In defense of reading ... which should need no defense

Published by Lori Pickert on January 8, 2010 at 10:19 PM

An interesting post by Joanne Jacobs asks, Do children need to be bored?

My opinion is, of course they need free, unscheduled timeBut we can do better than stultifying boredom.

This post pokes one of my particularly sore spots, though. Joanne quotes an article in the Telegraph by Nigel Farndale titled “Children need to be bored, so I’m smashing the Wii”:

How can a jigsaw puzzle that might take hours to solve compete with a PlayStation game that has the synapses fizzing within seconds.

We did succumb to a Wii last year, however, and I regret letting it into the house. Not only is it the rival of den-making, football-kicking and tree-climbing, it is the enemy of reading. But ordering your children to turn the Wii off and read a book instead hardly sends out a positive signal about the pleasures of reading — which is a shame, because a child who has discovered the magical world that lies between the covers of a good book is rarely bored. I have a feeling our Wii is going to meet with an accident any day now, and will take several months, possibly several years, to repair.

Okay, I agree that it’s a shame to treat reading as a sort of punishment — or something that requires a spoonful of sugar to go down, which is why I’m a curmudgeon about reading programs that bribe kids with prizes or pizza if they read. Reading isn’t punishment — reading is one of the greatest things ever. When we act this way, we are sending a clear message that reading isn’t awesome — it’s something that requires cajoling, bribery, or denial. It’s good for you, like broccoli.

But why — why?! — do we keep presenting reading as something that is incompatible with normal life? Why can’t you read and watch TV? Why can’t you enjoy playing the Wii and reading a good book?

Does it really follow that children need to be bored to read? And in order to invoke boredom — and cause children to read — we have to smash all the other entertainment options?

If we are going to put forth this idea that readers are people (and children) who sit around in horn-rimmed glasses and sweater vests, who don’t play football or Xbox, who don’t like Spongebob or Spiderman, then how are we going to convince reluctant readers that reading is one of the most awesome activities ever?

My sons love to play video games. They play outside. They play inside, with toys that don’t plug in. They listen to music. They draw. They watch TV and movies. They love comics. And they read and read and read.

Reading shouldn’t need an intense advertising campaign to convince kids that it’s fun. Reading is fun. It’s more than just fun; as Emily said, it’s a frigate to take you worlds away.

The real problem isn’t that reading suffers in comparison to TV and movies and video games — it’s that kids have such a pitiful amount of free time that they have to choose among reading Treasure Island, watching Animal Planet, playing Xbox, and playing outside.

If we want to turn this boat around, kids need to get free reading time in school and enough free time after school to do all the things that make life worthwhile.

See also: ReadingTeaching Kids to Hate Reading, and Why I don't worry about my kids’ screen time, part 1 and part 2.

36 comments

Comment by maya on January 12, 2010 at 02:14 AM

As the mother of an avid (or maybe even EXTREME) reader, I couldn't agree more. Although my son begs for a Wii, plays computer games with 99% of his screen time, and wishes we had cable... I believe he would still pick a good book over anything other option. Creating wide open space and time for diving into a good story has always been one of our priorities when creating a schedule. This is something that is often scorned by most of our over-scheduled society. I really loved your final paragraph about schools providing free reading time. What could be more important than educators promoting a love for reading?

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 12, 2010 at 02:54 AM

maya, i would call my boys extreme readers as well! :)

i asked my 12yo a couple months ago which he would give up if he could have only one — books or computer/video games. and he said he would choose to keep books!

re: free reading time in school ... this is how i see it ...

voracious readers beget voracious readers — no problem there.

the kids who have the most issues are those that don't read for pleasure at home.

so where else are they going to be introduced to reading for pleasure — and where else are they going to get the access to books and the *time* to read for pleasure — if not at school?

i agree completely (of course ;) that there is nothing more important than promoting a love for reading — and i think it cannot help but advance children in every area, including their results on standardized tests. but i still think it's a hard sell...

