Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kids, cells, books, writing ...

Yesterday I read an article about children and cell phones. It was called Children More Likely To Own A Mobile Phone Than A Book. The title alone was sad. Now, I'm not against kids having cell phones. I know many do, and at a very early age. It seems the average age is ten, or around 5th grade, but I know of younger ones. I understand every parent has their own reason for their kids having phones or not having them. To be honest, cell phones aren't my thing. I don't even keep mine on unless I'm away from home. And even so, that's only if Rick's not with me. If someone calls, they go through him. My girls have phones, but they're adults. The boys still don't have them and at this point, have no need for them.

Back to the article, which was written in the UK, but had studies done in the US -- they said 9 out of 10 students own a cell phone, whereas fewer than three-quarter of them own books in their homes. That's kind of sad. According to the article, it claimed that 80% of children who had access to books in their home were better at reading than children who had less or no books. It said children coming from homes with books remained in education three years longer than kids who came from homes with fewer books. The study says there is a clear link to a child's reading ability when they have easy access to books at their home. Click here to read the article.

Now here's the funny part -- one of my friends posted this on Facebook yesterday. I read her friend's comments and one said she felt literacy levels were rising in the UK because children had cell phones. In order for them to keep in touch with friends, they have to know how to write. Hmmm. I don't know about you, but I'm not sure "OMG, ur so dum, FML n TTYL!" should be considered writing, more or less literate. I thought about it and tried to give kids a break. After all, I use some of those terms when I'm online. But to claim that literacy and communication skills are improving because of cells and texting is absolutely ludicrous. I read another article last night (on a totally different subject) and I was flabbergasted at the comments. Some were obviously written by kids. If you don't believe me, click here. Read the comments and tell me texting and cells are improving our children's communication skills. Please, I beg you. Take your time ... I can wait.

It's depressing when you think about it. Cells are one of my pet peeves. I'm not anti-phone and don't care if others have them. But, I don't need to be in a public restroom and have some lady next to me in another stall think she has to be on the phone while she's on the toilet. Nor do I like waiting at a register while someone text messages and holds the entire line up. Last summer I watched a toddler climb onto a table at the zoo and then fall off. Both his parents finally looked up from their phones only when they heard him crying. And don't even get me started on texting/talking while driving. I'm no saint and I've been on the phone in the car, but only if it's absolutely necessary. I'm a writer, not a chit-chatter or text fanatic. So anyway, it was depressing to hear that kids are more likely to own a cell than a book, but it was laughable when people tried to justify it. Sure, we have phones, but also have shelves and shelves of books. My office/classroom is filled with books. All my kids have bookshelves in their rooms. Right as I sit here, I have several books on my nightstand, a pile on my vanity stool, several more on the vanity itself, some sitting on the floor by my chair, and a big pile of books in a little hamper that need to be put away. Maybe we're just some sort of freakish book family and an exception to what's normal.

However, it's still sad. It's sad to see two friends sitting together, only to be ignoring each other with cells in their hands. Sure, they're communicating, but not with each other. Will this affect us as a society in the future? Kids are our future. What happens if these kids grow up and don't know how to sign their name, more or less write a complete sentence? If you think about it, it seems really grim. BUT! Yesterday I picked up our local paper and on the second page I read this heading: BHS Juniors Earn Recognition for Writing Skills. The article goes on to say how the juniors at Bigfork High School earned higher on their Montana University System Writing Assessment than others of previous years. They scored higher than any Class AA or A school in the state and tied for first among Class B schools. Bigfork was one of several schools in the top quartile that received Awards of Merit from the Montana Board of Regents. Now kids at Bigfork High aren't any different than kids in your town. They probably all have cell phones and that's no big deal. The fact of the matter is that there is hope. Sometimes you to look a little harder to see it. So, yay for the kids at BHS! And now I leave you with this -- TTFN! (I'll let you figure that one out.)


  1. The cells don't surprise me, but a house with NO books will never cease to boggle my mind. Still, how does a kid as young as 10 not lose or break a cell phone? Do they make indestructible kids' versions or something? Just remembering the teen phones that went through the wash at our house, I'm thinking these parents must be forking out a mint.

    As for the comments on that post -- they're almost too bad to be believable. I've seen bad before, but good grief. The worst seemed to belong to one or two posters, so I hope this was a fairly isolated situation.

  2. My children (still), grandchildren, and great-grandchildren receive books from me at Christmas every year, and will as long as I can give gifts.

    Some of my grandchildren have cell phones and still read, are literate; others have cell phones and can't write a decent simple sentence. Ish.

  3. I love to read and have slowly instilled that into our girls. We read to them every night and they have a plethora of selections to choose from.

    That pic kinda bothers me. One the one hand, I'm sure it was just a kid who was talking to someone on his parent's or grandparent's cell (in the realm of, "Hello" right before he handed the phone back). On the other hand, I do believe too many people have become ridiculously dependent on their cell phones. And to instill that into the next generation and actually think it's okay...*sigh*


  4. Rena, thanks for sharing this. I'm with you; my cell phone is never on, unless I'm away from home and then, mostly, because my 94 year old mom lives with us. My house is filled to overflowing with books: in the library, on the coffee table, in my office, by my bed, even the bathroom has magazines. Both my kids were valedictorians at their high school. My daughter now teaches Montessori school and is working on her masters in education. My son is finishing up his doctorate in computer science. Maybe all the books in the house were an inspiration...

  5. Wow - those commenters are hateful and defensive. I've not heard of that sex game and I'm in a small town - guess it's time to investigate.

    I agree about the cell phones though. My daughter tells me she prefers to text over calling and talking to anyone. I barely can form a text since I'm so worried about not being quick enough or spelling the words I want to spell. Granted when I chat with someone online, I very rarely use punctuation and capitalization but I do type everything out, not abbreviated or anything.

    The fact that kids with few or no books in the home and not being able to read or write has been around a long time. I'll be 48 next weekend and I can remember studies about this when I was in grade school - have to have books available to the kids in order to produce readers and writers.

    I don't think kids should have cells just to have them. Emergency purposes only, especially when they are of driving age. But alas, even though that was the intent when my husband gave in to the teens in our house and got them cell phones, that didn't last very long but mostly because he doesn't enforce anything he says he will; but who am I to argue, he's paying their bill not me. I have to keep my cell on at all times since it is my primary listed number as we don't have a home phone. I do have a home phone number but it is for internet only.

    Anyway - maybe one day parents will realize they are only contributing to the problem and will get the much needed slap in the face or kick in the butt to start changing things. It's never too late - E :)

    Elysabeth Eldering
    Author of the Junior Geography Detective Squad, 50-state, mystery, trivia series

    Where will the adventure take you next?