Saturday, April 4, 2009

Brain Building vs. Brain Rot

My friend gave me a book, Endangered Minds: Why Children Don't Think- and What We Can Do About It.  I just started it last week and was immediately hooked. I still have a long way to go but the concepts, even in the first chapter or two are fascinating.  I've struggled with the whole concept of Ian and television. Should I allow it? Is it really that bad? Is it really harmless?  How much is too much?  So over the last year we have phased in a moderate amount of television time, usually about an hour on most days.  It's pretty limited to Curious George and Sid the Science Kid so there is some educational component.  Even this is concerning to me because it never quite sat right since I know that it certainly isn't adding value to his brain development.  Then I would reason that he is awake for 12 hours so what harm does 1 hour do? Ok occasionally it was more than 1 hour. The draw of TV is seductive to me too.  I'll just put on George so I can make dinner, I'd think.  Or worse, so I can check my email.  And other than his shows, the TV is rarely on during daytime hours.  It is saved for sickness or a stretch of inclement weather.

But then I read some of this book and realized how our children's ability to read and comprehend is quickly going down the crapper in this generation. The book includes fascinating observations from lifelong child educators and a smattering of examples of declining test scores. So in an effort to bring some balance to the TV watching in this house, I've decided on a potentially long term solution.  Ian may watch TV in equal time to how much we read together..and eventually how much he reads.  And night time stories do not count as they have always been part of our routine.  Ok, honestly long car rides also will not count, but using the Wii does get docked from earned book time minutes. I am sure in the future I will need to put a cap on the TV portion, but for now I figure this will inspire me to read more to my son and then also alleviate my guilt for allowing the boob tube for a bit of daily reprieve.  I'm reasoning that at least I will be helping build up some brain cells as fast as the brain rot tries to set in.  Ok, that may be a bit excessive but I do think that over time this practice will help keep in balance the whole TV issue, for both of us. . It will jut be The Way It Is.  Of course, I do have the hope that I will inspire in him a love for books and reading as the most intelligent people I have ever known are avid readers with impressive vocabularies. 

So this morning, when Ian awoke at a time no human should be awake which in our house is anytime before 6 am, instead of being cranky about it, I went and crawled in bed with him.  Figuring there was no time like the present, I suggested books.  He picked four and crawled up and we snuggled and read. We discussed the concepts, both obvious and abstract.  I tried to point out some lessons. Planting seeds of comprehension.  In no time 30 minutes had passed and he picked four more books.  So for one very enjoyable early morning hour, we enjoyed some quiet cuddling time reading and talking.  At one point he looked at me sweetly and said, "Thank you mommy for reading to me."  (Really, he did!) It was so genuine and touching so I know I am onto something. Maybe it will be our daily morning ritual.  A gentle way to connect and start the day. 

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