Comment by molly on January 12, 2010 at 03:11 AM

those last two paragraphs? bingo. so. so. so. good. (all of it.)

Comment by sherry on January 12, 2010 at 03:35 AM

I need to give this post a round of applause. Seriously, it shouldn't be an either-or situation. My youngest doesn't read yet but she does like to have me read to her. My oldest stays awake far longer than she should at night, reading in bed. They also both love the Wii and online computer games.

I think it can work so that you can have both forms of entertainment.

Besides, I still believe that the best way to encourage kids to read is not to remove all other options but rather to let THEM see YOU reading and enjoying it!

Comment by Sarah Jackson on January 12, 2010 at 03:54 AM

We manage a good balance of Wii/video game time and other things that include lots of reading. Ironically, my most avid reader is also my most avid video game hound. The one who is a reluctant reader will spend hours painting and playing with Legos rather than playing video games. Go figure.

I like to think that one way we prioritize reading by buying/checking out more books instead of buying new video games. My theory is that a new book is always more fun than an old video game. Usually, I'm right.

Comment by Sarah on January 12, 2010 at 04:25 AM

I absolutely agree. Saying that one has to ban all other forms of entertainment in order for a child to fall in love with reading is insulting. Like a book has no appeal unless its the only option.

I read somwhere recently (yikes- can't remember where, sorry for not citing) that in the last couple of decades, kids have lost 12 hours PER WEEK of free time.

!!!

Love takes time. If we want a child to fall in love with reading, we have to give them the time and space to do so.

Comment by Sara on January 12, 2010 at 05:20 AM

Amen! Seriously, reading should need no defense, and the folks who rail on about the decline brought on by TV or video games have forgotten that when the novel first appeared people railed against that as causing the downfall of society.

We have a Wii, and more laptop computers than there are members of our computer. But we read far more than we do "screen time". We read, and we listen to audiobooks in the car, and the kids love it.

Comment by Karen on January 12, 2010 at 05:42 AM

Yes! I'm right there with you - and, for the record, we have a Wii and somehow manage to use it AND read.
Thanks for this post!

Comment by Tina on January 12, 2010 at 01:45 PM

It bears mentioning that a Wii does not = children who are never bored. My kids have always had access to TV and video games but I've heard my share of, "I'm bored." I make them scrub a toilet when they complain of boredom...or clean a stall. Temperament and natural proclivity play roles in whether or not children will ever come to love reading. Some will, some won't. My husband and I have 5 kids. I read like a fiend and he reads when he's on the toilet. Most of the kids love reading but 1 only will read chick lit and one just doesn't care to do it. He can. He doesn't hate reading, he just would rather do other things. Things which are not necessarily Xbox related =D

Comment by Lisa on January 12, 2010 at 02:46 PM

It's only now, when he has denied himself everything by being "stupid when bored with friends" that my son [on home arrest] is learning the joy of reading. My words on this "No one ever got arrested for sitting home and reading a book" sort of hit home--no pun intended. Kids today have no clue what to do when bored and it seems to be especially hard for boys. Denied Electronics they really don't seem to have a clue. My son and his fellow bored teenagers turned to grafitti and vandalism to solve their boredom and I hear from the authorities that's pretty "normal" anymore. I did NOT allow 24/7 access to phones, tv, movies, computer, game system [in fact I rejoiced when he blew the stupid game system up!! hehehheh] I DO supply excellent quality art supplies, etc. We have traditional board games and a Mom willing to endure them. All of this, but still a teenage boy bored with friends couldn't cope with being bored in a socially acceptable way. I have many, sadly MANY more examples from the local police and even from my own friends in other towns/citites--often kids I know well. Something IS going wrong. Is it helicopter parenting? Is it the saftey-insanity? Is it the "you could get hurt/we could get sued" thing? Is it the unbelievably dumb days locked in mediocre public schools with no challenge, no content just feelings and politically correct curriculum? [My son's school is ridiculous--but I do know of GREAT, OUTSTANDING public schools--just not in our area.] Is it that kids start sports at birth and are so burned out by their teens that you can't make them go to sports anymore? Is it that there are no programs for teen THAT THEY ARE WILLING TO BE SEEN AT? [Take the hint Boy Scouts--a lot of guys WOULD love to do it but won't be seen in the dorky uniform!!] Is it the pressure to be sexually active and the fear of what could be wrong with me when I can't "get any"? Is it that some kids have never had the opportunity, due to day care, etc to learn to PLAY? Or, like my son, do they find that the pressure to be a "teenager" is so great they can't relax and enjoy 'Playing"--just shooting baskets, shooting a bow and arrow, playing with the cats, playing wiffle ball with the family--all of which could cause them to be teased to death.

