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Media Literacy...Books that Spark Conversations about Media Use

These days it's hard to escape the constant intrusion of screens and media content on our daily life. We frequently encounter news stories warning us of the harmful effects associated with prolonged media use. So how do we begin to find balance in a technologically saturated society?

That's where media literacy comes into play.

But what is it?

As you can see, media literacy involves a broad spectrum of media-based skills. Media literacy starts with its availability within our lives and how we access media content. This includes apps, games, news, music, entertainment, e-books, videos, social media, and more, all available with the touch of a button.

One of the first steps in combating the negative effects associated with media use involves paying attention to how and why we use media throughout our day. But it’s not just about policing, reducing and/or eliminating media use.

Let me explain.

Media literacy involves developing our own understanding about media content and use. If we as parents, caregivers, and/or educators don’t actively include children in this process, then how will they learn about media? Kids learn a great deal about their environment through social models, so whether we realize it or not, we are already teaching kids about media content and use through our own media behavior.

Why not actively include them in the process, shedding light on why we make the media decisions that we do? Better yet, why not involve them in the decision-making process?

As the topic of media use becomes more prevalent in our social discourse, so too does its inclusion in children’s books. Here are two of my favorite books to start conversations with kids about media use.

“Sidewalk Flowers” by JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith is a simple story, beautifully illustrating a young girl’s observations as she walks home with her father.

Although a majority of the book is illustrated in black and white, bright splashes of color highlight the simple but memorable items and events capturing the young girl’s attention. However, instead of sharing these experiences with his daughter, the father is talking on his cell phone, oblivious to her finds along the way.

What’s the take-away message: When we take the time to “stop and smell the flowers” just beyond the edge of our technological devices, the smallest of things can spark our interest and intrigue, leaving long-lasting impressions.

As adults, it’s easy to think we can squeeze in “one more thing,” but we forget that this always comes at the expense of something else. For kids, technology doesn’t have to be the only source of entertainment. If we pay attention to the world around us, we just might find the most unexpected and interesting things along the way.

Bottom line… this is a great book to spark adult-child conversations about the world around us.

Jamie Lee Curtis’ books never fail to engage young readers in stories of social-emotional importance. And her latest book, “Me, Myselfie, and I” is no exception.

This cautionary tale explores the world of selfies, but not through the lens of the selfie-generation - instead among adults and a mom in particular who has a little too much fun with her newfound enthusiasm for selfies and social media. The story’s major take-away message is that no matter how young or old you are, everyone can have fun with technology, but we all need to balance fun with technology with the fun of face-to-face interactions with family and friends.

Bottom line… This is a great story to foster parent-child discussions about technology use, thinking about when to use technology, how we use technology, and the disconnect between social reality and the perfect lives we see posted on social media.

What are your favorite books to foster conversations about media use and media literacy?

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