We do not let our son watch TV. Is that good or bad? Are we depriving him or are we allowing him to explore the world without having it fed to him through the tubulous apparatus we call television? Will he be lost in a world where most kids consume product driven characters or is this an attempt to minimize the effects of the fiendishly crafted marketing campaigns designed to entice little, tiny children into the depths of consumerism. Yes, I’m talking about you, TV, bad, bad TV.
Our son is so completely consumed with books right now that it would be a shame to distract him with television. That isn’t to say that I don’t relish the day when he is old enough for us to introduce him to some of our favorite cartoons and movies. But for now, my hope is that as he continues to get immersed into the imaginary world of dinosaurs and Dr. Suess; Firetrucks and the colorful world of Todd Parr, that it will all stick. Right now between the two of us, we collectively spend at least an hour a night reading to him. Most weeknights Darrow and Mr. T are on the sofa reading a story in the living room when I get home. There is a kiss hello, check the mail, greet the dogs, some more juice for the sippy-cup, a little running around, then I haul our son up to our room where I change my clothes and he impatiently waits on the bed for me to read to him. I would like nothing more than to have him reading when he is four or five years old, not because I want him to become freakishly advanced doing quantum physics at ten years old, but he seems to love books more than anything. I realize that it would be such a pleasure trip for him if he were able to read books for himself–just to pick one up and dive right in.
Given his determination and drive in all other areas of development, I expect nothing less of him. If he doesn’t just pick up a book one day and start reading out-right, I have no doubt that when he is older he will ask us to teach him how to read. In fact he did a curious thing the other night. Darrow was reading Pancakes for Supper (a fantastic but controversial read for toddlers). It has turned out to be one of T’s favorites and we love the fact that it is so well written and the artwork by Mark Teague is amazing. But Ty got stuck on a page. He sat in Darrow’s lap and asked him to re-read the part about the porcupine. Then he would sit back, stick his fingers in his mouth and listen. When Darrow tried to turn the page, T’s fingers quickly popped out of his mouth and he pushed Darrow’s hands away and turned the page back. Then he said, “read again,” and tapped the page, put his fingers back in his mouth and looked intently at the page. This happened about seven or eight times before Darrow was able to move the story along though with some resistance from Mr. T.
We both wish we could have understood what was going on in his little brain. I wonder now, what exactly he was trying to do. Was it an attempt at using repetition for word recognition, or was it nothing more than a toddler digging the fantastic illustrations of the porcupine? Is it possible that he was not just entertained by Daddy’s voice but instead his little brain was trying to associate the phonetic sounds with what was printed on the page? And what about later on that evening when he flipped open the book called Opposites, and pointed to a page and said, “happy.” There on the page was a smiling pig with a balloon and the word h-a-p-p-y. When I questioned Darrow about the book, he said he had not read it to him lately and had probably only looked through it with him only a handful of times.
Is this what happens when parents withhold TV or is this what happens when we withhold it from our son. It poses a very interesting premise: Does TV inhibit a child’s interest in books and reading and the imagination and development opportunities that come with it? Is there an opportunity cost to having small children plop down in front of the telly? Should we all be shielding our kids from the bad, bad TV until they are say, five or six years old? The answer is–I dunno. In a few years, I will let you know how the experiment turns out.