The Cyclops of the modern age invades most households and many bedrooms.
By SARALEE RHOADS
Special to The Star
According to California State University, Northridge, the average child will witness 8,000 murders at the finish of elementary school. And we wonder why violent crime plagues the nation!
Without entering into a full-blown debate on the correlation between television and violence, lets just agree: Thats a lot of mayhem. If it doesnt bother you, then dont even go there.
What I find more appalling, cited by this same university, are two statistics, which extrapolated, help explain troubling test scores and declining literacy rates: The number of minutes per week parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children 3.5, versus the number of minutes per week the average child spends watching television 1,680. Ouch.
It gets worse. If the expanded use of electronics gets factored into the equation, adding texting, iPods, laptops and game devices, viewing increased an additional 38 minutes per day from 1999 to 2009, according to the Child Trends Databank. These sources of entertainment often preclude adult monitoring or discussion of content, making them much more pernicious.
Heres my question: Whatever happened to good old-fashioned reading?
Of course, change proves difficult. According to legend, Odysseus blinded Polyphemus, the Cyclops, through a tremendous strategy of heroism and cunning. You, too, can tame a giant.
Begin simply. Try a chapter of a good book each night before bedtime not bedtime stories but good literature the youngest might stretch to understand. Read it aloud together as a family.
One year we stayed at a bed-and-breakfast, where the owner worriedly told me, We dont have television in the rooms.
I responded: Great! Wed rather read, anyway.
Having three sons, I readily admit we read a lot of Louis LAmour, with mom skipping the fight scenes. More than once we finished a book by flashlight in a tent after a long days ride, just because no one could wait to hear the ending. We began and ended every trip with a book.
Ban movies before books. Who wants to read Pollyanna after seeing the adorable Hayley Mills on screen? Watch the movie as a reward after the book is read.
Set guidelines for television viewing. In our home, no child watched television without an adult enjoying it at the same time, limiting the time and affording opportunities to discuss the program.
With the invention of the DVR, we now record and preview programs to be sure we find them acceptable.
These ideas work for us but maybe not for you. Adapt ideas that work in your household.
Be ingenious. Even youngsters who dont want to listen to a book will do so while eating ice cream.
Hey, its OK to be cunning. Lure your children into a love of reading.
Your local library will thank you. Your childs teacher will thank you. Most importantly, your child will one day thank you.
Outwit the Cyclops.
Saralee Rhoads has worked as an emergency room nurse, surgical nurse and home school advocate and is founder of Families for Home Education. She also has a bead business. She lives in Sibley, Mo. To reach her, email email@example.com or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.