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  1. #1
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    Reading v Television

    So which do you think is better and why?

    I've always assumed reading was superior. So sure was I of this that I wanted to really promote reading this summer and thus, disconnected our tv service . My kids weren't thrilled but went with it. My youngest in particular became a reading fiend. So success, yes?

    Except there've been a lot of unintended consequences that have made me question the inherent superiority of reading. First, I'm stunned at how sloth-like my youngest became. He'd start reading a book, and not move nary a muscle for the next several hours. He looks practically comatose much of the day. With tv, he would at least get up during commercials and interact with others. Even if he watched a movie he would move around more and interact with others. Second, he's much less sociable. He's off in his own little world, and no one can really share it with him unless they've already read the book. He finds it tiresome to have to explain it to others, so we miss out on a lot of interaction. With tv, we either all watched together, or at least the tv was loud enough so that you could follow it while doing other things. So we could discuss what he was watching and have that branch to other things. That rarely happens with the books he reads. Third, his vocab hasn't improved the way I anticipated. If he heard a word he didn't understand on tv or in a video game, he would come ask about it. But he just skips over it in a book. What's worse, he has no clue how to pronounce these new words, so he can't really incorporate them into his conversations.

    So I've just been struck this summer by the passivity of reading, and wondering if it really is all that better than watching television or playing RPG video games. When I briefly looked up why reading was supposed to be better, what I saw seemed to be mostly opinion and conventional wisdom rather than demonstrated evidence.

    Thoughts? And do people know of actual evidence demonstrating the superiority of one over the other?

    Who knows, maybe my son will test off the charts in reading in a couple weeks and it will all become clear .

  2. #2
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    I've been thinking about this a lot as well, for the last several years actually. I learned to read fluently when I was five and that was the last my parents or friends for that matter, had seen of me.
    By the age of 11 I'd read my way through my parents extensive library and started borrowing books from grandparents, aunts, etc. Sounds great?

    Sure does. The fact is to me reading is like heroin or worse. I do it at the expense of social interaction and sometimes even interaction with my family. I am a lot more interested in a book than a party. I am in love with words, have always scored high on word tests, spelling tests and essays. The flip side-- back when I was doing research I'd sneak out in between procedures to sit in my car and read Harry Potter. Today I had two patient cancellations and had read my way through that time slot (I could have taken a walk around the block, responded to my emails, phone calls, done a lot of other things but I read).
    What I am trying to say is this: in many instances of my life I chose reading over pretty much anything else. When I was single, a date with a mildly interesting guy vs. a hot bath, a cup of tea and a book was a no-brainer.

    So while I don't have any citations for you comparing reading vs. TV, I'd say like in all other things: everything in moderation. Reading is great but not when it is all consuming all the time.

    The good news is, I think you will find that his vocabulary and reading comprehension have improved. May be it's a phase and he will snap out of it since sounds like he had just really immersed himself for the first time. I think reading addicts like me aren't extremely common. They all hang out in the book thread.
    "Nature is a damp, inconvenient sort of place where birds and animals wander about uncooked."

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  3. #3

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    Very interesting thread! I am not sure which I prefer. I admit to watching a lot more television than reading. However, when I find a really good book you couldn't pay me to put it down whereas I would be happy to pause the TV and come back to it later or catch the rerun. On the other hand there are a lot more television shows I like as opposed to books. I also don't know many people who read (except on here) so getting book suggestions is about impossible but I can get every one telling me 5 different TV shows I should watch. So I would say I prefer a great book to a great show or movie but I find it easier to find great movies or shows than books.
    -Brian
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  4. #4
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    We didn't have a television when I grew up. I don't know if this made me a reader or not, but I was another one who spent most of my childhood with my nose in a book. I did go out and play with my friends, but I also spent an awful lot of time alone, reading.

    I never knew what any of my peers were talking about when they talked about television shows at school. Some cultural touchstones completely escape me--and I am not just talking about things like The Brady Bunch (although the so-called charms of that show really escape me), but actual events that took place during my childhood completely passed me by and are still essentially blank spots filled in only by history books.

    So.....I ended up with a big vocabulary, good reading comprehension, a brain stuffed full of trivia and a strong bent toward text analysis. And I thought pretty highly of myself for not having wasted all those years rotting my brain in front of the television.

    Until I met my husband. My MIL believes that television is the greatest babysitter EVER. My husband and his brothers grew up in front of the TV. It was always on (and still is at my in-laws' house) and they were always watching. If they hadn't all been rather jock-ish by nature, I doubt if they would ever have gone outside. He rarely read a book when he was a kid unless it was a school assignment, and he still can't read more than a few pages of books he likes without dozing off.

    In spite of this, he is at least as smart as I am and has a good vocabulary and good reading comprehension. He does not have a head stuffed full of trivia and he doesn't have a gift for text analysis. This does not seem to have hurt him at all in life. He has other gifts.

