Dear Parents of Danvers,
As we know, electronics are everywhere! We increasingly turn to technology for almost everything. From the Leap Pads, to Dora the Explorer, to Baby Einstein videos, to the newest educational apps for the iPhone, we may become convinced that technology is the key to children’s intellectual ability. But is it?
While consumer culture pushes and pushes for parents to buy the latest electronic educational toy, Jim Trelease, author of The Read-Aloud Handbook, advocates that the number one success tool is actually right there for a much lower cost. Just pick up a book and read to your child!
Think about this. How many hours is your child spending on a screen each day? The average child spends 28 hours each week just watching television. Twenty-eight hours may not seem unreasonable but this is almost three times the recommendation! The American Academy Pediatrics recommends 10 hours of television watching a week and no television for children under the age of two. And this is based on research analysis of over 87,000 children worldwide! Too much television impacts not just the scores but overall level of academic achievement. With less television viewing, the child has a higher chance of achieving a Bachelor’s degree. If the television is in the child’s bedroom, it may affect the child’s sleep too. And yes, computers and other electronics are slightly more engaging, but moderation is still the key.
With less television there is more time to do other active activities such as reading. Trelease argues that the greatest detriment of this high screen usage is by “what is not being done during those 28 hours a week sitting inertly in front of the T.V.” By not turning to electronics, it gives more opportunity for parents and children to connect and learn with one another. Instead of sitting in front of the screen with your child, imagine reading through an adventure! Trelease provides inspirational, tips, and research to parents to instead enjoy this simple “old-fashioned” act of reading, and all of the rewards that come with it.
Exploring each page together can be a fun, rewarding experience for everyone. Not only does it allow for some great parent-child quality time together, but it also models the importance of reading. Reading-aloud allows for children to immerse themselves in reading with fun stories about whatever interests them. And as Trelease says, “pleasure is more often caught than taught” and so connecting reading to an enjoyable activity can be key for overall reading success. Reading research shows that those who read the most also read the best and achieve the most. If children associate books as an unpleasurable part of school, they are much less likely to pick up a book on their own. By being interested in reading and reading-aloud, the child will want to read and that motivation can lead to more practice and skill.
And so, unplug and read! It is never too early to start reading-aloud to children. In fact, the earlier the better. No matter the age or ability, try to read to your child every day. The results may not arrive instantly but it is important to keep at it. Even fifteen extra minutes a day of reading instead of watching television can help. For more advice, research, and ideas be sure to read Jim Trelease’s The Read-Aloud Handbook!