Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Promote Reading - Break the TV

I love TV. Okay, actually that’s not true. I don’t particularly care for TV. The last two network shows I actually watched with regularity were Moonlighting and Quantum Leap, so I guess you couldn’t really call me any network’s targeted ideal viewer.

But I do love the screen, big and small, and with the advent of VCR’s followed by DVD’s followed by DVR’s, for many a year I have loved my television set. I am a huge movie buff, old and new, and many hours have been spent sitting in front of my tube, being swept away by a great story.

But I love books more. Books allow me to use my creativity to fill in the spaces the author leaves me, to make the stories more personal to me, to let me imagine what a character looks like or feels based on my own personal biases, to get lost in a compelling plot or lyrical prose. Books are, I think, the most personal form of storytelling available.

In this world of 1400+ cable stations, not to mention internet TV viewing and myriad other choices, so many people today take the time to enjoy the simple pleasure of reading. The Washington Post says 1 in 4 American’s didn’t even pick up a book last year.

If you or your family falls into that category, what is one to do?

Break the TV.

Yes, that’s what I said. And it will work.

Don’t believe me?

A few weeks ago, I ran into a 30 year old man I hadn’t seen in quite some time, a good family friend. When he asked what I’d been up to, I told him I’d been writing. He became very animated, telling me how recently he’d began reading again (after more than 10 years of not even sniffing at a book) and then launched into praise for a particular Sci-Fi series he was halfway through. Meaty, 800+ page books for a man I know spends more time in the bar than in the library, and yet here he was (at a bar, yes. What? I can go out now and again, can’t I?) animatedly extolling the virtues of reading.

When I asked him what had started this journey back to books, do you know what he told me?

“Well, my girlfriend left me and she took the TV. I couldn’t afford a new one, so I had to find something else to do.”

So simple. But let’s see another case.

I recently learned that getting rid of the television works on 2 year old boys, too. In our house, I must admit that I’d fallen into the “but it’s educational!” trap, and my toddler was getting a little too much “pre-school on TV”. I really began to feel that if it went on, his imagination development and creativity would suffer. So I put the TV “night night”.

It was hard, at first (although it did produce one very cute moment when I came into the room to see The Boy standing in front of the closed TV cabinet, begging the television to “Get up, TV! Get up!”)

But yesterday, I walked into the bedroom, and there was The Boy, reading aloud (as much as a two year old can) one of his Dr. Seuss books on the floor, his little face alight as he turned the pages…a far cry from the Zombie stare that so accompanied the television watching.

So there you go…it may not be scientific evidence, but it’s true all the same. Break it, take it, or put it “night night”, the best way to promote reading, in my estimation, is to say bye-bye to the TV.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about TV time in your life and family…


  1. I am SO with you, Heather! I have three shows that I DVR, which take up a grand total of about 2 hours a week. The rest of the time, if I feel like I need to 'relax' or 'unwind', I turn on HGTV. WHY?? Why do I allow the zombie stare as a couple peruses three cookie cutter houses in a city I will never even visit, when I could be engrossed in a book?

    I have been thinking on this very subject, and I think it is a sign that you should blog about it today. I think I will put my tv night night for a while and see how much more I can relax and unwind with a book in my hands :)

    ps - already picturing my hubby in front of the TV cabinet saying "Get up, TV. Get up!"

  2. Hi Heather! We watch very little TV at my house, too. In fact, the only show I have watched with any regularity is TrueBlood on HBO, which I am going to argue is background research for writing Romance. :)

    I noticed this anti-TV trend started when I started writing seriously about two years ago, and my family hasn't looked back. My 5 and 8 year old girls are voracious readers, and we are NOT going to buy them Nintendo DSs, either (be strong!) The purchase of his and her Nooks has also changedmy husband and I into bedtime readers instead of TV zombies.

  3. We strictly limit the amount of TV The Kid can watch in our house, and most of his toys are not battery operated, so I don't think it's a coincidence that his teacher tells me he's the most creative student she's had in years.

    I don't want much TV--haven't since I started writing! Between the commercials and the hit-or-miss quality, good books are so much more satisfying on every level. So count me in the TV-less revolution!

  4. My house feels eerily quiet without the TV on. Sometimes it's just background noise. But the hubby and I do watch the news and have our Monday night shows. My kid likes THE WONDER PETS. Now, every time the phone rings in our house, she perks to attention and I have to sing, "The phone! The phone is ringing!"

  5. Moonlighting and Quantam Leap? Those were great shows with great writing, no wonder you liked them so much!