Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why Reading to Your Children Matters

I could list a hundred articles, books and websites right here, right now, that would tell you why reading out loud to your child matters - and not just the under five crowd.  I could show as many examples of why you reading to your child is quite different from a computer, tablet or phone reading to your child.  And, more on why reading to your child from a book made of paper is better than reading out loud from a book on a tablet.  But, I won't.  You will find some of those things here, just not a hundred of them!  You will also find my own thoughts on reading aloud from books that has some scientific basis and is supported by the articles mentioned, my experience being involved in a Waldorf school, study and implementation of home education and most importantly - mother's intuition.

Below is an infographic from Read Aloud which makes it quite clear to those learn visually (most of us) why reading to your young child is important. (Let me be clear, I am NOT saying your older children should not be reading on a tablet.)

There is this article in the New York Times that  tells us, "a handful of new studies suggest that reading to a child from an electronic device undercuts the dynamic that drives language development.
'There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a BOOK with your child,' Dr. High said. 'You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.”

Scientific American brought even greater depth to this topic and speaks of mapping of the mind, sensory development and more.  They state, "evidence from laboratory experiments, polls and consumer reports indicates that modern screens and e-readers fail to adequately recreate certain tactile experiences of reading on paper that many people miss and, more importantly, prevent people from navigating long texts in an intuitive and satisfying way."  Again, this blog post is really about parents reading to their children, but there is an element, specifically with the young child, of the appropriateness of a reader vs. a book.  Sitting down with a child and tablet in your lap is a very different experience for all then sitting down with a child and a soft book, board book or chapter book.

The Atlantic adds, " A recent poll showed that only 13% of parents read to their kids every night. Interactive stories will never be a substitute for reading a book with a young child. Physical books offer a parent and a child a unique opportunity to bond. During a bedtime story, the only stimuli are the adult’s voice and intonation and the book’s pictures. The best stories require interpretation and stimulate discussion between parent and child."  I can tell you truthfully that I still read to my 13- year old.  You may not remember but he is the one that finished the library reading program in a week a couple of summers ago.  To say he is an avid reader is putting it mildly.  Every day he sits down with my 8-year old and I over afternoon tea and a book.  For several weeks it was Beatrix Potter stories.  Now it is Little House in the Big Woods (my 2nd grader's language arts program). 
There will be a time in our lives when I will 
wish I had someone to read to and I cherish 
these afternoons more than anything! 

To be fair, I've read several articles on how e-readers increase literacy among older children.  I can see the validity in this for many reasons.  Children who are turned off by books but who are like moths to a flame with a screen may find that they enjoy reading on or at least being read to by a tablet.  Families who do not make time to go to the library regularly but have tablets or computers in the home may allow downloads for their children.  And, knowing that not all private schools have a library and that public schools often build in very little time for the school library, that decreases access to quality books even further making books available on screens preferable simply due to access in some cases.  My own children have access to screens (with limitations).  Both have age appropriate games but there are few books read on the tablet.  Most books (about 15 per week) come from the local public library or they reread cherished favorites from our home children's library.

With all of these things said, in my opinion, the cost of using tablets for young children when books are interactive or using them for older children to teach literacy is much higher.  For many years my family was involved in Waldorf education.  We chose that path for many reasons but one of them was the classical approach to education and child development that is the hallmark of that pedagogy.  Another hallmark is the focus on IMAGINATION and that is something that matters to us.  Again, this is something I have known but it was not until this week that I was smacked in the face by how important this is as well as my own PARENTING FAIL. 

We were sitting at the kitchen table having lunch and discussing the possibilities of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter this summer.  My 8-year old said, "I wonder if we'll see Voldemort."  A discussion followed about Voldemort's appearance.  My mind wandered at some point and I heard my 13-year old say, "That's not what he really looks like."   What?  "That's not what he looks like in the book."  8-year old responded, "Well, I haven't gotten to that part in the book."  OMG.  We let the Moon see the first Harry Potter movie without reading the book.  No big deal.  Right?  Wrong!  It couldn't be more of a big deal.  We have forever altered how she sees the characters in the books by allowing her to be influenced by the characters in the movie.  Is this earth-shattering?  No, but it served as a reminder to me the power of imagination and the importance of allowing our minds to INTERNALLY create what we see as opposed to reliance on OTHERS EXTERNAL IDEAS of what we should see.

Think about this, "interactivity often creates more of a game experience than a reading experience. Instead of being the focus, the story becomes merely a background." (the Atlantic) The images and the interactivity should be to support the imagining of the story but frequently it has the opposite effect.

Many authors and publishers are resistant to using technology - or at least interactive aps - in regards to children's books.   Liz Thompson from BookBrunch tell us,  "There's a lot of stuff at the moment that we're doing because we can. It's a question of whether you can really add value to the story. If you can, then it's fun, and there is some really creative stuff going on, but certainly ebooks seem to me not so cosy, that there's a feeling of curling up with a book that you can't replicate, however good the technology." (The Guardian)

The Atlantic really sums it all up for me with:   "Fiction can show you a different world. It can take you somewhere you’ve never been. Once you’ve visited other worlds, like those who ate fairy fruit, you can never be entirely content with the world that you grew up in. Discontent is a good thing: discontented people can modify and improve their worlds, leave them better, leave them different.” We don’t want to lose that."

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dream Big

So, here's the deal.  I've been following this amazing Goddess on Earth for a few years and would like to recommend that you follow her as well.  I won't go into lots of details because the truth is....I've never met her.  She's not my guru, not my friend, but has inspired me quite a bit and at  4:00PM today she is doing her yearly FB pajama party planning session.  Her name is Leonie Dawson and she comes from the land down under. 

I, unfortunately, will not be in my pajamas when this begins.  I'll most likely be at an early dinner with the kiddos at an undisclosed restaurant in Nashville.  Damn.  And, I'll most likely be breaking all of our family rules about media and screens at the dinner table which means I may have to let the kids have screens as well.  Not sure about that yet.

My favorite product from Leonie, other than her weekly emails, is her workbook, which I am using this year.  For many years I have followed Sarah ban Breathnach and though I love her work, I never loved her workbook that accompanied the Simple Abundance book that she is most well known for.  For me, this is sort of like taking some of what is in SA and putting it into really bright dynamic content that helps you break into that next level.

According to many sources, Americans are visual learners and I must say that applies to me as well.  That's probably why I like this book so much.  It.  Is.  Very.  Visual.  

So, take a look at Leonie today.  Hop on the FB pajama party page and get to making this your best year yet!