April 19-25 is "TV Turnoff Week" in the nation and in the territory.
The observance — in which people are challenged to leave their television sets turned off for a week — is supported by more than 70 national organizations including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Education Association, and the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.
The Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries asks our fellow Virgin Islanders to join us in celebrating this worthwhile event — first observed nationally in 1995 — and leave the box turned off all this week. It will give your family a chance to connect, think, read, create and do.
Here are some sobering facts from the TV-Turnoff Week organization:
– This year, on average, children in the United States will spend more time in front of the television (1,023 hours) than in school (900 hours).
– 40 percent of Americans frequently or always watch television during dinner.
– Children who spend six or more hours a day watching television score significantly lower on reading proficiency tests than those who watch one hour or less.
– By age 18, the average American has seen 200,000 acts of violence on TV, including 16,000 murders.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports there is a link between watching television early in life and children's learning patterns. Dr. Dimitri Christakis of Children's Hospital in Seattle, Wash., co-author of the report, states: "A child that watched two hours of television a day before the age of 3 would be 20 percent more likely to have attention problems at age 7, compared to a child who didn't watch any television during that period."
The first three years of life are critical to learning because of the rapid development of the brain. How the mind is laid out or wired for learning during that period of time will set the path for the rest of the child's life. What parents decide for their children during these formative years will make a world of difference.
And then there is the physical effect of sitting for hours in front of the tube: As the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. David Satcher, said at the Kick Off of TV-Turnoff Week 2001: "We are raising the most overweight generation of youngsters in American history … This week is about saving lives."
Here are some things to do as parents or guardians:
– Make reading pleasurable.
– Give books to your children as gifts.
– Encourage your children to read to you anytime, anywhere — while you're cooking, cleaning or relaxing on the beach.
– Ask them what they have read and what it means to them.
– Help them with the new vocabulary words.
– Encourage them to try new genres of literature and writing styles as they develop learning skills.
– Keep books around them at home so they have easy access to reading materials.
– Take them to the library weekly as a fun event.
Enid M. Baa Library on St. Thomas has a wonderful new collection of books donated by the Friends, and we encourage everyone to get a library card. We have a wonderful Saturday reading program in the children's room. The St. Croix and St. John libraries also will welcome young readers with open arms and shelves laden with books just waiting to be checked out.
Will you leave your television sets turned off this week?
The Friends group hopes so — and that you will consider taking the next step: living with a lot less television from now on.
Young readers need encouragement and comfortable surroundings, and this only happens away from the television set. More reading and less television now could mean everything for your child's academic success and future place in society.
Jason Budsan, Advocacy chair
Friends of the St. Thomas Public Libraries
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