Thursday, June 29, 2006

parents: raise a book lover

At WebMDBlog, Dr Steven Parker shares some thoughts on raising kids who love to read. He says, in part:

"First, let me state that I'm not at all a TV, media, computer opponent (for example, I thought the Academy of Pediatrics was ill-advised to forbid TV for kids under 24 months), as long as they are used in moderation and with close parental attention to the content. The electronic media will certainly be a fact of life for your kids and, hopefully, a positive one.

Having said that, these omnipresent 21st century TV and computer-based experiences have three qualities that worry me:

  1. Everything moves at a fast pace. Even the great Sesame Street has taken some heat for promoting short attention spans as their lessons fly by at a dizzying pace (and they are the good guys). Most TV images are fleeting: BIF! BAM! BOOM! Process it quick and move on to the next image.
  2. These experiences are essentially passive ones. Everything is laid out for the watcher, unlike books or even radio. We don't have much work to do; mostly we're along for the ride. (I love Harry Potter, but I was sorry they made the movies. It was heartwarming to see children so excited about reading, each with his/her own image of Hogwarts and Harry, fueled by imagination. Now the need for that creative leap is gone - the movies have done all the work for us and it's hard to imagine Harry as anything other than the actor who plays him.)
  3. There are no long, complicated stories, no slowly developing narrative flow, no time or need to anticipate and guess what is coming next. Our kids are being raised on a diet of short stories instead of novels.

Could such experiences have unintended long-term consequences?"

He goes on to encourage us to give kids books very early, and suggests that the earlier a child forms relationships with books (instead of e-media) the better chance they'll have to see books as fun, and to build positive associations with reading.

Found via Parent Hacks.


Angel, librarian and educator said...

Indeed, the best thing you can do for your child, or any child for that matter, is to put books in their hands early and soon. We did, and thank the powers that be, our daughter is turning into quite the reader. I cannot advocate enough for this. Read to your children. Give babies those board books. True, they will start eating them, but it will somehow plant the seed for later.

Anonymous said...

Hey Angel,

I'm all about that -- Some of my early memories are abt books, and I turned out to be a librarian!

I'm not totally on board with Dr. Parker's view of movies -- most of the people I know who like the Harry Potter movies either read the books first, or went back to read them all after they saw the movies... Though this doesn't seem to be the same for comics movies -- I saw the Sin City collections circulation pick up a bit more after that movie, but movies don't seem to fuel comics reading like they do for novels... But that's just anecdotal experience -- no real stats there. (It would be a good idea for a research project tho)...

All that to say, I think these 'electronic media' can raise interest in print media. Works both ways. And the 'short attention' or fast processing required of 'e media' may not be all bad anyway.


Anonymous said...

Every parent should read to his or her kids. It was sad to me, teaching, when teenagers would tell me there were no books in their house. It seemed sort of a tragedy.

Yeah, lots of Harry Potter movie fans are also the books' fans; same goes for Lord of the Rings, it seems to me. Video games and TV and computers worry me generally for pretty much one reason, and it has to do with lots of sitting and not (usually) a lot of thinking. I don't agree, though, that Sesame Street has become "dizzying." I mean, at least there's ARE things in the TV and movie industries (Harry Potter) that are okay for kids and have some kind of value or lesson. But then again no parent is wise to rely on media to do any kind of substantial teaching. They're just tools, as are most things. I guess what I'm not understanding is why he thinks this is so MUCH a 21st-century problem. Haven't books always been made into movies as long as there's been a Hollywood? Hasn't TV always been essentially passive and really not the best brain-fuel? Has this only become a concern in the year 2006?


Anonymous said...

I revise: The kids-having-too-much-emedia is a 21st c. problem. Okay. But the complaint about books-into-movies and children's TV being too flashy, eh. I wish he'd focus a little more on *parenting* since that's where everything really stems from.