August 29, 2006

Literacy Matters

Posted in Books, Movies, Television at 11:48 am by Calico Jack

Last night, I watched one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen. I was at the library when I noticed a young boy of about four or five walking around by himself. He walked over to the children’s department and started to go through some of the shelves, pulling out books that he thought looked interesting. With a small stack of books in his hands, he went to his mom, who was in the audiovisual section looking at movies. At first she didn’t notice him until he softly called “Mom!” a few times.

After he got her attention, he looked up at her, and said “I want to read these, Mommy.”

Without even bothering to look at the books her son had so carefully chosen, she pushed a stack of movies at him and said, “No, no books for you. You can check out these movies, but you’re not going to read any books.”

He responded, “But I want to read these, Mommy.”

She simply shook her head and retorted, “No, you don’t need to read no [sic] books. You can watch movies if you want something to do.” He turned away, and carefully put back each book where he had found it.

After that little exchange, I walked over to the librarian sitting at the desk and relayed what I had just seen. She smiled sadly and told me that it’s much more common than anyone realizes. Parents aren’t willing to read to their children because it requires time of them, so they force their kids to watch movies and television instead.

Here was a young boy who had an interest in reading, but his mother completely abdicated her responsibility to help foster her son’s interests. So many little children are growing up without a love of reading, only because their parents are too lazy to spend time with them. How many parents actually sit down with their young children to watch the movie or television show that turn on? The television is used as a babysitter, and many children will grow up with shorter attention spans and an inability to express their imagination as a result.

That mother was woefully ignorant of the repercussions that could result from not letting her son read. But it wasn’t my place to say anything to her, either. I can only hope that she will eventually realize how destructive her behavior is.

Turn off the TV, and go read a book. Literacy matters.


  1. hyperpat said,

    I’d almost call that mom’s action criminal. It’s hard enough to get kid’s interested in reading at all, and here she has a son who shows such an interest at a very early age, and she won’t let him!

    I have two sons, now 21 and 16, and I can remember very distinctly all the troubles I had getting them to read. Now I’m a heavy reader myself, usually doing a couple of books a week, and reading to my kids was something that came pretty naturally. I often tired to impress upon them the importance of reading, and there were times when the TV was off limits, and trips to the library were required. But for them, reading was just a chore, something that had to be done, at least until my eldest finally found a couple of books with subject material that he was interested in – and all of sudden he went from someone who’d never picked up a book unless it was an assignment to actively searching for something to read. My youngest is still not a great reader (though I think this is more related to his problems with comprehension – he’s been identified as having certain learning disabilities), but he has at least run through the Harry Potter set, and is now starting on Johnny Cash’s biography because his intereset was sparked by the movie (sometimes movies can help!).

    Far too many people in this country, even though they can read, don’t. And that’s a shame.

  2. That mother should be ashamed of herself, telling her child not to read. I couldn’t read until I was about 10 and then I didn’t read until I first picked up the Hobbit.

    I don’t think it is difficult to get a child to read. You only need to find something that interests them. My brother is a fine example. He is a classic case of ADD and just a trouble maker, but give him a westren and he will sit for hours and read or watch the movie. The same applies to me. Give me a fantasy novel and you won’t see me until it is done ^_^

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