"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Problem is not TV but access to books

Problem is not TV but access to reading material
Sent to the Kansas City Star, July 14

In his speech to the NAACP, Education Secretary Duncan challenged parents to "turn off TVs and video games and make children read" (Education is 'civil-rights issue of our generation,' Cabinet official tells NAACP, July 14)
TV is not the problem. Studies consistently find little relationship between TV watching and how well children do on a variety of school-related tests, unless TV watching is excessive (more than four hours a day).

There is no question that wide reading is the key to academic success. The research tells us that those who do more recreational reading do better on tests of reading, vocabulary, writing and grammar, and also know more in general. But is impossible for parents to "make children read" if they have little or no access to books. Studies also show that children of poverty have very little access to interesting reading material: They have few books in the home, live in neighborhoods with inferior public libraries, and attend schools with inferior school libraries.

Instead of complaining about TV, Secretary Duncan should support greater investment in school and public libraries. If good reading material is available, "making children read" may not be necessary.

Stephen Krashen


  1. It's ironic to hear such advice from Secretary Duncan, who seems to believe every word of NY Post editorials and Tweed press releases. A good reader evaluates rather than simply accepting everything as gospel.

    I would not want him teaching my child.

  2. Hmmm... on the other hand, as a parent, I think there definitely is a personal responsibility factor involved. Kids learn what they live. If the parents & teens in the home are sitting on the couch all evening staring at the TV (or video games or computer screen or iPhone), it's pretty danged tough for them to get the kids to read instead. And let's face it: screens are alluring.

    When I was a kid, on Saturday mornings and in the summer, we always watched TV in the morning. But the cartoons and kid's shows were all over by 10:00 a.m. So, my brother and I turned off the TV and went outside to play because there wasn't anything else left to watch. In the days of the 24-hour cartoon network, and Wii and PlayStation and YouTube, there is no built-in incentive for kids to turn it off. So parents have to establish boundaries and limits. That's a parent's job. I don't think it's out of line to remind parents of that responsibility and tell adults yes, the world has changed since they were kids. On the other hand, I'm 110% behind you on the books impoverishment problem. Kids need to own books if they are going to become readers. We need to make sure that all kids have access to high quality, age-appropriate reading material. But access is NOT enough by itself. Parenting is the other half of the equation.