This post, OBVIOUSLY!! lol, brought out a lot of emotion for me!!! A couple of other parents and I debate this "mess" a lot as we navigate court dates, angry school calls, parole officers, etc. Why not pull him out and homeschool?? Not sure yet that I won't--just isn't the time right now!!! Bless you for the release of all this emotion today. You can delete this comment if you want! :)

Comment by estea on January 12, 2010 at 03:28 PM

don't smash that wii, nigel, sell it on eBay and spend the profit on books.

agree that the wii/x-box/DS/etc. doesn't need to leave the picture. encourages black and white/ horn-rim thinking, and how do we teach self-regulation anyway, without giving them a few tantalizing options?

we've had best luck (so far) making reading THE THING from infancy, and slowly adding the pretty electronic peripherals along the way.

Comment by cordelia on January 12, 2010 at 03:33 PM

Extreme. Yes. I laugh when I think how often we've found the boy in some strange pose (crouched in the landing, hanging off the edge of the bed he was making) because he just froze in his tracks and started reading a book that caught his attention in mid-activity. It must be admitted, the darn things are everywhere! We have teensy bit of a book problem. He's in school this year, and they have one of those earn a pizza by reading programs. It doesn't seem to make a difference to him; he mostly sees it as a free feed.

We finally got a WIII just so we'd have something to say when heels were dragging other than "if you don't get that done you might not get have time to read" It sounds so silly to say that.

Comment by Holly on January 12, 2010 at 05:14 PM

DS loves to read, is constantly reading, and also loves Star Wars lego (DS and XBOX), actual legos, and going outside, discovering "mines" and bringing in treasures. There doesn't happen to be enough hours in the day for all he wishes to do, but then, I feel that way to.

He just told me this morning, he wants to read "100,000 books."

I think a real difference between readers and non is the parents. A friend of mine whose son reads but I would not define as a reader is shocked by how much time I spend in picking out books to suggest to DS, to order from the library, to leave lying about, at how immersed in children's lit I am and, in particular, in what I think he will like. Sometimes, I'm wrong, often I'm right, but I spend hours finding out what's out there, what's coming out, what is one step ahead of him. Part of that is because I too love books and it is not at all a "chore."

Comment by jessica on January 12, 2010 at 06:20 PM

It all comes down to what we as parents value. Do we value reading good books aloud with our families? Do we always have a good read in our bag as we're out for errands just in case that spare moment arises? Do we share our excitement about what WE read with or kids? I can think of nothing more bonding in our family than the books we share together-- those books create the structure of our days and elevate so many of the mundane things we do to be thoughtful and sublime.

There's plenty of room for the extras if we put first things first-- and here we've chosen books.

Comment by Jen R. (emerald... on January 12, 2010 at 06:33 PM

I agree! The two are not incompatible. One thing I do with my children is commit to "limits." The TV is hard programmed to only come on between 6 am and 8 am. (This allows mom to get a little extra sleep. ;)

The Wii is only allowed to be played if chores are done, food has all been eaten, behavior has been great, etc., and only for a certain amount of time a day/week.

Reading is allowed any time (except at the dinner table)! My kids fall to sleep with a book in their hand, are read to before bed and naps, and spent a lot of time in their playroom cuddled up with a great picture book!

