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Striking a balance between screen time and offline for children

Posted: 2pm 04 Jan 2021

A charming children’s book created by two Moreton Bay Region residents aims to help children and their parents strike a balance between screen time and spending time offline.

Written by Albany Creek’s Jesse Hewitt and illustrated by Julian Steincke, Raymond the Racoon Misses His Friends takes readers on a journey from loneliness to rediscovering the delights of friendship.

Jesse, an early childhood educator, was inspired to create the book after noticing a change in how children occupied themselves outside the pool during his time as a swimming instructor.

Change in behaviour

“I was working as a swimming teacher before I started as a teacher and if children weren’t taking part in school lessons, they would bring a book – now it’s an iPad.

“Talking to parents, it seemed to be a common problem – they’re having trouble weaning their children off their devices,” Jesse says.

While researching children’s books, Jesse and Julian say they found several common themes – bright, simple illustrations and animal protagonists that used alliteration in their names were hugely successful.

“We started off looking at Australian animals, but we wanted it to be relatable to an international audience,” Jesse says.

“Firstly, we settled on the name Raymond, and then went through all the animals starting with `R’ that we could think of, and came up with racoon.”

Finding a balance

Jesse says the book acknowledges the importance of screens and technology in modern life, but emphasises the need for balance.

“There’s definitely a role for screens for development, but we’re trying to advocate to use them responsibly – there’s more to life than just staring at a device.

“We want to raise awareness about how to teach children (about balance) from a young age.

Start a conversation

With a section for teachers and parents, Raymond the Racoon Misses His Friends includes guidelines for prompting questions to spark productive conversations between adults and children about how to use devices appropriately.

“Understanding the moral of the story requires more than just reading the book,” Jesse says.

Raymond is joined on his journey by Olive the Owl, Frederick the Fox, Bernard the Bear – characters Jesse and Julian plan to include in future books dealing with topics such as mindfulness, resilience and physical wellbeing.

Jesse says for each Raymond book sold, he and Julian will donate one to an Australian child through Variety – The Children’s Charity.

Flourish Community Solutions sponsored the printing of the book, so we want to give something back,” Jesse says.

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