Reading vs Television for Babies: Are We Damaging our Children?

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Did you know that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no television for kids under two years old? How many parents do you know that follow that recommendation? I know none! And yet research is piling up with the negative effects of television on children. Just a few of the statistics are:

  • By first grade, children have already watched 6,000 hours of television.
  • One year old babies spend an average of six hours a week watching TV; two year old’s, an average of twenty-seven hours.
  • ADD in children has increased in proportion to the number of hours spent watching television.
  • Academic achievement in children is negatively affected after only ten hours of TV per week.

Remarkably, there is another study that shows that 96% of parents feel books are far more important to their children’s development than any type of media!!! What? Then let’s all turn off the television!   Ten Benefits of Reading Aloud to Babies There is a great book, Baby Read-Aloud Basics, by Caroline Blakemore and Barbara Ramirez, that lists ten benefits of reading aloud to your babies. And they mean from birth! Did you know that some babies can actually focus their attention for at least 30 minutes while being read to? I think that is amazing! And isn’t that what we want? Children who, when they get to school, can actually listen and pay attention for lengthy periods of time. A teacher’s dream, right! But what are we doing instead? Sitting these babies in front of TV’s with programs that jump constantly from one topic to the next, everything paced so quickly they can barely blink before another subject is introduced. No wonder so many kids have ADD. They are being programmed to jump constantly from one thing to the next, with no emphasis being placed on lengthening their attention spans. So the goal we should be working toward is reading aloud as much as possible to our babies, regardless of their young age. Because, according to Blakemore and Ramirez, babies who are read aloud to from day one:

  1. Develop the skill of listening, which is essential to language formation.
  2. Hear more vocabulary words, which leads to more vocabulary words in their spoken language between ages 3 and 9.
  3. Have a longer attention span, and a better memory.
  4. Hear more uncommon words, which increases their spoken vocabulary later.
  5. Learn to understand the meaning of words. Comprehending vocabulary words is the basis for literacy and communication.
  6. Learn concepts about print. They easily distinguish between words, letters, and numbers.
  7. Learn to get information from the book’s illustrations. The conversations you have with your child about illustrations in a books is a great vocabulary builder, as well as a fun learning experience.
  8. Experience a bonding and calmness with the parent reading to them. This is one time during your day when you can devote your full attention to your baby in a relaxing way. It will benefit you both!
  9. Have their imagination and all their senses stimulated.
  10. Have instilled in them the love of books and learning.

Compare the advantages of the above mentioned benefits to the child, and the mindless, staring at a television set you see in some other children. Sure, TV programs teach things to kids, but it is usually done in such a frantic, hectic way, that their attention spans really suffer. And what about the lost outdoor time (all that healthy exercise), and the fun of pretending, and growing imaginations developed by the blocks, and cars, and dolls??? Reading aloud to babies and children is a bonding and learning experience that can’t be reproduced in any other way. The benefits are beyond belief. Don’t let the opportunity pass. And if you happen to be a parent who travels or spends a lot of late nights at the office, you can still have the experience of reading aloud to your children, and building that forever bond that is established. Try Skype. So buy the book, read for yourself the advantages of reading to your babies and young children. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to increase your child’s concentration and learning abilities. Enrich your life and their’s by turning off the television, and just spending quality time exploring  books!

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