Kids of the Technology Generation

Kids today are born into a world where technology is ubiquitous. Toddlers learn to press buttons and operate the iPad before they learn to walk. There is nothing inherently bad about this, of course. However, if I could give one piece of advice as an educator to young parents, it would be please please teach your kids to read before you sit them in front of the TV or a computer.

My students who were born in the nineties are subdivided into two groups: those who can read and are capable of enjoying the process and those who don’t have the physical capacity to keep their eyes on a page of text. They need something to flash, make noises and show animated images that change all the time to be able to pay attention. Guess which group manages to graduate and find good employment? Exactly.

There are people who send their kids to school without having taught them to read. This, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of irresponsibility. It’s easy to blame the schools and the teachers for not fulfilling what is, ultimately, the parents’ role. A kid who learns to enjoy books before discovering the pleasures of an iPad will have a lot more doors open than the one who doesn’t.

41 thoughts on “Kids of the Technology Generation

  1. Although: I didn’t learn to read at home, I figured it out in first grade. But, I was book oriented from home, and I had excellent grammar and vocabulary. So learning to read and getting good at it fast wasn’t difficult. I think it’s fine to let schools do the actual work of teaching to read, unless it happens for the kid before school starts. I was five when I figured it out, and if I hadn’t gone to school I think I’d have insisted my parents teach me or would have just figured it out. Their reason for not doing it was, they didn’t want to be pushy. But, they realized I was “ready for school” a year early and made sure I got in.

    Like

  2. P.S. A thought: we didn’t get tv until I was 8, and I never got used to it. Do people think this is good for kids’ brains? I feel as though it was for mine, and I am sort of glad about it.

    Like

    1. I think if people can manage to avoid the TV at least for the first few years of a kid’s life, that would be great. But that would mean not having it in the house at all. How many people can do that?

      If at least more people got out of the habit of having it on all day long, that would already make a difference, in my opinion.

      Like

  3. There are people who send their kids to school without having taught them to read.

    Heh. My mom actually chose not to teach me to read before I entered preschool, because she thought if I went in there already literate, I’d be bored and annoyed all the time. As it is, I went to school a year before I *had* to, making me one of the youngest people in my class, and my academic readiness has always exceeded my social readiness.

    (My partner *was* taught to read at home, very early. He remembers being on a train with his mother, when he was about two, and someone — a schoolteacher, it turned out — walking by and stopping to gawk in amazement at the tiny boy reading a book on the train. I feel a little sad that I missed out on this sort of awesomeness by not being taught to read way early …)

    Like

  4. Hah. As a kid, I drove my mother bonkers reading books at the dinner table. She’d scold me, and I pointed out my father, who sat next to me, with a newspaper open. She eventually resigned herself, I think.

    I remember a time, during my brief stint at an alternative high school, when our teacher was gone for the day, and we had a substitute. The classroom door was locked, and the sub was late, so we stood about the hall near the door. I pulled out a book and read as I leaned against the lockers. I hardly noticed when the sub arrived. She came up to me, noticed what I was reading, and exclaimed, “Beowulf?! Why are you reading Beowulf?!” Flabbergasted, I responded “…because I…want to?” “Oh! I wish my students were like you!” I wasn’t at that school for very long, like I said.

    I have found, thus far, that in the “real” world, the latter group somewhat resent the former. It’s rather…interesting.

    Like

  5. I learned reading in the 1th class in elementary school. Nothing special about that. Although quite some people have been pushing Kindergartens that start teaching really basic stuff like reading or english.

    Anyway, I often meet people who are having a really painful time reading anything longer than a post-it note. I mean they are perfectly capable to read, it just takes them forever to read a normal piece of paper. As if they never had much practice or as if it would take conscious efford to read something.

    As someone who can read really really fast, I find this very painful to watch.

    Like

  6. We have always been a family who plays games together, such as monopoly and other card and board games. When my stepson was 14 we felt a little bad because he did not have an Xbox or playstation like all his friends did. So that Christmas we offered to buy him one of them. He looked at us and hestitated and said “dont bother, I would rather play board games with the family”. One of those magic moments that just makes you smile. πŸ™‚
    I know this isnt necessarily about reading but we do realize that technology isnt really what kids want.

    Like

    1. Board games are an excellent teaching tool, and enjoyable. We are currently hosting a foreign student (for English Immersion) and we use storytelling games and boardgames to help him develop his English. And it’s fun.

