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How to raise a kid who loves reading

I have a one year daughter and I am very interested in stimulating her curiosity. I’d like her to become an adventurous soul that loves traveling, history, music, literature, science, art and all types of interesting subjects. I’d like to encourage her to educate herself not just by taking classes for learning any type of subject, but by becoming self-didactic, to satisfy her thirst for knowledge. 

Just a few days ago my daughter turned 1 year old. I see her as a beautiful being, full of potential, that marvelous and small body contains a beautiful mind. She is still crawling and each day gets stronger, soon she will take her first steps. Seeing her every day makes me realize how smart babies are, how fast they learn and how capable  their minds are,  a treasure that needs to be protected and stimulated so it can  reach its maximum potential.

Since the internet and smartphones flooded our lives, I’ve seen the trend of using screens with babies to keep them quiet and still. To be sincere – I wouldn’t like to become that type of parent – giving my daughter an Ipad or a smartphone to immobilize her, entertain her, contain her energy and curiosity; in other words – to stop her bothering the parents… 

Some TV programs  are supposed to be “educational for babies and children”, so many parents expect the television “experts” to educate their infants.  While the children are still, watching at a screen, are they really learning? 

Instead of playing with their kids, allowing them to move and explore, they prefer quiet, obedient and seated kids, and  so they turn to an easy solution: screens. The screen-children are more common than ever. From a very early age, these children spend hours watching screens: a smartphone, a tablet, a computer or  a TV. Parents are putting  their kids to watch an idiot box and hoping for the best. To be fair, this approach is one of the ultimate antidotes to killing a child’s curiosity.

This may sound like I hate technology  – I don’t, but kids should be playing, running inside or outside the house or digging a hole in the back garden. Kids should not be viewing screens with content that entertaining infants without their active participation. Guess what? Sooner or later they will take it for granted.

If a kid doesn’t play, there is no fun, and if there is no fun, there is no learning. Playing stimulates the imagination which drives children to create and invent new things. They won’t know how to entertain themselves if they’re always in front of a screen that keeps them absorbed.

Screen time it’s not recommended by the spanish pediatrician Rafa Guerrero, until age of 6, after that age he recommends 30 minutes daily as the maximum time allowed at home: either TV, smartphone, ipad, computer or video games, all together should not make more than 30 min a day; and gradually increase screen time to the teenage years. 

So far, research has found strong evidence that doesn’t show  significant benefits in technology usage to stimulate babies and children learning. According to Jim Trelease, an american educator and author of Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition, with a 4.1 out of 5 score in Goodreads, report that “Educational  software companies regularly either over compromise or lie about their products” (Trelease, 2013, Location No. 2949). 

Trelease mentions a study made by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO). The research intended to measure the reading abilities of Pennsylvania charter school students (73,000) for 4 years, at the end of the study the conclusion revealed that 100% of the online students scored worse than students in public school, meaning online education didn’t help in any way whatsoever.  When it comes to cyberschools  “Even Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, meeting shortly before Jobs’s death in 2011, agreed that, so far, computers had made surprisingly little impact on schools.” (Issacson,2010; Trealease, 2013: location No. 2942)

In my findings, it’s clear that technology without restriction has negative repercussions for kids. The data indicates that spending a lot of time in front of a screen – meaning more than an hour a day –hinders nervous system maturation in infants and consequently the learning process slows down. Children who are exposed to technology for extended periods of time from an early age are more impulsive, less tolerant to frustration, and have a harder time concentrating  than kids who don’t use technology or have a few exposure time – around 30 minutes a day. 

Similarly in adults, when it comes to focusing on one single task, technology impedes their concentration – too many stimuli in one device connected to wifi  causes them to start multitasking –, hindering their learning abilities and capacity in focusing for long periods of time. 

On top of that, in Silicon Valley – the world’s mecca of  technology –, many of the children of high tech companies employees – Google and Apple, for example – are enrolled in private schools with zero technology like Waldorf Schools: 

“The Waldorf philosophy is simple: no tech gadgets in the primary school. Their curriculum is about hands-on creativity and learning; the tech stuff can wait until high school or later. More incredible, the tech parents sign on and so do their kids.” (Ritchel, 2011; Trelease, 2013:location No.2946)

Surprisingly, I learnt that in Steve Jobs’ house the use of Ipads or Iphones were strictly prohibited. Their kids couldn’t use those gadgets – why? If technology is not helping children to read better and more, then what should we do? 

Reading The Read-aloud Handbook was very helpful to me, Trelease says that the love for books has to come from motivation and stimulation, not from imposition. He recommends parents to start reading to the baby before he/she is even born. A study of pregnant women who read the same story every day for the soon-to-be-born baby is mentioned in the book; after three weeks after the baby’s birth, a random person read to the baby the same story mom did during pregnancy. The results showed that some brain areas lighted up, revealing that the baby could recall the story even in someone else’s voice. 

Another advice Trelease gives is to have printed books & magazines at home, he suggests taking the children to public libraries and getting them acquainted with books, librarians and getting them a library card. But most importantly, he recommends people to Read-Aloud for their kids, according to their age group; of course. Starting with a book with few text and big illustrations, then gradually turning to books with more text and less illustrations. 

A life secret: actions are the best example –if we read and our children see us doing it, it’s more likely that they show some interest in picking up a book and start reading. If we take the dictionary to look up a new word, they will follow. If we buy them books instead of the latest play station, if we go to the library instead of going to the mall, if we read, paint or play hide and seek with them instead of playing video games or going to a toy store; then we may be able to feed and grow the little genius that rests inside every child. 

Like everything in life: if we want  sporty kids, parents can’t be couch potatoes – we lead by example, not by words. So, now you know, if you want to raise a kid who is curious and enjoys reading just for the fun of it, then buy them comics, read aloud to them, make it a routine, a habit, enjoy the process.

Additionally, make reading a habit, as Abraham Maslow puts it: learn to self-actualize yourself. Screens are not educating you or your children. Neither YouTube, kids Apps, TV or playstation. Take responsibility over your own self-actualization – educate yourself.

If you want to know more about Jim Trealease, you can also visit his website and buy his book Read-Aloud Handbook, one of the best investments you can make if you are really interested in your kids’ education.

More resources down bellow:

In Spanish:

Leer para otros

In English:

Teaching-reading

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