Friday, March 26, 2010

TV, Read-Aloud and Recorded Books

I've often wondered about the effects of blast and splash kid TV, and decided to check it out. What I found: in an article published in Pediatrics magazine, researchers at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Seattle concluded that even educational TV can be damaging - not necessarily because content is the culprit, but because of "the unrealistically fast-paced visual images that alter normal brain development." They found that watching an hour of TV a day increases a child's chance of developing attention problems by a whopping ten percent. Is it wise to use TV to distract or babysit a child? A study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation of Menlo Park, California showed that young children learning to read have problems if they watch TV. The Canadian Pediatrics Society recommends children under two years old not watch TV -- at all. They said older children's time in front of TV and computer screens should be kept to a minimum.

Heartening news: more and more, researchers are proving that listening has beneficial affects to brain development. While many older people longingly recall the good old days of gathering around the radio to hear tales and adventures, read-aloud and story telling are still among the true treasures that can be offered to kids of all ages. Unlike passive TV watching, these are activities that help with communication, play, and family bonding, to say nothing of language skills - vocabulary, sequencing, comprehension, story structure and recall. (This is true for little ones, and for people of all ages including the elderly. Everyone loves a good story.)

Neuroscience research shows that being read to actually stimulates brain growth. To quote the University of Chicago study, Rethinking the Brain: "A child care provider reads to a toddler. And in a matter of seconds, thousands of cells in these children's growing brains respond. Some brain cells are 'turned on,' triggered by this particular experience. Many existing connections among brain cells are strengthened. At the same time, new brain cells are formed, adding a bit more definition and complexity to the intricate circuitry that will remain largely in place for the rest of these children's lives."

Children who are read to from an early age are more successful at learning to read.

What about those moments in a busy day when you need help to keep your child busy? Recorded books offer some of the benefits of an in-house storyteller, and they are easy to come by - check the Acorn & Rose bookstore for Audio Books, or visit your local library - the treasures are boundless.

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