The Bart Simpson Myth

In a National Geographic Magazine study, over 80% of kids ages 6 – 14 think that learning is:

A.    A drag
B.     A waste of time
C.    BO-RING
D.     Fun!

Believe it or not, the answer is “D”. Kids think learning is fun – this is encouraging news for parents and educators.

More good news includes the people kids describe as their top role models – the list includes mom and dad, teachers, Bill Gates and J.K. Rowling. Gates and Rowling are actual people – not experts in the usual sense of the word. They produced something meaningful and fun that’s inspiring to children.

I think that we get further faster if we anticipate the tastes of and consider children’s development. Demanding that children adapt to our sensibilities is not going to work and could create a backlash.  I can’t think of any subject that cannot be made interesting. Inspired teaching is really about honoring the tastes of children. I don’t want people to think that I advocate a free-for-all or am against standards.  I want to make the point that we can make math, history, or any subject matter interesting if we care to do so.  That is what “honoring the tastes” means to me.

Children consume the education products, yet we too infrequently ask for, or even care about the child’s input.  I’ve been guilty of it myself ( see“torture” blog post below).

When we created Skatekids.com, our development team worked alongside the children, interviewing and observing them in play. We made adjustments based our own observations and, more importantly, feedback from the child. This was critical in creating an experience that ensures plenty of time on task and enthusiastic engagement with the product.

To this day, children send suggestions, fan mail, complaints, and comments to help guide us in building the very best software.

I’m a strong supporter of teaching a variety of subjects (not only reading and not just the three Rs) history, mathematics, art, technology, social sciences, languages and the like are vital to a child’s complete education. Yet, I also know that reading other literature can be a springboard to a vast array of subjects. Here are a few things I believe that can help you to foster a love of literature in kids:

Life is Interesting – and nearly everything can be made interesting, including knowledge and skills taught in academic settings.

Respect the tastes of children – especially early in education. This gives the best chance of showing the value of reading and demonstrating that reading is an enjoyable and enriching activity. Even poor readers will read for pleasure if given access to interesting content. A football fan could immerse himself in a biography of a favorite player that also might include information on geography, statistics and  psychology.

Inspire continued curiosity – Perhaps the greatest aim of education is to inspire children to seek out activities and subject matter that they love. This is so important, I’ve written a post on it – check it out to learn how my wife and I strive to inspire curiosity in our four kids.

Children seek out the printed word all of the time outside of school and you should encourage this every day. Another important statistic in the National Geographic study is that 93% of students reported learning from experiences outside the classroom. Kids apply what they know about literacy to billboards, magazines, department store signs, video games, and other community areas where reading material is encountered.

Links used in post:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2003/06/0610_030610_kidssmart.html

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/exec/billg/?tab=biography
http://www.jkrowling.com/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_three_Rs

1 Comment

Filed under educational gaming, literacy, parenting, Reading, skatekids, Tweets

One response to “The Bart Simpson Myth

  1. Great post, Marty. It forced me to think about the types of reading that interested me as a child. At about eight years old I was obsessed with animals, so my parents would purchase different Disney picture books about various animals- I had this tiger one that I just couldn’t get enough of and took it everywhere! They nurtured my interest in reading, and allowed me to expand to literature outside of the school’s curriculum. Thanks to their support, I am an avid reader today 🙂

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