Guest opinion: Information on raising children in an era of screens | PostIndependent.com

Guest opinion: Information on raising children in an era of screens

George Stranahan

“Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens” by Lisa Guernsey and Michael Levine; Jossey-Bass, 2015.

We read this kind of a book because we are greatly concerned with the lives of our children, their schooling and how they turn out as adults. I will make my best effort at fulfilling an important function of a book review: “I don’t hafta read the book, I read the review.”

Children have been around for a long, long time, and yet, even though we each were one — we walked many a mile in the shoes of a child — we adults still wrestle with how best to “raise them,” more than we pay attention to what choices they might make for themselves in order “grow up.”

The issue is entirely embedded in our Darwinian mandate of survival of the fittest. We have evolved because we grow up to have children that grow up to have children that grow up to … And there is a whole industry out there to market to this inevitable human activity. This book is a product of that industry.

Of course, children grow up in the society as it exists when and where they are growing up. In today’s developed societies, kids grow up surrounded by these 2-dimensional screens with or without sound. Here we have a “how to” book, how to raise your kids amidst these screens that fascinate both them and us. We have known since Gutenberg that knowing how to read and write creates an enriched life, and that’s exactly what we want for our children.

Big data, brought to us by the same technology as screens, supports the everyday common sense understanding that, “If children don’t read by third grade the dominos start to fall. They won’t graduate from high school, and therefore they won’t go to college, and therefore they won’t get a decent job, and further, they won’t make enough money to support even a middle class life.” This is a book about how to use those screens to make sure that your child reads at third grade.

The meat of the book is descriptions of the many apps (understood as software applications) that parents can find and buy that support in various ways a child learning to read. Because “evidence-based decision-making” seems such a logical use of big data, the authors describe all sorts of interesting academic experiments that always give evidence that the app works. Here’s a sample:

“Half the students were given unsupervised access to Learn with Homer, while the others were given a math app as control. At the beginning of the study, each set of students scored equally well on the standardized Test of Preschool Early Literacy (TOPEL). When tested again six weeks later, the students who used Learn with Homer for approximately 15 minutes each day saw their scores double in the area of phonological awareness, while the control group scored lower in this area.”

The authors paid no attention to the significant outcome that use of a math app actually decreased phonological awareness. Wow, that’s interesting.

This book, and hundreds of others, are available at the lending library in the Manaus office at the Third Street Center in Carbondale. The catalog may be found online at http://www.manausfund.org then click, Manaus, then Manaus library. It’s alphabetized by author.

Manaus genuinely believes that children are the future of our society, and we support a yes vote on the upcoming RFSD bond issue. Come by, chat and borrow a book. Don’t read this book, you’ve just finished reading the review, and congratulations, you learned to read as a child.

George Stranahan of Carbondale is founder of the Manaus Fund.


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