Do too many computer games make children averse to reading books?

I’m writing this post after a massive stand-off with our middle child. It was literally a three-hour battle of wills. And it was about…a reading homework.

Homeworks in our house are lengthy affairs. The kids come home, their returns staggered by about an hour in general. The two youngest are first home, and they get stuck into homework right away. How quickly they finish depends on how focused they are, how tired after school and how hungry.

Today, Jake had to do a reading homework in addition to his usual tasks. You could tell right away he was going to be a reluctant participant. He was impatient to race off and play Playstation with his brother. Since the Playstation made a surprise return to our household earlier this week, it’s been virtually all they want to do.

Anyway. He changed books because he didn’t like the one he’d brought home. Then he opted to go to the attic room with me to read in quiet. And then he moaned and grumbled about the replacement dinosaur book HE’d chosen! Damnit.

We laboriously struggled through eight pages of reading (he’d been asked to do thirteen). And then he REALLY dug his heels in. That’s when the “I hate you”s began. And throwing himself around the room. And throwing things around the room. Threats were issued and roundly ignored. The softly-softly approach was tried, gradually giving way to a louder, angrier, more frustrated voice.

But it’s not entirely his fault. I honestly believe that he’s living on a steady diet of TV and computer games. Books, with their still words on pages THAT SHOCKINGLY DO NOT LIGHT UP are “so boring” to him. I’ve read recently that’s the crux of the problem: books don’t offer the same excitement as consoles and TV series.

This is almost doubly disappointing, because Lisa and I are avid readers. Our house is coming down with books and we’ve made sure the children are well provided for. There’s a virtual library of Horrible Histories, Captain Underpants and Horrid Henrys. The only problem is, these things frequently play second fiddle to Wii, iCarly and DSLites.

But what’s the solution? As I said to Jake tonight, he could have been finished hours earlier if he’d only read the book instead of throwing the Mother Of All Tantrums.

I think he has no excitement or passion for sitting down and reading. That’s probably a failure on our part as parents for not reading to them more. Not switching off all the screens around the house and having quiet time for reading. Maybe we need to do that – start off with 10-20 minute sessions, building up their reading stamina until they’re capable of reading unassisted for longer.

But if I’m honest, I’m at my wits end and possibly out oft depth here as a parent. I definitely don’t think there was a clear winner in that battle of wills today. Suggestions from all you clued in parents are more than welcome.

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