How to Encourage Reading During TV Time (Seriously!)

Get those kids& brains moving during television time.

By Amy Mascott
Nov 04, 2013



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Nov 04, 2013

The television is on. Your kid is staring zombie-eyed at the screen and could quite possibly stay there, statue-like, for the next three hours if you let him.

Is there a way to sneak in a little literacy learning and reading into this mix? How can you, as a busy parent who is juggling a million things, maximize even television time?


Here's how:

  • Have your child read the TV Guide or online television scheduling guide.  If you subscribe to the TV Guide, have your child flip through and circle the programs he or she would like to watch, like a giant "wish list" of television programs.   If you don't subscribe to the newspaper or TV Guide, search "local TV listings" and plug in your ZIP code. Most likely you will be able to print out some sort of schedule.
  • Teach kids how to record programs.  If you have a DVR on your system, show your child how to choose the programs he wants. Talk through the process as you first search for programs, spelling the name of the program into the search feature, then choose which program to select.  Explain what you are doing as you select start times and end times, how many programs to record, and how many to keep.  
  • Show your child how to choose the shows he wants to watch.  After you have recorded the child's shows, show him how to choose from 3-5 shows that are "his" shows.  

Sit near him as he decides which show to watch (Sesame Street or Jake and the Neverland Pirates?), and then ask him to tell you which episode he wants to watch.  Because recorded shows list the episode names, highlight each episode as you read it: Do you want to watch "Telly Gets Jealous," "Don't Be Pushy," or "Latino Festival"?  

Even seeing the words highlighted as you read will help your child begin to make connections between letters and sounds.

  • Mute commercials.  Play the commercials—don't fast forward them—but put them on mute.  Watch them with no sound. And as you and your child watch them, ask:

o    What do you think this commercial is about?
o    Can you tell which product they are trying to sell?
o    What words do you see?
o    Which products do you see that we have in our house?

Most likely, your child will recognize words, labels, colors, and design from many of the brands he sees at home or in school.  And recognizing will mean remembering, which will lead to reading. It's a great start!

  • Make reading a game.   When your child sees words on the screen that he recognizes, have him shout out the word.  Give meaningful praise when he reads it correctly, and offer prompts if he is incorrect.  When you see a word, shout it out!

o    Hey! I see our juice in this commercial! "Tropicana" is right there on the label!
o    We listen to that music—KidzBop is right there on the CD label. See it? Can you see the K or the B?

Make it fun, make it light, and make him want to "read" the screen.

How do you sneak reading into your family's regularly scheduled programming? Do let us know! Tell us about it on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.

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