My audacious idea is to use television to help children learn their letters and, maybe, even to read. This may be a surprising suggestion given that TV is cited as a main reason for the decline in children’s reading.
But, this heretical idea comes to mind for three reasons:
- First, children watch a lot of TV – on average four hours a day, which turns out to be more time than they spend in school each year.
- Second, having print and reading materials at home helps kids learn to read. And, the more they read, the better they read. Unfortunately, more than 30% of city children live in poor households which tend to have few books or reading materials. One study found that poor families had, on average, less than one book per household.
- The third reason is that TVs must all have the technology to show captions and most programs and movies must have written transcripts. So, if you turn on your TV’s captioning feature, the words that are spoken – and many of the sounds as well – will appear in writing at the bottom of your screen.
I’m not suggesting that TV should replace reading, or that kids should watch more TV. After all, pediatricians say children should watch no more than two hours a day and that adults need to turn off violent and inappropriate programs.
But, parents, teachers, and caregivers, given that most children are watching TV every day, why not turn on the captioning and let them “see” the words as they hear them? And for older children who can read, how about also turning off the sound so that they can follow along by reading the dialogue?
Would this help Baltimore become the City that Reads? I think it might. I found web references about the use of captioning by English-language learners to improve their English and a few studies of remedial reading teachers who used captioned TV to get “reluctant readers” to read more.
But let me know what you think Baltimore – and how it works (or doesn’t) for your children.