They are not mutually exclusive.

Comment by Sarah Jackson on January 12, 2010 at 07:31 PM

I may have told this story before, but I'll risk repeating it. A friend of mine's daughter is in a school that was doing a rewards based reading program. She read and read and read that year to earn the ice cream and pizza. The next year, she didn't want to read at all. When asked why, she said "oh, we're not 'doing' reading this year." Without the reward, she just stopped. Way to teach children that reading is a chore!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 12, 2010 at 08:00 PM

thank you, molly! :^)

sherry, thank you. ;^) and re: letting them see you read … absolutely. there must be few voracious readers who beget children who are not voracious readers, right? for those children whose parents aren't avid readers, who don't have home libraries, whose dinner conversations don't include talk about what everyone is reading … those kids need to get those things in school. they need to see their teachers and other adults reading and talking about books, sharing books excitedly (and not just the librarian!), and they need to have free time to read whatever they want.

i have tried to convert children who say they "hate to read" (!!!) and it is no easy thing. i think we have to get them young.

sarah, re: your most avid reader is your most avid video hound … i have had many discussions with my best friend about how a love of books goes along naturally with a love of movies and tv … because it's all storytelling! and so many of the video/computer games these days are role-playing, story-based games as well. my older son loves those games involved with history — civ, age of empires, etc.

sarah, what a horrible statistic — and i totally believe it, too.

you know, my boys always have a couple books with them to read when we're running errands or stuck waiting somewhere, but the best reading time is a big block of cozy quiet time when you're stretched out on a couch or a bed with no sound but a ticking clock. how many kids get that?

re: "love takes time" — yes!!! and it's true of everything — if we want them to learn it, to know it, to love it, to master it, they have to have quantities of time with it.

sara, so true — somewhere around here i have a diatribe against novel reading that reads like an anti-video game rant. :^) people always hate the new and venerate the old.

karen, yes, we somehow manage to do all the things we enjoy, too! :^)

tina, good point. :^)

lisa, you raise a lot of important questions.

“Kids today have no clue what to do when bored...”

i really think this is a skill we must teach our children — and it's something they can only learn if they have had the opportunity to experience boredom *and* the opportunity to learn to manage it on their own. (stuck in a classroom that doesn't challenge them with no power over creating change doesn't fit the bill.)

i also think that we need to do a much better job of segueing our kids from childhood into adulthood. we have teens who are capable of doing real, meaningful work and of contributing significantly to society — but they are shelved in high school where we keep them jammed together like prison inmates until we're ready to let them into the "real world". maybe if teens had something worth doing they wouldn't fall into mischief borne of deep boredom and dissatisfaction.

estea, self-regulation ... well, there's a whole other topic. :^)

i have many thoughts about this ... including that kids can't learn to self-regulate unless they've experienced something approaching a good balance to begin with.

but i also think *self*-regulation is dependent on self ... and we parents like to make choices about what our children need. if they choose X amt of xbox and Y amt of reading, if it doesn't meet with what we want, are we allowing them to self-regulate? mmm. i also think parents don't seem to grasp that anything new (like a new video game) commands a lot of attention initially and then tapers off ... they don't respect that and allow a child to spend a lot of time with a new game because they're afraid of addiction ... so they create a backlash effect of making the child desperate to play all the time ... when they could have just let the honeymoon period float by knowing that while video games come and go, books are always there.

mmm ... should probably write a post about this ... lol ;^)

re: making reading "THE THING" from the beginning ... i agree ... if reading is at the core of your family values (as it is with us, too), and it is laid in with the foundation, then it will always be there. it's those kids who don't have reading parents or a reading family culture that need to get those things from school.

cordelia, lol, yes, i should have confessed that i was a voracious reader as a child and i *loved* my library program that gave you a prize for reading every X books. lololol. it's only now as an adult that i am put off by the notion!

