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Michigan, United States
a registered yoga teacher, and a Thai/Yoga Bodywork practitioner.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The New "Book"

I'm loosening my prejudice against "the screen." It began with this article:

The Many Benefits, for Kids, of Playing Video Games 

It's a three-pager, so I'll skip to the parts the grabbed my attention:

I've also known kids who spent huge amounts of time reading--just sitting and reading, "doing nothing!" for maybe 10 hours a day. There were always some kids like that, even when I was a kid. I could never understand why they would want to just sit and read....What a waste of time. However, I've never known a parent to limit their kids' reading time. Why is it any better to limit TV or computer time than to limit book-reading time? (Gray) (Emphasis added)

 That hits me where I live. Books were my delight and salvation in a small town with "nothing to do." 

Why do we worry about a kid's spending maybe 4 or 5 hours a day at a computer screen, doing what he wants to do, but don't worry about the same kid sitting at school for 6 hours a day and then doing homework for another couple of hours--doing what others are forcing him to do? (Gray)


Plato, in The Republic, argued that plays and poetry should be banned because of their harmful effects on the young. When writing came about and became technically easier, and was enthusiastically seized upon by the young, some of their elders warned that this would rot their minds; they would no longer have to exercise their memories. (Gray)
 Writing was considered lazy?

When printed novels became available to the masses, many warned that these would lead the young, especially girls and young women, to moral degeneracy. When televisions began to appear in people's homes, all sorts of dire warnings were sounded about the physical, psychological, and social damage they would cause. (Gray)

Reading leads to moral collapse? Then I was a juvenile delinquent.

Nate walked past while I was in mid-mumbling revelation with this article. I stopped him and re-read it aloud. He was nodding his head like it was unhinged, delighted for an academic backer in his quest for The Screen.

Nate loves to be online, trolling through YouTube like I used to scan the stacks in the library. This boy is not my antithesis, with all his button pushing and his face lit by phospor atoms in the dimness. He is today's manifestation of yesterday's bookworm.

Does all he seek and view put him on par with the bookish geniuses of yore?


However, I read a lot of trash along with the more edifying works. There was a V.C. Andrews phase in middle school I can't recall without chagrin.

Further, I'm still making my way toward those must-reads. War and Peace? Not yet. Middlemarch? I tried it last fall and only lasted into the fifth or sixth chapter. It's being among the data or books that counts. There's value in the perusal because many of us don't know what will captivate us until we meander toward it while on the way to something else.

So whenever the kids' required school- and housework are done, I let them game and surf and upload blurry videos of Pokemon characters. This is their medium. Soon, they will be my guides.


  1. Hmm. I'm not sure I'm ready to loosen my screen prejudice quite yet! While I definitely see the inherent value in using the internet for information gathering (heck, it's where I get 90% of my news), I think there's a pretty big difference between educational screen activities and non-educational ones for kids. (Likewise I don't subscribe to the idea that all books are created equal, or the idea that "as long as they are reading," it's a good thing.) Plus I notice obvious shifts in behavior when my kids have too much screen time in a given day, particularly my five year old son.

    I suppose I view "the screen" as this evil entity that is waiting to consume my family entirely. Haha. It's difficult because I appreciate all the good things that screen media offer as well.

  2. It's a very personal choice, and for younger kids it's especially touchy.

    I had agonized over how to get my son (when he was 6) to take the steps from knowing letters and sounding out words, to really reading on his own. We read together as a family all the time, but he was not motivated to read much on his own.

    We got the game Morrowind for the xbox and I let him play independently as well as with us. The game apparently motivated him to such a degree that within about two weeks he was reading long passages. To this day it was one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen.

    Now, a decade or so later, he is the type of kid that not only reads Anna Karenina, but is so absorbed by it that he has read books about the author, watched the movie versions to compare, etc. At 17, he wants to be an author, writer, blogger. And he has read more (and much higher quality) than I had read at his age. This from a kid who never knew what it felt like to have a limit on gaming time.

    So that shapes how I feel about it. I think it's easy for us to forget what a *massive* amount of time we "wasted" as kids. I home schooled so my son would know what he loves to do, discover it earlier than I did, and not have it crushed. Maybe I overdo that. Like I said, it is a personal decision.