    So that made me adjust my thinking and assumptions a bit. As IceAlisa says, moderation in all things.

    I think there is some research that shows that you have more brain activity when you read than when you watch television. And watching television is correlated with things like snacking and lack of exercise. But to me, it's not about one versus the other; rather, it's about finding a balance between a variety of activities.
    Trolling dates all the way back to 397 B.C. - People began following Plato around and would make fart noises after everything he said.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by agalisgv View Post
    So sure was I of this that I wanted to really promote reading this summer and thus, disconnected our tv service .


    What?!?

    No Rick Steves?

    CNBC documentaries?

    Deutsche Welle programming?

    Dates with your very own TV "girlfriend!?"

    Chats with Charlie Rose?

    Horrors!

  6. #6

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    Agalisgav! Your phrasing of the question is SO frustrating! You! who is so analytical and precise in details!

    What is better? Reading vs. TV?..... are you kidding me? Reading what vs. Watching what? Everything is published…. Everything is on TV…. There is internet where you can watch and read and listen to practically everything…..

    - Betty and Veronica vs. Three’s Company?
    - An American Tragedy vs. A Place in the Sun on PBS?
    - Village Voice Movie Review vs. Ebert Presents?
    - Emma the book vs. Emma/PBS vs. Clueless on Movie Channel?
    - The National Review/Washington Post vs. Charlie Rose?
    - Encyclopedia Britannica vs. Jeopardy?
    - Harlequin Romances vs. General Hospital?
    - Sherlock Holmes: The Book collections vs. PBS series vs. RD Jr’s Movie?
    - Cinderella: The Original vs. the Ballet on PBS vs. Pretty Woman on HBO?
    - Wall Street Journal vs. Nightly Business Report?

    It’s all about the choices of what one can read and what one can watch on TV.

    Reading, visual images, acting, spoken dialogue, written dialogue, etc. all stimulate one’s brain differently if of good quality.

    And it’s not just reading vs. watching….there is also “listening”.. one can listen to recorded books, listen to the music written to support the theatrical representation of literary subjects….

    Can you choose between reading the original Romeo & Giulietta, a theatre production at the Globe, Prokofiev’s ballet, Zeffierlli’s film?

    Your child is stationary while reading? The child would be stationary watching TV or looking into the computer.

    He finds it tiresome to explain his books to others?..... How elitist of him? No! not elitist. What if all he was reading is Enquirer and his peers where watching Tudors? They would find it tiresome to explain few things to him….

    I am sure you give your son quality books. Just because his peers don’t read or don’t read quality literature is no reason to hold you child down and make him watch dumb sitcoms.

    Don’t bring him down! His peers should rise up, not he who should “dumb down”! Or he should find other peers.

    As far as classical literature, I am of opinion that one should read the book first, as it makes one love words and phrases and use them for imagination. Great literature and crafty clever elegant words and phrases manage to create great images in one’s mind, if one has a mind….. But then the great image masters, through films, ballets, theatre, paintings and sculptures, give us different gifts on the written – the VISUAL masterpieces.

    What can be better than comparing the product of your own imagination from a literature piece to the visual representation created by a talent in another media?
    Last edited by Tinami Amori; 08-10-2011 at 10:41 AM.

  7. #7

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    Awesome post, Tinami, and ITA.

    Quote Originally Posted by IceAlisa View Post
    I've
    Sure does. The fact is to me reading is like heroin or worse. I do it at the expense of social interaction and sometimes even interaction with my family. I am a lot more interested in a book than a party. I am in love with words, have always scored high on word tests, spelling tests and essays.

    I think reading addicts like me aren't extremely common. They all hang out in the book thread.
    Hi, my name is Japanfan and I am a reading addict. Jut turn it over to a higher power, one day at a time.

  8. #8

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    Another nose in book here. For my 11th birthday, my mother gave me a "Book of the Month" club subscription as that was all I wanted. I was addicted first to the Nancy Drew type books, then to the Perry Mason series, and finally to historical non-fiction and would not leave the house once I started a new book. I would have been VERY dangerous if Kindles existed back then. This lasted through my early 20s, so I think it negatively impacted my college interactions.

    On the positive side, I'm very good at sticking with a work task that might take 3 hours or more.
    AceOn6, the golf loving skating fan

  9. #9
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    I also grew up with books, and loved to read - but I also watched tv. I think both are good ways to learn, be entertained, expand your horizons and connect with others.

    For children and teens, books can be stimulating etc, but they also offer escape to a little world that is all their own, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

    I also think children need to connect socially with others, and that's often through watching the same shows and understanding the same cultural references. I remember in high school shows like SNL were required watching, and certain morning DJ programs on the radio - if you didn't know what the other kids were talking about, you were out of the loop.

  10. #10
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    I read alone a lot growing up too. And I was a chunky monkey by 12 or so. It took me until my teen/adult years to develop good exercise habits (though I still have some baby weight to lose).

