Saturday, February 23, 2008

- For those with young kids at home…

This isn’t a whole essay just a quickie.

My mom is deaf. She has been since she was about 30. Several others in my family also have poor hearing, including me. Certainly my choice of hobby, (where rifles and shotguns go boom just a few inches from my ear several hundred times a month) hasn't help my situation, but it's really a congenital thing. I can still hear well compared to my mom, but there are a number of frequencies which I simply don’t hear at all, and I’ve been that way for a long time. When I was taking my physical for the Army back in 198X… (Let’s just call it the Reagan Administration), they had to give me the hearing test 3 times, and even then I think I was only passed through because of politics.

Anyway, thanks to my mom, I’ve become thoroughly addicted to “closed captioning” even though I can usually hear whatever is on the TV without it. In my house we leave it on full time now, and run every rented movie with subtitles in English. It’s not so much for me, although as the years have advanced so has my reliance on it, but it’s really for my 7 year old daughter.

She’s been home for the last few days with a chest cold and fever, and was sleeping yesterday on the couch in the living room. When she nodded off, I took the opportunity to turn off Sponge Bob, and turn on something that was still child safe (just in case she woke up) but was just a little more grown up. I settled Mythbusters even though it was a rerun.

Anyway, the punch line is that when my daughter woke up, I didn’t notice. I only realized she was awake when she asked me “Daddy is one of these guys really named Archimedes?” I realized that she was lying there silently reading the subtitles just like me, and had made the mistake of assuming that “Archimedes” was one of the guys on the show. I marveled at the fact that she had read and pronounced the name correctly, and then explained who he was.

We’re not puritans my wife and I, when it comes to TV. My daughter spends about the same amount of time every day in front of one as she does reading a book. But I hadn’t realized how she had actually been reading the subtitles all along. Oh, I guess I always knew she could be, but this was the first time I was certain of it because the sound was turned all the way off. That seemed to me to be a good thing, and in retrospect it must have helped her reading skills by virtue of repetition if nothing else.

She reads considerably better than her grade level. She holds the all time record in her school for most books read in the first grade. Her room is littered with books and we spend a lot of time reading together and separately. She’s seen both my wife and I spending a substantial amount of time reading, and she calls it one of her favorite things to do. And in retrospect, I can’t help but think that having the closed captioning running on a full time basis has helped her in that regard.

So I wanted to offer this small suggestion to parents of kids who are just learning reading skills in English. If you turn the TV on at all, make sure you also run the closed captioning. Like the man said, it can’t hurt.

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