re: "you won't have time to read"... so true!!! lol. and i guess it sends another of those resonant, silent messages to our boys that we would never give a consequence of going without reading .. only tv or computer. :^) i mean, that would be like going without food! ;^)

holly, agreed, agreed — which is why i think the school needs to take on that role as book-loving mentor for children whose parents aren't avid readers.

your ds sounds like mine. :^) and i feel that way, too!

jessica, agreed — i only would add that schools need to fill that book-loving mentor role for children whose parents aren't avid readers, right down to giving them time to read (and acknowledging that it is a necessity of life!).

jen, absolutely, my point exactly — they are not mutually exclusive. life has room for many pleasures, and we can enjoy many things other than reading — and still love reading best. :^)

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 12, 2010 at 08:04 PM

sarah, ugh!!! one thing i observed about those reading programs — kids chose short, "easy" books to read to fulfill their quota. so they weren't really being encouraged to read books that would be challenging or even truly interesting to them. they were just flying through the simplest books they could find so they could be done. ugh.

Comment by Teri on January 12, 2010 at 08:23 PM

Fabulous post!!!

Comment by Cristina on January 12, 2010 at 09:18 PM

When it comes down to it, this is just another example of how our society likes to separate everything into neat little compartments. We specialize everything from medicine to degrees to school subjects, so we can't figure out how a child could possibly learn to read from a source other than a book. I have watched my youngest finally hook onto reading because of her intense interest in my son's Spore game. Whenever there was text on the screen, my son or older daughter would read it to her until it sank in. I've seen my son read books and then make creations for his computer game based on what he reads. I've seen all of them become watch TV programs or movies and then become interested in reading more on a particular topic mentioned in the show. Sometimes they even read because I suggest a book! My kids all enjoy reading now, but it is more because I finally got smart and followed they're interests to create the spark, rather than by forcing them to read something because it's for their age or reading level or because it is a classic or educational.

The only reason we sort and categorize is to make it possible to use a narrow form of measurement to define success. Maybe if we stopped trying to force everyone to learn exactly the same way and let kids find their spark--their Element, as Sir Robinson would put it--we wouldn't have to worry about unplugging them to get them to learn to love reading.

Comment by Barbara in NC on January 12, 2010 at 10:37 PM

Hi Lori--
As always, have many thoughts in response to your last few posts, but too little time and energy to organize them right now.

But mainly I wanted to say that I'm so glad you're back.

Your blog is a source of both inspiration and a kind of "aaahhhh" breath of fresh air every time I read it.

cheers,
Barbara

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 13, 2010 at 12:05 AM

thank you, teri. :^)

ah, well, cristina, you know if you talk about following kids' interests, you have me at hello. ;^)

exactly so — what is this compartmentalization? it's the exact same thing that is the antithesis of meaningful project work. it's dividing things up and separating them so they can be more easily measured and quantified — and along the way, the meaning is lost.

project work = connections, layering, relating, making meaning.

it makes no sense to me when people try to push books and reading over onto one side as something that is "special" and "better than" and "more necessary". books should be combined with everyday life, every part of it, from cooking to travel to storytelling to science. it's when we separate them out that we lose the kids who think of themselves as mainly something else — something that is supposedly antithetical to being a reader — like ... sports? action/adventure? building? who knows. books go with ALL of those things and can enhance every one of them.

when i talk about gathering the threads of the project to weave them into something more meaningful ... it is basically the opposite of this separating, sorting, categorizing, etc.

and re: narrow form of measurement to define success, yes! and also .. narrow form of measurement to define what a smart kid does? what an active kid does? what activities equal future success?

Comment by Sally on January 13, 2010 at 01:13 AM

My 9 year old daughter is a very reluctant reader (and probably has mild learning disabilities). Her 7 year old brother is surpassing her in skill. However, I find if I let her play Toontown (online) or some of the Wii games they like she practices her reading skills. She is learning story elements from the Zelda games and has even branched out into books she never touched before.

Like everything, balance is the key.

