Monday, March 19, 2012

The Mind Locust (i.e. TV) and What I'm Doing About It

On the one hand, she became a slave to television;  on the other hand, she expressed her contempt for nearly everything she saw...
~from A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

I watch too much television. I wish I could claim my boobtube time is all spent viewing various PBS shows, but that would be a lie. I watch The Secret Circle, for goodness' sake (though, in my defense, I was thinking about deleting it from my TiVo list. It's getting too scary...).

I've felt an ever-growing personal challenge to pursue the life I want by being more of the person I want to be {just that... }. I don't want to be a mom that watches television, I want to be a mom that reads. I want to model a healthy lifestyle for my girls. The requirement being, of course, that I be a consistent and positive model.

So, where to start? With reading, of course. Not just reading in front of the girls, but reading about reading. I've recently re-read and found pages of inspiration in

Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three
by Paula Polk Lillard & Lynn Lillard Jessen.

If I'm going to focus on the written word (and, of course, for children my girls' ages, illustrations) and turn my back on television, I need to ensure we offer good quality literature in our household. I've recently finished reviewing my own bookcases and have also been weeding our stash of children's books (which is a grand one) and pitching (or at least packing away) the books that I find lacking in literary or developmental value.

Montessori from the Start suggests those caring for children:
Have books for the child under six years old that are based on reality, rather than fantasy. The young child needs to explore the real world before he can appreciate a fantasy world created by adults...
When the entire world is out there to be discovered (polar bears. thunderstorms. DNA. Greek food. knitting. rhyme schemes. lava. gravity. the Netherlands. meters. embryonic development.) why add talking purple mice in Candyland into the mix? Focusing on our actual world is the starting-point. Once that's established, then add-in the imaginary lands and beings and have at it.

(Disclosure:  I admit, as a fan of imaginative storytelling, I've struggled with this concept, but I have decided it does make good sense. It's only by comparing/contrasting my favorite fantasy or science fiction with other "straight" genres that I can fully relish the subjects and structure of each. Basic [reality] first, and after that---no limits! Also, my entertainment requirements as an adult--familiar with the world in general--are different than those of a child. Even should be different, perhaps?)

So, as I said, I've been going over our bookshelves at home, reviewing each board and picture book individually under the new reality and quality guidelines. I've made some exceptions to the pool of books my girls will be handling (for instance, I adore adore ADORE reading aloud the poetic word-music in Bear Snores On and am keeping it out even though it doesn't fit a strict "based on reality" requirement). But most of the books out now meet the young child guidelines I was looking for.

Some additional ideas from Lillard & Jessen:

...[T]he number of books available should be limited: four is the maximum for a child under two years old. The child's favorite book of the moment can remain out, but rotate other books from a supply in a closet.
This one is next on my list. Uli is three, so she should be able to handle more books and playthings out and about without being overwhelmed. However, Ilse is not yet one. So... what to do, what to do? And as far as rotation goes, would we rotate books daily? Weekly? And who (Mom or Dad) would be in charge of the rotation?

In addition to the books freely accessible to your child, keep a supply of books of good literature and beautiful illustrations in a closed cupboard or closet shelf. These are books for you to read out loud to your child each evening before bed or at a special time during the day... What is important at this stage is the child's absorption of good language and expressive thought.


Choose books you find interesting. Your child is not likely to grow up loving reading if he associates it with parental boredom or an obligatory parental duty.

This was part of my weeding project. Done. Boring-to-Mama books are packed away! Those left are books I truly enjoy reading with the girls.

Just as essential as reading to your child, he must see you reading for your own is a good idea to set aside a designated time for your own daytime reading.
I do read daily in front of them now, though, not at the same time each day. I'll work on that (I'm thinking mornings before work or just before we get them ready for bed).

I'm also focusing on reading only "real" books infront of the girls, versus reading my Kindle. I love the Kindle and bring it to work and keep it on the nightstand, but if what I'm going for is to model reading/enjoying literature it's important to me that my girls know that when I'm reading I'm actually reading a book and not surfing the web or checking Facebook. So book books it is. For now, anyway.

And we'll see how it goes. Cutting down my screen time. Modeling reading. Reading aloud from quality books. Continuing to include stories as part of bedtime preparation. I have high hopes.


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