Monday, October 3, 2011

Reading vs. TV

Firecracker and I were driving around town a few days ago, when we had an interesting conversation.  Firecracker was asking why we don't have a TV...or rather why we don't have a TV that you can watch TV on.  We do own a tiny old TV...but no converter box.  We don't subscribe to any kind of cable, so it is only good for watching our very limited supply of VHS movies. 

Firecracker was trying to sell me on the idea that there are lots of education shows.  She said, "But Mom!  Super Why teaches you to read!" to which I responded, "Yes, but 'Super Why' doesn't teach you to read nearly as well as picking up a book and reading does."  

There are a few things I've discovered about my kids...they love to pick up and look at books.  Firecracker is good enough at reading now, that she can pick up many books and actually read them to herself.  But as much as she likes books, she would pretty much never choose reading over watching TV if she was given the choice.  TV is don't have to do any work, and it's more vibrant and faster paced.  We just don't often give our kids the choice most of the time.

Back when Hubby was a full-time student, we had free cable that came with our apartment.  We'd go through cycles...I'd let Firecracker watch a show or two each know the "good, educational" ones.  She'd want to watch "just one more," and we'd end up with a lot of whining when it was time for the TV to go off and then whining and begging throughout the day for it to go back on.  She'd be bored and the only thing she could think of to do was to watch TV.  When we'd had enough of this, the TV would "break."  She was too young to realize it had come unplugged from the wall.  Guess what happened...after a day or so of her trying to turn on the TV and it not responding, the whining stopped and she was able to think of things to do again.  Then the TV would stay off for a few weeks until in a moment of weakness I would plug it back in to entertain her while I got something done, and the cycle would start all over again.

I'm certainly not saying that TV is "bad" or this is the answer for everyone.  And don't get me wrong...there are definitely days when I plop my kids down in front of a video so I can get something done or as a reward.  I'm just offering it up as food for is possible without a TV, and it might not be as boring as you and your kids think

I'm sure Firecracker would still be doing fine in school if we had a TV that "worked," but I highly doubt her reading would be as developed as it is right now.  I also know that we have a lot more peace in our home without a lot of bickering and begging to watch more than the allotted amount of TV. 

Are we the only ones who tell the cable salespeople who call that we're not interested in their "amazing deal" and wouldn't be, even if it were free?


  1. Yay for reading. We didn't have a TV until my oldest was 6, and I'm kind of sorry we started then...although we wouldn't have all those funny memories of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Thundercats if we'd left it off...

  2. My parents didn't buy a TV when I was a kid. My grandparents bought one when I was 13, but by then I wasn't that interested. I used to visit my aunt next door and watch The Mouseketeers Disney program once a week. Reading and playing outside was what occupied my time. In the summer I'd bring a few neighborhood kids with me to the library, which was nearly 3 miles away and we had to walk!
    My kids grew up with TV, nevertheless, they also love books. Basically they had to earn TV time by doing homework, reading x amount of books a month,playing outside and doing chores. TV was limited to two hours a week. It worked only because there was only one TV channel, but they also had to earn video/DVD time. Sometimes when there is too much tv watching, it helps to simply remove it and spend time with the kids playing games, going outside, and just discovering the world together. Pat Holland

  3. I think that you've made a very astute observation... that TV is making kids forget how to be creative and entertain themselves! We don't let your son (2 years old) watch much TV, but I can only imagine what the struggles we'll have when he's old enough to know how to run it all himself... Luckily he loves books, so we'll just keep accumulating more books! :)

  4. Love it! My oldest is 12 and we have never had cable and she and her siblings all LOVE to read! We enjoy watching movies together, but the TV certainly doesn't hold priority in our home. And yes, the cable guy that comes to the door thinks we are crazy...and some of our family does too, but that's ok! We have lots of crazy fun! ;)

  5. Reading this reminded me of something that happened a few weeks ago in our home. We were telling a visitor that our children watch very little television and that we didn't even think it had been turned on in two or three months. She looked incredulous and asked, "What do your kids DO?"

  6. We have a TV; no cable or converter box but it is hooked up to our file server and Netflix. I am so with you on the "it's not worth the whining" sentiment. We let our 3 year old watch one movie on the weekend and that is all. He definitely gets excited about it, but knows it's a special deal. He will sometimes ask during the week, and we say "it's not the weekend" and that's the end of it. So far, so good...

  7. I'm also very familiar with that cycle of more more more tv. our solution is to give our 3 yo 3 shows a day which are represented by corks set up on the mantle.he knows when the corks are gone he needs to find something else to do. Right now it equals about 45 min our less just bc of theshows he chooses, but I'm not sure what we'll do if he starts picking longer shows.


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