a 2-year repair warrantee.)
It’s all packaged as a ‘worry-free’ reading solution for the kids.
$109.99 on Amazon
Testing the Limits of FreeTime Unlimited
Our son was absolutely delighted when I walked up to him this past weekend and revealed the box from behind my back. I had already set up the Kindle and tethered it to my existing Amazon Prime account (easy to do).
He opened up the magnetic cover and smiled. His first gleeful words were, “It’s like a little iPad.”
I wanted to reply that it was actually his ‘anti-iPad,’ but I allowed him his tech glow.
Then, he began looking up some of his favorite books. FreeTime Unlimited may offer thousands of titles, but some of his usual suspects weren’t there.
He suddenly got quiet. I could sense an enthusiasm leak. So I said, “I can add in additional e-books from other sources.”
He responded, “Oh…. phew!”
And then his general state of excitement resumed.
My boy found a cherished book from his physical library days. He immediately downloaded it and began reading.
Success? I think so! Except…
The Road to Kindle from OverDrive
Downloading books onto a Kindle from other sources isn’t actually a snap. But it’s not impossible either.
The first place I needed access to was the same e-book collection from our local library that the ‘Libby’ app had been feeding our iPad. (Otherwise, our iPad would still remain as his legacy book-reading platform.)
The good news is Libby is owned by the OverDrive website, which is an alternate access point to your local library’s e-book collection. They are just separate ways to access the same content.
Admittedly, Libby is a one-stop book-borrowing experience for the iPad. OverDrive takes a little more work behind the scenes before new titles can magically appear on your child’s Kindle.
But if you need to do it, here are the steps to borrow an e-book from OverDrive and then transfer it over to your Kindle:
- Log into your OverDrive account
- Find your e-book
- Click “Read now with Kindle”
(That takes you to an Amazon page listing your e-book. There’s a yellow box on the top right that says, “Get Library Book.” Under that box, there’s a white drop-down box that says, “Deliver to: (your Name’s) Kindle.”)
- Then, click on the yellow box
Finally, go to your Amazon Parent Dashboard (parents.amazon.com) to load the e-book into your Kindle’s FreeTime Unlimited app.
- Click on (Name) Settings on the bottom
- Click on ‘Add Content’
- Click on ‘Books’
- Click on the button on the right side of the book’s name
(The sliding button then turns orange.)
Now, your new e-book will pop up to read in FreeTime Unlimited.
No, these steps do not exactly replicate a streamlined e-book borrowing experience, but it does work. And I think it’s a big deal to be able to feed our Kindle with other library content when FreeTime Unlimited shows it’s inevitable limitations.
Unlimited Summer Reading
Of course, you can buy any book you want on a Kindle, but in the beginning of this technical relationship, I’m interested in simply replicated the same ‘borrowing’ experience we had in the days when libraries were physically open.
There are so many limitations to this summer due to COVID-19. Thankfully, with the help of our new Kindle, our son’s access to books will not be impacted. He can continue to read to his heart’s content.
As for how much summer screen time he should have… well, that’s now a separate conversation. And separate from the Kindle.
Let all summer reading continue!