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 13, 2010 at 02:52 AM

it is funny that so many people are only comfortable with paths going in one direction. like books have to be the starting point .. but other things lead to books: movies, tv shows, video/computer games .. as your experience illustrates. the path goes both ways!

Comment by Lisa on January 13, 2010 at 05:13 PM

Lori--please write that post!!

I agree with making reading the thing, but teenagers don't always stay on the family "track" as I've had to learn with heart break! I'm a librarian, an avid reader, have exposed my kids to great classic and contemporary books as well as old favorites of any caliber. Reading is not "in" with a lot of boys today. Schools seem [this is just a "seem"--no proof] to favor girls in picking the books assigned in early years [with a few exceptions] and so much of what is assigned is so DEPRESSING! My kids, like many of their schoolmates, are from traumatized families [I adopted my kids at 7 and 8 years old] they don't want or NEED to read more "abused kid, abandoned kid" stories. There is certainly a place for such literature, but assigning more HOPEFUL literature, and for boys, other types of literature--biographies, action books, how-tos [with the chance to MAKE the thing] would be great. Book Clubs may be fashionable in some locals, but there is a large population that is unreachable with these: teen age boys in areas where reading, high grades, etc are not "cool." My son now reads, but refuses to read anything but murder mysteries, very up-to-date school stories and gang literature. Some of these have been really good, amazing books. Some just glorify stupidity. It's such a crap shoot!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 13, 2010 at 10:54 PM

lisa, of course! the best-laid plans...

i agree with you about depressing/downbeat young adult fiction!

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 13, 2010 at 10:56 PM

there is a bit about self-regulation in the comments of this post:

http://www.whiteoakschool.com/camp-creek-blog/2009/3/30/free-choice.html#comment3533047

Comment by Jen on January 16, 2010 at 07:39 PM

For many children video games become an addiction. We've become a society of addicts(can't we all come up with a list?). We don't have video games in our home because my son becomes highly tense and addicted to playing. This is a child who loves books but wants nothing to do with anything besides video games when they are present.

I've seen or heard many instances where parents say that their children are only allowed to play the video game/watch TV X minutes/day then watched said children sit around and discuss the video games or TV or wistfully "wish" to play it or plot what moves they will make when they next play. (disclaimer: I know there are instances where it's not an issue. My daughter is one of those children who couldn't care less about a video game.)

While one might say "That child is using their imagination/learning hand-eye coordination/etc." the fact of the matter is that a child is interacting with media, not real people or situations. Entire portions of the brain are adversely effected by media.

I also take issue with using video games as a reward for work done. Too many children then expect the reward of video games in return for completing responsibilities.

On the subject of books vs. media, I agree they are not mutually exclusive but I also believe that most children will not opt to work their brain (reading) when they can have the work done for them (video games). Perhaps a greater abundance of free time is the issue, though certainly not for my son nor several others I've witnessed. I'm glad to hear so many people say that these are non-issues in their home, but I do have my doubts. I've heard that from friends and witnessed quite the opposite by their children and have come to believe that for many mothers the statement that video games are non-issue is a self-assurance and not always truthful.

Add in video game/TV violence, references meant for adults and not children and age inappropriate matter being watched from the comfort of home where it all seems cozy, warm and safe and I don't think video games belong in homes with children, nor most TV for that matter.

I'm hesitant to submit this, because it's obvious my post won't be popular.

Comment by Daniel on January 18, 2010 at 02:31 PM

I love so many of the thoughts here – especially the consideration that children's interests can co-exist, i.e. that books can reside alongside the Wii, and neither necessarily suffers at the hands of the other.

Lori, great thoughts on self-regulation; it's an often-overlooked topic, and I absolutely agree that the supposed "competition" between books and other media provide a great opportunity for children to develop self-regulation. We as adults don't always have to think that we should do this for them! Often I think the worst problems only come about when we adults create them – with tokenised or time-regulated systems for *controlling* behaviour, that simply don't do justice to the intent and feelings of children.