      Oddly enough, my son learned to read because of a video game – we don’t generally play the flashy, action driven games (first person shooters and such) – we play strategy based games, with a story. He couldn’t read the story – so he learned to read in order to enjoy the game. Access to literature, in just about any form (comics, graphic novels, short stories, newspapers) is a key, combined with the child seeing the parent read. It’s extremely hard to convince a five or six year old that reading is important if they never see their parents read.

      Like

      1. @Patrick

        This reminds me of a friend who was a really good hockey player that got drafted by a college in Quebec. He didnt speak french very well and every friday the family he boarded with played poker. We all laughed at him tell us the best way to learn a language is to lose your shirt playing poker while they explain the rules in french. Suffice to say in one semester he was bilingual. πŸ˜‰

        Like

  7. “There are people who send their kids to school without having taught them to read. This, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of irresponsibility. It’s easy to blame the schools and the teachers for not fulfilling what is, ultimately, the parents’ role.”

    This statement is steeped neck-deep in privilege. I suppose one benefit of not acknowledging privilege exists is not having to acknowledge one’s privileges πŸ™‚

    Like

    1. Up yours, you loser. My grandparents lived in a Soviet village, had 6 children and could barely feed them. Yet, all there kids knew how to read and write before going to school. So take your privilege and go fuck yourself with it.

      Like

          1. What about thinking about “privilege” not only in terms of one’s family’s wealth, but also their attitudes? Being born to poor hardworking people who care is different from being born to poor people who do not care and just put their kid in front of the TV so the kid does not interfere with whatever the grown-ups are up to.
            But then, of course, the question remains how much one can broaden some definitions until they become meaningless or just a way to silence one’s opponents?

            Like

  8. My kids didn’t learn to read until they were in the second grade, despite the fact that reading was modeled at home (I typically read 3-4 books a week) AND I read to them every night for an hour or so (they did not have video games and we watched very little TV). By the time the littlest one was four, I was reading aloud things like The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Lorna Doone, Jungle Books, etc., to them, along with the regular fare of children’s books and Dr. Seuss.

    Kids learn when they are ready, and not every kid is ready by five years old. Mine weren’t, and it doesn’t seem to have harmed them or their academic pursuits.

    My youngest didn’t really care to read until he found my Calvin & Hobbes and Far Side comics. I’d try to read those aloud, but I’d have to also explain the comics and why they were funny and he’d ask lots of questions so it was very slow going. That really pushed the reading for him; he would just pore over those comics. I think the kids’ readers we’d had just didn’t interest him.

    Despite the late start, my son was reading adult books by the time he was 10; my daughter wasn’t that interested in reading until she was a young adult but now devours books. My daughter is an excellent student, has a degree and is planning grad school now. My son joined the Air Force with an Associates in CompSci, but eventually wants a degree in Japanese/Asian studies.

    I was reading before I went to school. It was very dull, and I’d lose my place in the readers because I’d read ahead due to being bored, and then wouldn’t know where we were when it was my turn to read. In the big classes of 30+ kids that we had then, I just looked like yet another kid who didn’t know how to read…did that teacher ever get a surprise when she talked to my parents about it!

    Like

    1. It’s true that kids will read when they’re ready – the criticism is leveled against those that make no efforts to teach reading. Your kids (like mine) started reading later than expected, but excelled once they started reading, in large part I would suspect, because of your earlier efforts.

      Like

  9. I don’t remember learning to read, but I’m pretty sure that I did before I started school at the age of 3. I do remember my grandma teaching me to write by showing me how to sign my name in someone’s birthday card, though. And I ALSO remember trying to learn to read music at the age of 5. Now the concept of my not being able to read music is as incomprehensible to me as not being able to read words, but MY GOODNESS was it ever a trial. I don’t think I’ve ever been so absolutely frustrated trying to learn something in all my life. I had tantrums, and I think there was tearing up of manuscript paper involved. I think all kids should be taught to read before they get to this stage of being able to feel such animosity to an abstract concept.

    Like

  10. I knew a few kids who were taught to read before entering school, but the school didn’t expect it.
    I didn’t know how to read when I entered school, but my parents read to me enough that I had an interest. They started us with the basics in Kindergarten and I was fairly proficient by third grade. After that I became one of those kids who gets in trouble for reading too much, so I guess it worked out alright.

