Wilbers: Here's how to help the next generation write as well as we do

  • Article by: STEPHEN WILBERS , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2013 - 2:00 PM

I’m worried about my granddaughter. She’s 6 months old and hasn’t spoken, read or written her first word yet. I’m trying to be a good grandfather and support her two wonderful parents, but I can’t help wondering if we’re doing something wrong.

I’m afraid we’re neglecting the new technologies that promote language skills. So I made up a list of 12 things we can all do to ensure that the next generation writes as well as we do:

1. Don’t read to your children. Instead, give them something to watch. Watching requires less effort than reading.

2. Don’t buy those sturdy cardboard books that infants can drool on. Your electronic devices can be wiped dry after use with a soft absorbent cloth.

3. Never let a child see you reading a book. If you’ve not yet broken the habit, read only after the little ones are in bed.

4. Keep all books on high shelves and out of reach of children. If you don’t have any books in your home, you’re good.

5. Don’t buy those mobiles with little objects that rattle and jingle. Developing infants can get all the spatial awareness and tactile experience they need by banging on a keyboard.

6. Do video calls with friends and relatives as often as possible to create an early fascination with little electronic devices that produce pictures and sounds. The more screen time the better.

7. Provide age-appropriate electronic devices. Consider getting those nifty iPads for children. They can keep your children occupied for hours while you play video games.

8. TV is all right but it’s an old-fashioned way to foster lifelong habits. Better to create a video library for your children and teach them how to access and manipulate it as early as possible.

9. If a newspaper still appears on your front porch every morning, cancel your subscription. Newspapers are almost as harmful as books. Besides, they’re irrelevant in a democracy where informed citizens can get everything they need to know on TV and in blogs.

10. If you have a piano that isn’t electronic, get rid of it. Anything that can’t be plugged in is of limited value to your child’s development. It may even be harmful.

11. While you’re at it, clear your home of all musical instruments, electronic or otherwise. Having them around may create an interest in learning to read music, an activity that can enhance reading skills beyond what is needed to read text messages and short articles on the Internet.

12. Make sure teachers aren’t teaching children cursive writing. Printing is fine for short messages, and a facility with handwriting creates tactile relationships with letters and words that might make children overly comfortable with language.

Now that I’ve made up my list, I’m having second thoughts about sending it to my daughter and son-in-law. It might offend them. They both love to read, they read to my granddaughter every day and they limit her screen time to video chats with Grammy and Grampy.

Still, I’m worried.

Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at wilbe004@umn.edu. His website is www.wilbers.com.

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