My friend Cecelia Solomon, a library media specialist in Florida, sent me a link to this fascinating article that appeared in the Boston Globe about a month ago:
For parents of pre-schoolers, early childhood specialists, and (in my case) holiday gift-buyers for pre-school grandchildren, this is a good read. Basic conclusion - kids who read later can surpass those who read (or try to read) very early. There are much better means of creating smart kids than engaging in formal reading programs in pre-school.
My conversation with my daughter about Christmas gifts for the grands went something like this:
Me: I was thinking about getting Paul (age 6) a hand-held video game for Christmas. What do you think?
Carrie: Uh, Paul plays computer games with his dad on the PC. Maybe we don't need to encourage more of this right now.
Me: I was thinking about getting Miles (age 2) a Webkinz stuffed animal that comes with an online life.
Carrie: Uh, let's maybe wait a couple years for that. Here's a list of ideas on the ToysRUs website "wishlist" that I would know the boys would like...
Me: How about BB guns or Nerf rockets or other projectile devices.
Carrie: Dad, you already know the answer to THAT one!
I am happy with the advice and direction. My grandsons have two caring, competent parents who make excellent decisions about what is best for them. While I am fascinated by these electronic gizmos and learning toys and such, I also give great credence to the Alliance for Childhood's old reports Fools Gold and TechTonic. Do we know enough about technology and tots to be pushing it at children? (Especially those that carry my genetic code?)
I suspect I am like a lot of parental-types, torn between the need for kids to be "tech-savvy" and the need for kids to have healthy non-tech activities and play. Where is the balance?
As a side note, my daughter was a pretty good reader when she entered kindergarten, picking up the skill simply from being read aloud to. Once walking by a car with a bumpersticker that read "If you can read this, thank a teacher," she pointed to it, sniffed and proclaimed, "I thank myself!"