As the screens available to captivate young eyes multiply -TV, computer, telephone – time spent reading and on other activities has dwindled. And the implications for kids and families aren’t positive.
Into that mix comes TV Turn Off Week, a collaboration of the Forest Park Library, libraries in River Forest and Oak Park, and the Collaboration for Early Childhood Care & Education. The weeklong event, April 11-17, is designed to provide young children alternatives to watching television. The alternatives include yoga, fire station tours and family board game night at the library.
“This gives people a chance to evaluate the role of media in their lives,” said Ellen Cutter, the children’s outreach coordinator at the River Forest Library. Cutter, a former teacher, is spearheading the TV Tune Out event in order to stress the importance of early childhood literacy. “The amount of time kids spent in front of screens is increasing, and the amount of time they spend reading is decreasing.”
The focus is for children to tune out of television and “tune in” to the community by engaging in alternative activities such as volunteering for a charity. The librarians have planned activities in which both children and parents can participate. For the past seven years, with the exception of last year, Cutter has conducted this event in River Forest, and said it has been very successful.
“We wanted to take the chance to expand beyond River Forest,” she said. “I’ve talked to local librarians, all the public school librarians as well as private schools. We talk about achievement gaps, and the truth is parents need to start reading to their children even before infancy. There are a lot of misunderstandings about early childhood literacy.”
The event is held in conjunction with National Library Week, as well as National Week of the Young Child. Cutter has taken this as inspiration to expand the activities to each of the communities.
Rather than simply prohibiting children from watching television, TV Tune Out’s goal is to interest them in other activities. There is even a list of 25 alternatives, including doing puzzles, planting a garden, cooking and eating with family, watching the night sky and looking for constellations, reading, painting, starting a journal, tutoring, and learning sign language.