Friday, September 4, 2009

Take a Look, It's in a Book

I just published an article online about the recent end of a PBS show, Reading Rainbow, and I thought it was worth discussing it here. I'm a huge believer in public television, and I wish this country would invest more to guarantee its future. I think that PBS was immensely important in my informal education, inspiring me to love what I was learning for something more than grades.

As everything seems to be moving more and more towards teaching basic skills only, I wonder what happens when all you know is how to read and not why. Of course it's important to learn spelling and grammar, but the next level is using it, and if you don't use it, it's a skill half-learned. I remember spending so many days in public school on standardized testing that was truly a waste of time, because it dealt with things I had already learned, but I still had to take the test, and most classes taught to the test rather than to the actual subject. If you only learn grammar for the sake of a test, that's negative reinforcement in my view, and that will only go so far.

What Reading Rainbow, Wishbone, Mister Rogers Neighborhood and other PBS shows did for me was beyond what I can explain. It was just as important as my parents reading to me at night and having some truly involved teachers. These shows influenced my way of thinking about learning and reading, and without them, I don't know who I would be. Perhaps I was always meant to be a word person, maybe it's in my DNA, but even if it is nature, certainly this nurture was critical.

So it's the end of an era. I hope that budding wordsmiths will still be inspired to explore reading and writing, but I fear that this might be a loss for them. Maybe I need to buy some of the DVDs if I ever have kids, because who knows what will be on television by then.

Anyway, if anyone wants to read the article, you can find it here.

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