Cristina, you raise a fascinating point – about how, often, unexpected things like video games (or Spore!) can spark a sudden interest in an unrelated area, like reading. I'd encourage people to read Henry Jenkin's work on the concept of "Trans-media" – that is, how ubiquitous characters, worlds and stories have managed to cross media platforms. Consider, for example, how Star Wars has spread from films to video games, television to books, even to card games. A common interest can be spread through so many different modal experiences, catering to various learning styles and dynamics... it's very akin to the Project Approach in many ways, about constantly making connections and experiencing common concepts in different ways. Jenkins' website and blog, if you'd like to read more, is here: HenryJenkins.org ( http://www.henryjenkins.org ). Well worth it!

Speaking of Spore, I remember so many afternoons spent playing SimCity as a young boy. Worth every second of it! I'd end up hitting the library, looking for books on urban planning or writing stories to go along with my city - even drawing maps to plan out my city. It was fantastic.

Comment by Sparklee on January 19, 2010 at 02:36 PM

Great post, great comments.

We have a Wii, and I also regret buying it. We limit all electronic time to one hour a day (this includes computer games, Wii, and hand-held games.) I thought this would leave our kids plenty of time to read, play, draw, and just dream. But what I'm finding is that when they aren't playing Wii, they are watching each other play Wii, or asking me, "Can I play tomorrow's time?" (No.) "Can I have the 15 minutes I missed yesterday?" (Nope. It doesn't roll over like cell phone minutes!) I'm hoping the shine will wear off the new Wii and they'll go back to messing around and being kids soon.

Sparklee

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 20, 2010 at 04:16 PM

jen, you have some strong opinions. :^)

you say: "On the subject of books vs. media, I agree they are not mutually exclusive but I also believe that most children will not opt to work their brain (reading) when they can have the work done for them (video games)."

i actually think that children love video games precisely *because* they require so much work, thinking, and interaction. both children and adults apply themselves to video game problems that require a lot of work -- finding resources, mastering skills, solving problems, etc.

i agree with you re: limits creating a situation where the child begins to focus on the thing that has been limited. but taking it away completely doesn't necessarily solve this problem. i have a friend who was raised without TV; he craved TV as a child and on into his teens (until he went to college and got his own TV, basically). every time he was at a friend's house, he was glued to their TV (which they didn't enjoy!), he memorized facts about TV shows he'd never even seen, and etc.

it is one thing to eliminate video games from your home if you think they are violent and bad, but if you are eliminating them simply because your child enjoys them so much they want to do nothing else ... that seems like an opportunity to help a child acquire the skill of self-regulation and balance. (a skill many adults have not mastered!)

you say: "[I] have come to believe that for many mothers the statement that video games are non-issue is a self-assurance and not always truthful."

yet .. it is a non-issue at my house. my sons have access to video and computer games and they enjoy them both, enjoy TV and movies as well, and they still read for hours a day. they do have an abundance of free time. but they don't always choose between reading and video games, either. today my 10yo is writing a script (on his typewriter) that he then plans to film with his video camera, assigning parts to family members and friends. he says it's Shakespearean, but will also contain sci-fi elements. :^)

i don't agree with all of your assertions, jen, but i would hope that you would never hesitate to pipe up with a dissenting view here — i'm sure there are other readers who agree with you, and intelligent discourse is what we're after!

daniel, yes, i agree with you re: the time regulation and tokenisation ... if the child isn't gaining experience in making choices, how can he develop his ability to self-regulate? at the same time, too many parents (in my opinion! ;) don't help their child by giving them the experience of balance to begin with -- they simply let their child make all the choices from the get-go. i think there has to be a careful, thoughtful transfer of power (as in so many other areas of parenting), with the parent helping the child experience balance, then allowing them to make their own choices, then discussing the outcome, etc.

as with everything else i write about here, this requires making a space for the child to make his own decisions. it's not that the parent must give up *all* control -- simply that they create a space for the child to begin to manage his own life, make mistakes, try again, and etc.

