media · picture books · technology

Doug Unplugged: UNPLUG & READ Blog Tour

dougunpluggedDoug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino was of special interest to me due to the lengths we’ve gone to in the past few months to reduce Isabelle’s media consumption.  As soon as I read it, I adored the story since it’s about a robot, Doug, whose parents plug him into a computer each morning so he can learn about the world around him.   They think he will learn lots of facts and therefore become “the smartest robot ever.” His parents head off to work, informing him that he’s going to spend the day learning all about the city.  But, as Doug learns facts about skyscrapers, trash cans, and taxi cabs, he spies the city from outside his home’s window. Therefore, he does the unthinkable: he unplugs and soars flies outside (using a jetpack, of course) in an effort to learn about the city by experiencing it.  He goes into the subway system, walks under the turnstile (Caution: Make sure to tell your young readers that they shouldn’t be jumping turnstiles and riding for “free” just because Doug does!), and listens to the screech of the subway trains.  He uses his jet pack to fly to the top of a skyscraper and looks down to experience the city from a different vantage point.  He gets his feet stuck in cement, learns how to hail an taxi, and cools off in a park fountain.  But most important, he makes a friend in a city park who he learns to play with. Doug’s life became enriched by experiencing the city live rather than by learning about it from a computer.  To me, one of the morals of this story is that while technology has the potential to enrich our lives, it’s important to take time to unplug so we can concentrate and live life in the way in which we want.

Now that the weather is warmer, my daughter and I have been going outside to play at least twice a day (three outdoor stints if time permits).  Sometimes we play together on her play set.  Other times we dig around in my herb garden. I watch her run up and down the hill in our yard.  Occasionally, we touch the shrubs or brown leaves that remain in the yard from last fall.  Some days I steer her SmartTrike and narrate as we take a walk.  We have no set plan when we go outside.  I take many of my cues from her.  And together, we live a simple existence outdoors.

Doug Unplugged reminds me of the importance of taking the time to  experience life away from a screen every single day.  On Monday, Screen Free Week, the annual celebration from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) begins.  I’m hoping to pick up my needlepointing and also spend more times outdoors with a book, my writer’s notebook, and my sketch pad.  We live in a world of dings notifying us whenever a friend is trying to reach us, there’s breaking news, or for a myriad of other things.  While I’ve declined nearly every app on my iPhone to send me “push notifications,” I find myself being pulled away from personal time outside. It’s my hope to unplug, like Doug does in Doug Unplugged so I can once again appreciate the world around me.  Perhaps Screen Free Week will help me lead a more purposeful existence by allowing me to cut back on media and technology so I can create an environment that has a healthier balance between screens and non-screens once Screen Free Week ends.

Random House Children’s Books is issuing an UNPLUG & READ Challenge during Screen Free Week.  It was inspired by Doug Unplugged, which is a must-read in today’s world that values communicating through devices rather than face-to-face interactions.  If you know kids (or teach a class of children) who need to unplug, reading Doug Unplugged is a great way to start a conversation about the importance of experiencing life first-hand and the value of human interactions.  Children must learn the value of living in a three-dimensional world so they can connect with others not to something.  If we don’t teach children the value of unplugging and learning from life experiences and each other, then many children are going to feel very empty, despite their media connections, in the years to come.

Giveaway Information:

  • Many thanks to Random House for sponsoring this giveaway. One commenter will win a copy of Doug Unplugged by Dan Yaccarino.
  • To enter for a chance to win a copy please leave a comment on this post about Doug Unplugged, media and children, or unplugging for Screen Free Week, which starts this Monday, April 29th.
  • All comments left on or before Tuesday, May 7th at 11:59 p.m. EDT will be entered into a random drawing using a random number generator on Wednesday, May 8th. I will announce the winners’ names at the bottom of this post no later than Thursday, May 9th.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment, so I can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. From there, my contact at Random House will ship the book out to you. (NOTE: Your e-mail address will not be published online if you only leave it in the e-mail field.)

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on this post.  Dana Murphy’s commenter number was selected and therefore will receive a copy of Doug Unplugged.  Here’s what she wrote:

Stacey – bless your heart for posting this. First, it sounds like a wonderful book. But more importantly, I want this book as a reminder to myself to PUT THE PHONE DOWN. I try to not be attached to my phone, but I catch myself barely listening to my kids sometimes as I’m reading emails. Terrible. I’m getting my hands on this book and I’m NOT doing that anymore!! Unplug. Yes, indeed.

