From the Editor

I Remember the Day I Read a Book!

Editor Michael Sherer

Editor Michael Sherer

Television is keeping our kids from reading

The entertainer Jimmy Durante once sang a ridiculous little song with lyrics like these: “I still remember the day I read a book … with 70 pages, it was quite contagious … there were pictures here and there, so it wasn’t hard to bear …”

That was a clear parody, written and sung in a day when most people took reading for granted. These days Durante’s phrases are becoming sadly descriptive. People aren’t reading as they once did, and the situation is getting worse.

Recently I met a journalist friend for lunch. We discussed, among other things, the fact that newspaper readership is down, especially among younger people (including young and even middle-age adults). We both agreed that failure to read leads to an ignorant citizenry and electorate, both of which are hazardous to democracy.

Why don’t we read much any more? The pace of life is one factor. So is the revolution in communication technology. People satisfy themselves with information from radio, television, videos, and the Internet.

A recent published essay argued that Americans today are not illiterate (they know how to read) but aliterate (they deliberately choose not to read, preferring instead to learn from passive information sources.

During July a Twin Cities research firm said that Minnesota young people are watching an average of 30 hours of television (much of it unsupervised) weekly. Many of these kids don’t read books.

Here’s a suggestion. Make a deal with your kids. For every hour of TV or Internet your kids experience, have them agree to read a chapter in a book appropriate for their reading level. Every time they finish a book, do something special with them, as a reward (something they’d especially enjoy).

If conversation with your children flows easily, have them tell you what they’ve read. Ask them what it meant to them.

A good way to link from TV to reading would be to suggest to children, after watching a television program, “I wonder if we could find a book that tells us more about this.”
We can stop ‘Jimmy Durante syndrome.’