re: trans-media (and thank you for the link!), this is what i was trying to say up above .. that parents/society think it all goes in a single direction. once a child has "left" books in favor of video games, he'll never go back, et cetera. black/white thinking.

you are so right about it being just like project work. my older son loved history, beginning with a project (a mix of reading, hands-on projects, etc.) then moving to more challenging books, then later computer games like Civilization and Age of Empires. the computer games sent him back for more books to read about things that were unfamiliar .. then he was motivated to learn to program so he could try to create his own history-based game. video/computer games, tv, films, the internet, magazines .. everything *is* connected and we lose out on so much when we insist on labeling some media "good" and others "bad".

sparklee, interesting, and thank you!

i wonder if you took away the limits and allowed them to play as much as they wanted, if they might not get past their honeymoon period faster. limits seem to stretch out that time when the new thing has so much shine and sparkle ;) and attraction .. whereas if they could play as much as they wanted, within a couple of weeks they would eventually lose their sharp interest and begin to go back to their "old" favorite activities more. just a thought!

Comment by Tammy on January 20, 2010 at 05:24 PM

Fantastic discussion, Lori. Great blog.

Lumping all "video games" into a generic category is ridiculous. My kids play computer games that require them to think, to create, to conceptualize, to strategize, to use logic, curiosity. Life is multi-faceted. Kids should have lots of options for their free time.

RE: new games, the honeymoon process has worked in our house. When the kids got Zoo Tycoon two years ago they played and played for a few weeks, creating zoos and learning the complexities of the game. Now it's one of many options for their free time.

BTW, my kids (7 & 10) are voracious readers.

100% agree that kids simply need more free time.

This reminds me in a tiny way of a discussion in the art world - many art teachers are firmly against use of coloring books. My kids are extremely creative and highly detailed coloring books have always been part of their creative repetoire. They help develop fine motor skills, creativity, color selection, patterning, color combination. Again, one of many options.

Tammy

Comment by Lori Pickert on January 20, 2010 at 07:44 PM

agree, agree re: games and the deep thought, strategizing, problem-solving, etc., that they can require -- and also about not lumping all video games together.

i should probably divulge that my husband is a computer programmer! lol. so it is highly unlikely that our family values would be anti-tech. ;^) in fact, i would state that our family values are pro-intellect, pro-problem solving, pro-engagement ... all of which *we* identify with computer games.

this is a very interesting topic. i admit freely that i have my own prejudices. my only goal is to try to encourage myself and others to confront those fixed ideas and feel free to make mistakes, explore, try things for themselves, and replace prejudices with actual experiences. :^)

Comment by christine on February 7, 2010 at 03:58 PM

I think it is important to be conscious of what your family brings into the house. I try and be conscious to what we bring into the house but my family and husband are not have the same level of consciousness. This really upsets me because I see these battery-operated, plastic stuff as obstacles. My little one is at the age where the gifts are hers so I wouldn't go and throw them away on her. My MIL fills our house. She works in a school so she gets suggestions from her friends, educational leapsters and such. I can not help but wonder if one would think about the gift they are giving with a little more consciousness and care.

while i have not been very successful at starting a project with my almost 6 year old yet, i do really agree with so much you write and discuss: blank space, time to do all the things they want, everything is learning, everything is connected and allow children to build their own path, figuring out their own interests, their own strengths. Thank you for allowing me a different way to look at these battery-operated "educational" toys in a way that does not hind my child more than it needs to.

Comment by jen on February 7, 2010 at 11:20 PM

Oh, I'm jumping up and down just about now! You totally hit the nail on the head with this one; I just love the notion that kids can do it all and will love doing it all!

You go girl...and I'm thrilled to see that you're posting again (though it did take me a while to get back to reading - oops!)

Comment by Lori Pickert on February 8, 2010 at 01:54 PM

christine, well, you could always put certain toys on a high shelf. ;^)

i think your problem re: family contributing non-helpful toys/gifts is a common one!

thank you for your kind words!

jen, thank you! :^) i'm glad you found me again. ;^)

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