Related Links:

4 Days - Doug Unplugged_4


16 thoughts on “Doug Unplugged: UNPLUG & READ Blog Tour

  1. And, I have found Monday’s resources for kicking off screen-free week! This may be a bad question, but read and re-read and still wasn’t sure if Doug Unplugged is a picture book or chapter book? And whether or not there is an age category it would fit best for. It will make for a great topic for my students to write about next week, and maybe we will each set a goal for a non-screen activity to do nightly with a written reflection at the end of the week! Thanks for sharing. I feel like I can always count on you to point me in the direction of meaningful learning, and I appreciate that a TON!

    1. @jen: First, thank you for your comment about using me as a source for pointing you towards meaningful learning. I’m touched that you feel that way. (Now I better keep living up to that expectation, right?!!?)

      Doug Unplugged is definitely a picture book. As far as age category, I can see using it with elementary school students. I definitely would’ve used it with my fifth graders if we were discussing the idea of unplugging.

  2. It will be interesting to see how the week unfolds. I watch very little tv, but definitely am ‘plugged in’ to my computer some of the day. But I am in constant contact with teachers and students, in person. I don’t like discussing much via e-mail, much prefer a conversation. Actually I miss talking on the phone to people. Not many have long conversations anymore. Thanks Stacey, like always. Isn’t it wonderful to be outside? We had snow on Monday, but 60s today!

  3. Balancing the amount of screen time my toddler experiences is one of my biggest challenges these days as a stay-at-home mom. For the first year and a half of her life I avoided screens at all cost, I wouldn’t even have her face the screen if my husband & I were watching something together. We don’t have a TV in our living room (its in the basement) and we only use Netflix on the iPad. The problem was with the arrival of my second child last summer – life became so much crazier and it was a challenge to not let my “big kid” just watch a show whenever so I could throw in a load of laundry or clean up or start dinner, etc. In order to give us both some boundaries I now allow her “screen time” during the baby’s morning nap and she knows thats it for the day. It’s been nice because it alleviates some (but not all, of course) of the whining to “watch another movie…..pleeeease!!!!” She knows for that hour she can watch her favorites shows, and it gives me an uninterrupted hour in the a.m. to get some things done.

    I LOVE children’s literature and I’m a Yaccarino fan (we love Boy + Bot)…looking forward to checking this out at the library soon – or maybe winning our own copy! 😉

    1. @Lindsey – Sounds like you’re trying to find a way to create balance. That’s the first step. Good luck to you with the two kiddos at home. It’s a LOT of work!

  4. Stacey – bless your heart for posting this. First, it sounds like a wonderful book. But more importantly, I want this book as a reminder to myself to PUT THE PHONE DOWN. I try to not be attached to my phone, but I catch myself barely listening to my kids sometimes as I’m reading emails. Terrible. I’m getting my hands on this book and I’m NOT doing that anymore!! Unplug. Yes, indeed.

  5. As I watched parents walking through the hallway reading / talking on cell phones as they headed to “celebrations” in their kid’s schools this week, I was reminded of the great need for parents to unplug for at least an hour or two a day. I know it is hard – it’s even hard for me – but I think a campaign focusing on not just kids but also parents, cell phones, tablets is a huge need for our society. I really appreciate this timely book suggestion!

    1. Anita – I saw a mom following her toddler around on the playground last weekend with her cell phone in her hand for a good 20 minutes. When she was close-by I overheard her having a leisurely conversation. She was missing all of her kiddo’s giggles and smiles. What a shame.

  6. I love this book! I have been trying to think of a way to use it in my classroom. Thank you for your thoughts and ideas because you and your ideas are truly inspirational!

    I also love how you shared how you and your daughter are unplugging! 🙂

  7. I read Doug Unplugged to all of my first graders last week in preparation for Screen Free Week this week. They LOVED it and are ready to unplug just like Doug!

  8. Stacey, Thank you for your thoughtful post about the book Unplugged. I work as a reading specialist and have a 10 year old son. I am pretty much plugged in all the time with either my computer or phone. I need to be more aware. I love that you follow your daughter’s lead outside in nature. We need to let our kids be responsible for finding ways to entertain themselves without screen time. I notice some kids really don’t know what to do with themselves on the playground without an organized activity or game. As adults we have to model this for our children. I would love to get my hands on what sounds like a wonderful book to share with the student and teachers of my school. It sounds like a great read aloud for all! 🙂 Hilary

  9. We went to lunch at a nice restaurant, and at the table next to us was a woman with her elementary-age children. She was on her cell phone through the entire meal. Forget the fact that she interfered with our conversation, she was missing out on valuable time talking with her children. How sad. Doug Unplugged sounds like a great addition to any library.

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