    I do think reading is superior to TV, but some kids probably need a nudge to put down the book and go run around for awhile, at least three times a day.

  11. #11
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    Another reader here and I agree it does foster social isolation. You enter your own world and shut everything else out. In fact, that's how I judge a book. If I can immerse myself, it's good. If not, I toss it. TV fosters very different learning. And, I'm not a TV snob. I think there's something to be said for occasionally trashy TV. It makes you laugh. All in moderation are valuable learning experiences.
    Adelina Sotnikova defeated the curse of Esta She is indeed the Greatest Of All Time!

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    There is a place - and room for - both.
    One isn't "better" than the other.

  13. #13

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    More than anything regarding TV, what I wanted my children to learn is how to voluntarily turn off the TV. If there is a show they want to watch, they should turn on the TV when that show is on, watch the show, then turn off the TV. The TV should not be on for hours at a time with no particular reason. I am not sure how I managed to do it, but my kids seemed to have learned how to do that (so far anyway).

    Reading is another issue. My daughter loves to read, but son "hates" to read. He seems to be doing fine in school, with no particular concerns regarding his reading ability. So I am trying to gently encourage, but not to push him too much.
    Creating drama!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffisjeff View Post
    ...Reading is another issue. My daughter loves to read, but son "hates" to read. He seems to be doing fine in school, with no particular concerns regarding his reading ability. So I am trying to gently encourage, but not to push him too much.
    This sounds like me and my mother. I hardly read at all as a kid or a teen, whereas my parents are big time readers. My mother would try to get me a book I might be interested in from time to time but it didn't result in my becoming a reader.

    Despite that, I have always had excellent verbal skills and vocabulary.

    I'm never quite sure why reading is considered the be-all and the end-all for children.

    That said, I can't stand television as a medium. But if other people like it, that's fine.
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  15. #15
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    I would've gone on hunger strike if TV had been taken away when I was a child.
    To think that fun is simple fun, while earnest things are earnest, proves all too plain that neither one thou truthfully discernest.

  16. #16
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    I read some as a kid...especially the babysitters club, and the scary books by R.L. Stine, but my mom's main thing was "go outside and play." I plan on encouraging that more than anything else, if I have a kid(although I doubt I ever will.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffisjeff View Post
    More than anything regarding TV, what I wanted my children to learn is how to voluntarily turn off the TV. If there is a show they want to watch, they should turn on the TV when that show is on, watch the show, then turn off the TV. The TV should not be on for hours at a time with no particular reason. I am not sure how I managed to do it, but my kids seemed to have learned how to do that (so far anyway).
    I totally agree. My parents were "TV on all the time" people. I'm glad it didn't transfer to me.

    I do enjoy a bit of trashy TV here and there, but I watch on Hulu or something similar. And when it's over, it's over. However, I do spend too much time online sometimes.

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueRidge View Post
    Despite that, I have always had excellent verbal skills and vocabulary.
    Yeah, he has a very good vocabulary. Probably because my husband and I aren't afraid to use "big" words and also because son doesn't hesitate to ask what a word means. My husband and I often discuss our research in front of the kids (e.g., at dinner), so they've learned some rather obscure terms.
    Creating drama!

  19. #19
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    I don't think that any tv is appropriate before age 6 or 7. After that, 2- 10 or so hours per week is probably fine. I watched way too much tv as a kid, though I also read constantly. In grade school I read all the plays that I could find, in addition to nonfiction and novels. By Jr. High I was buying at least three or four books a week. Never really got the hang of using the library. I have cut way back on my computer time over the past few months. I am really enjoying the peace and freedom from distraction. Just having windows and door open, hearing the natural sounds. I know that I could not handle the noise of a tv or radio constantly running. I'm finding that I have much less anxiety and depression since cutting back on screen time. I am sleeping great.
    Last edited by mmscfdcsu; 08-10-2011 at 02:56 PM.

  20. #20

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    I both read a lot and watched a lot of tv when I was growing up. I now still do both. I see no reason why you can't have both in your life, if that's what you want. I see no reason why you have to force yourself to *not* watch tv. I feel there can be a balance.

    I've talked about this before re: film and books - there are some items given to us via media, be they film or book or tv show, that are so important to their time, so much a part of our culture, that not at least being familiar with them makes you an outsider. If that's okay with you, then that's fine. For your kids - to not be able to discuss the latest hot show, or the latest episode of AI with their friends - that makes them different, and in a way, an outsider. Unattached from certain aspects of our culture. If that's understood and okay, then that's one thing. But is it okay - is it okay with you? Is it okay with them?

    But why must it be either/or - either tv or reading? Why can it not be both? Why can you not, for example, have perhaps one night per week when there is no tv or computer use, and the family comes together to play board games and perhaps to read?
    And so, dear Lord, it is with deep sadness that we turn over to you this young woman, whose dream to ride on a giant swan resulted in her death. Maybe it is your way of telling us... to buy American.

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