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Best Books to Rival Screen Time for All Ages

Getting the whole family back to the book can be as simple as finding a really good one. Here’s our list for all ages.

Sure, books don’t twinkle and zing, give your kids “likes” or reward them with game boosters, but they can be just as fun and interactive as that shiny device. We’ve rounded up a list of entertaining reads that will get kids thinking about the world around them with a good life lesson to boot. From beautifully illustrated picture books that pique a preschooler’s imagination to chapter books you can share with tweens and teens to audio books you can listen to together on the way to school or sports practice, these engaging and sometimes hilarious stories may just inspire your next great family adventure—or even a neighborhood book club.

Picture books for preschoolers that spark outdoor joy:

Blackout by John Rocco: Amazing things happen when the power goes out one hot summer night. A family escapes the heat—and their devices—to find lights in the stars and neighbors chatting, rollerblading and eating ice cream before it melts.

Llama Llama Loves Camping by Anna Dewdney: Every kid’s favorite llama goes camping with his mama and pals for the first time and learns a valuable lesson: disconnecting from our devices and exploring the great outdoors can be super fun.

Book by David Miles: Book takes the reader on a cool journey through the literary lands of fact and fiction, where passwords, viruses and broken screens won’t keep a young boy from seeking the truth.

Away From My Screen by Stephanie Warren: Sam loves his tablet and screen time but when he decides to look away from his screen one day he notices all the other wonderful things in his world.

Nerdy Birdy Tweets by Aaron Reynolds: When Nerdy Birdy joins Tweetster and the friend requests start flying in, his friend Vulture isn’t so happy as Nerdy Birdy gets swept up in his new “friendships.” Nerdy Birdy learns to make things right.

Chapter books that show the humor and pitfalls of navigating life online for ages 6 to 10:

Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest Episode 1: The Quest for Screen Time by Marti Dumas: Five-year-old scientist Jaden Toussaint uses science, ninja dancing and super brain powers to convince his parents that he needs more screen time. Will it work?

Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting by Tommy Greenwald: A text that goes all wrong for Katie teaches her the lesson that sometimes it’s best to disconnect to connect with friends.

The Miscalculations of Lightening Girl by Stacy McAnulty: When Lucy Callahan gets struck by lightning and suddenly has genius-level math skills, she must pass one test before heading to college: middle school. This book reminds us to leave our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

Book club or family reads to spark conversations about appropriate online behavior for ages 11 to 13:

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead: Best friends Bridge, Emily and Tab begin to question the limits of their friendship as they start seventh grade and everything begins to change. This book explores friendship, betrayal, loneliness and love.

Posted by John David Anderson: When cell phones are banned at their middle school, Frost and his friends come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other around the school. It catches on and soon all the kids are doing it—though not all notes are kind. This story teaches a lesson about the impact of our words.

Unfriended by Rachel Vail: Unfriended is a Mean Girls-style story for the hyperconnected social media age.

For older readers, ages 14 and up:

Ready Player One by Ernst Cline (audio book narrated by Will Wheaton): Welcome to 2044 where Blade Runner-inspired planets and flying DeLoreans reign. Ready Player One is an adventure love story in the virtual space.

NEED by Joelle Charbonneau: Teenagers at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School are drawn deeper into a social networking site that promises to grant their every need— regardless of the consequences.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi: When Penny Lee heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s 79 miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Books to inspire family off-screen activities, for all ages:

We Are the Gardeners by Joanna Gaines: From their failed endeavors, obstacles to overcome (bunnies that eat everything!) and all the knowledge they've gained along the way, the Gaines family shares how they learned to grow a happy, successful garden.

Builder Brothers: Big Plans by Drew Scott and Jonathan Scott (includes a DIY building project):Twins Drew and Jonathan know that little kids can do big things. Will they build a treehouse? A castle? A catapult? Find out in this fun how-to book.

A Grandfather’s Lessons: In the Kitchen with Shorey by Jacques Pepin: One of the most celebrated cooking teachers has a new apprentice in the kitchen: his granddaughter. Join them a family cooking sesh.

Project Kid: 100 Ingenious Crafts for Family Fun by Amanda Kingloff: Make a juice-box owl, a pirate ship, jewelry and more in this DIY book for kids of all ages.

Smile with Yoga by I. Rekem: Strike a pose with this fun, mindful and engaging yoga book for kids and their parents.


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