    Like

  11. I feel very lucky actually, because I come from a family where both my parents and my maternal and paternal grandparent’s houses had books in literally every room, which we were encouraged to read, and to refer to. Questions were frequently met with: ‘You know where the encyclopaedia/dictionaries are’. If this was pre-reading age (4ish for all five of us) then it would be ‘Go get the dictionary/encyclopaedia’.
    If we didn’t understand then it was considered perfectly acceptable to ask which ever adult it was to explain the entry for us.
    I only understand now how lucky I am in retrospect when I look at other people and realise how relatively unusual our comfort level with reading and looking things up is.
    I don’t know that I’d go as far as to call it irresponsibility, but I do feel sad and sorry for the people who don’t feel able to teach their kids to read – it really is a life changer.

    Like

    1. I’m not sure what you mean. That even great students have trouble finding jobs? Sad but true nowadays. They stand a better chance, though, than those who drop out of college because they can’t read.

      Like

    2. Could you explain, please?

      If you mean that education =/= good employment, I agree. It also depends greatly on what one studies and on market’s state. However, people without education have it much, much worse and with coming “robot revolution”, with robots exchanging many low level, low educated factory workers will have it worse still.

      Like

      1. That’s my point exactly. I highly recommend Ruth Rendell’s novel A Judgment in Stone about what an illiterate person goes through in a modern reality. The book is short and is very light reading but it allows you to see things from the perspective of a person who is terrified of the written word and that’s truly tragic.

        Like

  12. I think Djiril and Lindsay hit on an important note…schools often (usually?) don’t expect children to be able to read. I was reading (chapter books) when I entered kindergarten, and I spent the entire year being shoved in a corner so the teacher could do the job she expected to do, teach the kids about “Mrs. A” and Mr. B.” The basic level of reading education continued through first grade. So for two years I spent most of my waking hours doing nothing stimulating whatsoever. My parents asked to move me ahead, but of course the school felt this would somehow prevent my academic success. So whatever efforts my parents put into teaching me to read – mostly reading aloud to me, I think – were really wasted, academically speaking.

    Like

    1. Yes, this happened to me too. I was fortunate that we had ‘old-fashioned’ style exams at the end of every year at junior school, and so coming into the second year my (brilliant, inspiring, fiery, humanist and French) teacher noted the discrepancy between my scores in reading comprehension and where I was in terms of the syllabus of reading books. The teacher of the previous year had just started us all on the ‘cat sat on the mat level,’ having apparently not bothered to read / believed any of the assessments from the primary schools we’d attended, and so, being utterly bored and not seeing the point, I had failed to progress through them.

      She sat me down, had me read excerpts from various texts and made a bargain with me: if I read through and correctly answered the questions from the final set of books in the range, she’d ensure I had the freedom of school library for the rest of my junior school career. I did, and she did, over considerable opposition from the headmaster of the school, who was an unreconstructed and malignantly racist and misognist bully. I know this, because when he attempted to overrule her jumping me over the grades, she had me go to his office with various advanced texts and demonstrate my A-level standard reading skills and comprehension. He sent me out and they proceeded to have a magnificent row, which I listened to with fascination, not being used to such displays of temperament. She won, of course. Amazing woman.

      Like

      1. Sadly, school teachers are so underpaid and under-respected, if I can put it that way, that a kid’s chance of encountering such a great teacher is not big. 😦
        Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T

        Like

    2. I had the same problem in elementary school. πŸ™‚ I could already read and write cursive in 3 languages and we were taught letters. It’s better to be bored, though, than to feel confused and lost. I hear that classes are very big in schools and a teacher simply can’t give individual attention to everybody. So many kids simply fall behind and never catch up.

      Like

  13. I learned to read when I was three or four, and reading helped along my verbal skills. It was only after I learned how to read that I learned how to speak fluently in complete sentences, because I could visualize the words I wanted to say in my head before I uttered them. I still speak like that to this day.

    Like

  14. I don’t remember when I learned to read, but I was definitely a voracious reader early on. My teachers were pretty crafty though- to stave of my boredom, they had me grade the other students’ work πŸ˜‰ (only the stuff that had absolute right/wrong answers though, of course)

    Like

  15. But what an awesome teaching moment! To show them how the innards of a piano work, and how it doesn’t need any extra “power” to make it play–to today’s kids, the tech is typical, and the non-tech is the cool “whoa” kind of thing.

    When I play at home, my kids stand around the curve of the open grand and just gawk at the mechanism, even though you can’t see much. And I used to give pipe organ demonstrations to show kids how these individual pipes get put in over this giant blower, and how before electricity a kid with a bellows would have to sit there and pump the thing…this all seems to really fascinate children. Maybe because it gives an actual clear cause-and-effect: do THIS, and THAT is your result, unlike computers, which are so mysterious we just sort of trust that they are going to work…

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.