As much as I’d like to boast that my daughter is drawn to books without school to occupy her thoughts, it is actually the computer – MY computer – that captures her attention.

PoptropicaI blame a game called Poptropica, which ranks 3 of 5 for “educational value” on the very useful Common Sense Media, a site for parents and kids trying to figure out what’s good – and bad – on the web, TV or movies. It also ranks 3 of 5 for “consumerism,” i.e. advertising. The latter is not good.

From cursory glances, it appears to be a cute, relatively benign game.  But I will readily admit that I haven’t monitored her computer use closely as of late due to preoccupation with various other issues. Ever the computer hacker, my 8-year-old has also found a website called Poptropicacheats.org, which I’ve seen her consult a few times so she can swiftly conquer a new island and gain credits to buy clothes and stuff. This site is also probably planting viruses and spyware all over my computer – not to mention the whole idea of condoning cheating.

Fortunately, my daughter is in Girl Scout camp this week playing outside and singing songs and unable to be seduced by the MacBook, MY MacBook, and I can attempt to plug this parenting hole.

Strategic planting of books

children's booksI have already begun my stealth plan to wean her off the computer and into books. During a recent visit to the Boulder Bookstore, a locally owned and operated bookstore we have frequented for years, I found out about a clever passport program for kids. A handful of local downtown stores – such as Crocs and the candy store, Powell’s Sweet Shoppe – are featured on the “passport,” along with a recommended children’s reading selection – a challenging one and an easier read. When the child reads one of the  books, he can visit the store and answer  a question about the book. If he gets the answer, he gets a stamp in his “passport.” When the passport is filled with stamps, he gets a prize from the bookstore. The good thing is the books can come from the library, a friend, your own bookshelf, or a store. The stores win. Your kid wins. You win because your kid is reading. (Of course, the obvious downside is trying to go into Powell’s and come out empty-handed, as I don’t believe there are any healthy treat options…)

My second stop was to the Bookworm, my favorite used bookstore in Boulder. It’s not glamorous, but it’s huge and packed from floor to ceiling with every imaginable book – from old classics to the most trashy airport reads. The most incredible part is how well the staff keeps the books organized. The store features a nice collection of children’s chapter books and series, which is the stage we’re in.

I brought home some American Girl mysteries, along with a couple other books, including Island of the Blue Dolphins, a classic I recall reading as a child. She didn’t read  any of the books right away, but lo and behold, as she crawled into bed last night she grabbed one of the mysteries and began reading.

Are these new (used) books enough to pull her away from Poptropica? Stay tuned.

And share your favorite summer library and/or bookstore programs for kids by posting a comment.