100 Family Media Literacy Activities, Ages Pre-School through Teen Years
Are You a “High Hopes” Parent?
Attending to Our Children’s Attention Span
Building the Foundation for Resiliency Skills
Live and Play in Your World: Stimulus Addiction and the Growing Brain
Looking for Meaning in All the Right Places
Parenting Today: The World Has Changed, Have We?
Parenting as a Living System
Reading the Screen
Screen Time and Obesity
Screen Violence: Impact on Self as Relational Being
Teaching Children Gratefulness
Reading the Screen
by Gloria DeGaetano, CEO and Founder, The Parent Coaching Institute and author of Parenting Well in a Media Age, winner of the 2007 Best Products i-Parenting Award
Seven-year-old Sally snuggles into her Mom's lap as Mom reads aloud. It's a moment of togetherness that parent and child both cherish. But while Sally may be sitting quietly, her brain is very busy—sorting, categorizing, guessing, analyzing and synthesizing, exploring, and assessing a wide range of information, character traits, and emotions. In fact, Sally's brain is getting a good workout although neither she, nor her mother, notice the mental sweat. They are too engrossed with experiencing their shared experience!
Reading aloud can seem like magic, especially as children get older and parents begin to see the profound effects of such a humble activity. Three decades of scientific research confirm the benefits of this family habit. Children up to fourteen years old who regularly listen to stories for at least thirty minutes daily are more likely to be successful in school. They are also more likely to be creative problem solvers, self-confident writers and speakers, and lifelong readers themselves. Children who are read to daily have a larger vocabulary than youngsters who aren’t. Reading to children enables them to learn to communicate effectively for different purposes, adjusting their writing and conversation for a variety of audiences. When children listen to a narrative, they must organize their thinking to follow the story line, listening hard to understand what is most important and what details may make sense later. They learn to predict information, figure out cause and effect, as they practice such higher order thinking skills as analysis, discernment, and synthesis.
These well-established benefits of reading aloud can also be obtained by regular conversation about TV and movie content. When children and teens are stimulated to think, as opposed to watching passively, their minds are engaged and interacting with the ideas presented on the screen, in a similar way they interact with ideas from books.
Parents can make family TV time more productive and educational by asking the same questions they ask children when reading aloud to them. Here are seven simple techniques that develop important mental skills for school success—right in the middle of couch-comfort!
1. Make predictions. How many times do we pick a book off the library shelf and ask our kids, "What do you think this will be about?" Children of all ages love guessing games. Their brains are primed for the mental activity needed to figure out possible answers. So before watching a movie, or as you look through a TV guide, ask: "What do you think this will be about?" Over time, you will notice your child's answers getting more sophisticated. Emphasize the fun of using imagination rather than getting the right answers. For instance, after reading the program description from the guide or actually watching the movie, confirm which parts of the prediction occurred and which parts didn't, but could have. No big deal not to guess accurately. In fact, in many cases our kids' ideas improve on the scriptwriter's!
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Copyright © Gloria DeGaetano, 2009. All rights reserved. No reprinting rights granted without the author’s permission.
For information on receiving permission to reprint this article by obtaining your own PDF version, please click here or contact Gloria DeGaetano by phone at 425-753-0955 or by e-mail at info@GloriaDeGaetano.com