Thursday, July 18, 2013

Books vs Gadgets

Last month, I got invited to give a brief message at a preschool orientation for parents of incoming nursery pupils. I wanted to decline since I am not comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. But, I felt obliged to accept the invitation as I have great respect for the owner of the school (Teacher Maris), and I am grateful to the school for nurturing the young minds of my children. To save myself from episodes of jitters and blabbering, I wrote up the message and just delivered it reading from my copy on an iPad. :-)

I shared how I get my children to pick up a book over a gadget.

Here's my script: 

Let me start by saying that I am no expert. Like you, I am still a mom of young kids. I have two. My eldest is 10, a boy, and my youngest is a girl, who is turning 5 on June 24, and is with the prep class of Teacher Maris. 

My eldest is also a product of Shining Time Play Center (STPC). His name is Garrett. He started out with Teacher Maris at the age of 3. He was speech delayed, and was still taking speech therapy when he started nursery. He blossomed here at STPC. In the middle of kindergarten, I remember the day when he started taking interest in reading the newspaper, and my husband and I were surprised that he could already really read. It helped that STPC started their reading program with his batch, and although we were not able to put an entry into the home reading log-sheet every night, my son really developed a love for reading. At only 10 years old, he now reads even the Bloomberg Businessweek, and would eagerly open  our subscription when we get it in the mail. That love for reading started him on writing poems and essays. And if there's something I openly share and a bit of brag about on the web, it is his writings. I helped him put up a blog, and he now has followers aside from our relatives.

If with my first child, I did not have any difficulty getting him to read, it is with some effort that I teach my little girl how to do so. But as with all STPC students, when she finished kindergarten, she could get by reading simple story books. 

With the iPads and other tablets, iPhones and other smart phones, on top of Cartoon Network and Disney Channel, competing for their attention, it has become doubly difficult, I think, to get kids to pick up a book and read without prompts from us. My youngest is 6 years younger than her brother. Six years ago, Barney was the "in" thing. The latest phone then only had few games, and there were limited portable video games. It was when the PSP just came about. Now, as Teacher Maris has observed and related to me last Monday, practically all STPC students have access to a tablet or at least one gadget. 

These gadgets or your iPads  may have educational apps that teach your kids how to write, read, draw, count and so on, but our children tend to lose out on real learning using all their senses, experiencing, for example, the texture of books, and most importantly interactions with people, where they can develop skills in a more holistic and engaging way. 

This is not to say that gadgets are bad, but we have to be careful in letting our children use them. I'm sure all of us are guilty, in fact, of shoving gadgets in their hands many times, when we want some quiet or especially when we are traveling and there is a long time to kill at bus terminals or at the airports, or even at restaurants or in gatherings. 

In my family, our iPads and iPhones have passcodes so my kids have to ask permission before they can use them. With my eldest, we keep a log of points he earns for each good deed he does, and when he accumulates a certain number of points we had agreed on, he gets 1 hour of internet browsing or iPad games. With our little girl, we limit the time to usually 30 minutes. Also, they get to use gadgets on weekends only. And we encourage them to share, take turns for 10 minutes each over a period of 1 hour or less. 

So how do we get our children to read? In our case, we surround them with books and educational magazines like Readers Digest. And we ourselves as parents need to show them that we love to read. We also only watch selected shows on TV. We like to watch, as a family, History Channel, travel programs, and other educational shows, and wholesome movies. 

I'd like to end this brief message by sharing with you some tips on discipline written by my 10-year-old son.

He wrote on his blog:

Mom was invited to give a talk in a parents’ orientation at the school where I studied in preschool. Mom asked me to write some tips on discipline for new parents. Here they are:
  1. The idea that discipline is about punishment is a big fallacy. Unfortunately, many parents believe this mistaken notion. If you believe this, then try to believe this instead: Discipline is not about punishment, it’s about obedience for his/her own good.
  2. Set up simple, everyday rules to be followed. Set up rules that your child is capable of ONLY, otherwise your child won’t follow your orders. Make sure that the rules are for his/her own good too.
  3. If your child is always procrastinating that he’ll follow you later, let him be, but make him promise to do what you said. There’s an explanation behind the “Later”. Your child has a schedule like you, the problem is that it doesn’t match with the schedule you’re giving him.
  4. You’ll need a lot of patience if your child can’t obey you yet. No one progresses at the same rate. Just keep giving orders until she/he gets the hang of it.
  5. Your child’s personality is critical if you want rules to be followed. You can’t give demanding orders to an easy-going, care-free child, but make the orders easy but important. 

Garrett is crazy over Roal Dahl. He has written a poem based on the the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory And about his Dahl collection

Gabee loves to draw more than read. She loves comic books/magazines. She is inspired to learn to read so she could better understand Gernomino Stilton, Batman, Spiderman, and other comics. The series of Phonics in Reading by May S.M. Mah (shown above)  is a good material for early readers. These are hand-me-down books from Garrett.

Garrett reads Bloomberg Businessweek.

Garrett reads and re-reads Harry Potter.
Garrett writes his own essays, poems, and stories, and shares them on his blog -

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