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Help Your Child Love Reading

help your child to read

Help Your Child Love Reading

The Facts in Black & White

teach your child a love of reading at an early age! One in four children think texting with friends counts as reading. This from the Kids & Family Reading Report published in 2010. If you haven’t just leapt from your seat to snatch the cell phone from your child’s hand, read on. It gets worse. 28% of kids ages 9-17 think that looking through postings or comments on social networking sites like Facebook counts as reading (Reading in a Digital Age).

Children who don’t read, or can’t read, or are even semi-illiterate, enter the adult world with distinct disadvantages. In their report, “To Read or Not to Read,” the National Endowment for the Arts reports that deficient readers will earn less money than their peers, have fewer opportunities for advancement, and are less likely to become active in civic and cultural life. They are more likely to wind up in prison one day, according to statistics released by the Washington Literacy Council and U.S. Department of Education. The ability to read can also affect the length of one’s life, as disadvantaged readers have a higher mortality rate (Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago).

Unfortunately, illiterate and reluctant readers are many in number. The Department of Justice reported in 1993 that 21 million Americans can’t read at all, 45 million are marginally illiterate and one-fifth of high school graduates can’t read their diplomas.

The Power of a Good Book and a Great Habit

The studies that demonstrate the profound impacts of literacy go on and on. The important thing to note is that readers read, and readers who read, read better the more they read. “Whether or not people read, and indeed how much and how often they read,” says Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts, “affects their lives in crucial ways.”

The good news: nine out of ten children say that they are more likely to finish book they choose themselves, according to the report, Reading in the Digital Age.

Which leads us to one of the greatest inventions of all time: The Public Library. It doesn’t cost any money to own a library card. Children can read books for free. Most libraries also host reading programs, classes and literary events.

Putting down the video game and picking up a book might help advance your child’s GPA. In Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds, the Kaiser Family Foundation reports that those students with higher grades (A’s and B’s) spent less time on video games and more time reading than those students with grades of C’s and D’s.

While digital media tools offer convenience, instant gratification, and world wide access, it cannot and must not be expected to replace good old-fashioned books – ink on paper, bound pages, all-yours, single-tasking, great-smelling, book books, and the deep, personal, incomparable experience that only print offers.

Says Gioia, of the National Endowment for the Arts, “… print culture affords irreplaceable forms of focused attention and contemplation that make complex communications and insights possible. To lose such intellectual capability – and the many sorts of human continuity it allows – would constitute a vast cultural impoverishment.”

Which is to say, in short, put a good book in the hands of your child/children – on a topic that they are interested in and that presents material at their reading level – and encourage them into the wonderful, beautiful world of reading, where only books can take them.

Resources for Parents
• The National Institutes of Health website offers advice, news, and other resources
• Find a Public Library in your area
Reading at Risk, National Endowment for the Arts
Reading in the Digital Age,
To Read or Not to Read, National Endowment for the Arts
Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds, Kaiser Family Foundation

In Part 1 of the “New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” we discovered the truly damaging effects that television and video games can have on young minds. In Part 2 we learned about the healing power of the great outdoors. In Part 3 we offered 5 things to do to boost grades, confidence & well-being.

Stay tuned for Part 5 of “The New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” where we’ll help you nurture the artist that lives inside of every child.

photo credit: Book Aid International via photopin cc

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The Damaging Effects of Digital Media

what parents can do about violent video games

what parents can do about violent digital media

The Damaging Effects of Digital Media

One of the simplest things you can do to make your child smarter is to get them off the couch. Studies show that children who put down their video games and get some exercise test higher in school, solve problems more effectively, and are less prone to depression and anxiety.

Getting your children off the couch sounds simple enough, but it’s not so easy.

They are watching television, texting, playing on their computers, and getting caught up in kids video games more than ever before. And this trend is dumbing down our students. The Nielsen Company recently revealed that kids spend almost 28 hours per week watching television. And that doesn’t count time spent on video games, cell phones, or computers, which bumps that number up to an astonishing 55 hours per week.

Do your children flop onto the couch after school and stay there until dinnertime? They are not just turning off their own brains, they may actually be doing themselves harm. Children who view as little as three hours of television per day could be at risk of behavioral problems, depression and increased aggression, according to a report published by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. 

Media Violence 

The impact on children of all the drama and violence on television and in video games is tremendously disturbing. Study after study show that children naturally imitate what they see and hear, and when exposed to media aggression, they become desensitized to violence, fearful, and more aggressive themselves. Adding to the problem, violent characters in television and video games are often glamorized and portrayed as role models, and do not always suffer proper consequences for their violent behavior.

Since the 1950s, more than 1,000 studies have been done on the effects of violence in television and movies. The majority of these studies conclude that children who watch significant amounts of television and movie violence are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior, attitudes and values (Senate Committee on the Judiciary, 1999).

When young children are exposed to something frightening in the media it can be traumatic for them. Telling young children what they see is not real may not help to console them as young children are not able to distinguish between reality and fantasy.

The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry reports that American children watch an average of four hours of television daily, and that “television can be a powerful influence in developing value systems and shaping behavior.”

AllPsych Journal reports that “Research has also shown heavy television viewers, watching four or more hours per day, put in less effort at school, have poorer reading skills, play less friendly with friends, have fewer hobbies and activities, and are more likely to be overweight.”

Interestly, building children’s language and reading skills can help them cope with what they view, and put it in its proper perspective.

“A well-developed language system gives the brain a well-developed mental function,” say Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano, in their report, Stop Teaching Our Kids To Kill. “When a child is able to verbalize and think on higher levels the easier it will be to teach children about consequences of violence. A rich vocabulary enables a higher level of articulation of feelings, opinions, and ideas about media violence that a less literate child cannot [fully express].”

Experts encourage parents to limit the amount of time their children have access to television and video games. Setting rules and boundaries helps, such as requiring children to finish their homework and chores before watching television or playing video games. And when did we get to the point in our culture where there needs to be a television in every room? At the very least, take the TV out of your child’s bedroom.

Children are society’s most vulnerable and precious population. Every minute they spend in front of the television, computer, or video console, is an opportunity missed to be doing healthy things, such as playing outdoors, exercising, reading, or engaging with their family and friends.

Resources for Parents

• The National Institutes of Health website offers advice, news, and other resources

12 Tips to Control the Television, The Children’s Trust

Violence and Aging, Los Angeles Times

Understanding Violent Behavior in Children, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Children & TV Violence, American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

The Psychological Effects of Violent Media on Children,  AllPsych Online

Your Kids & the Media, The Children’s Trust

• “Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill,” Dave Grossman and Gloria DeGaetano

Stay tuned for Part 2 of “The New Roadmap for Smarter, Happier, Healthier Kids,” where we’ll discuss the healing properties of the great outdoors.