Monday, April 21, 2008

Helicopter Parents vs. Real Danger

I was speaking at library recently and a few kids were hanging out at my table after all my books were signed, telling me all about this and that. One fifth grade girl told me her mom doesn't like her to go to the library. "Why not?" I asked. "She's afraid I'll get shot by gang members while walking over here," she told me kind of matter-of-factly. Yikes! Some kids just have it tougher. Tougher neighborhood. Tougher home life. Tougher school. Thank goodness for the neighborhood library. During my visit, I really felt like this library was a refuge for these kids, a place to hide from the outside world, to be surrounded and protected by books. And, hopefully, those same books may even transport them to new, faraway places.

I recalled this girl's story when I stumbled across an interesting article on Newsweek's website about whether parents today are overprotective of their kids. Are things more dangerous now for kids than they were 30 years ago? Are modern kids too coddled? One mom let her son ride the subway home alone, sans cell phone, and later wrote about it. She got blasted for being a neglectful parent. The article has a great title: Helicopter Moms vs. Free-Range Kids. Good stuff that you can read here.

I'm always bashing TV—especially too much TV for kids. We don't have TV at our house, so regulating it is easy. But I do sometime get my feathers ruffled by those who say TV is good for your diaper-clad rug monkey, especially "educational" programming for kids on stations like PBS. An article on the Washington Post's website points out, rather interestingly, that most young children don't possess the cognitive firepower to have any real understanding of much of the stuff they're watching. Not only that, but kids often misinterpret or miss altogether the "messages" that many of these shows are trying to convey. If you let your little droolers watch TV, read what the latest research has to say about what they should be watching here.

I was green with envy when I saw this article about My Beautiful Mommy, a picture book that deals with a mom going under the knife to "fix" her flaws. (Don't get me started!) Man, talk about great publicity! This dang story was on every single website I visited. Putting aside the book's merits and flaws, when was the last time a picture book got this much attention? Do you know what all that publicity is worth in media dollars? Millions! My dad used to tell my brothers and me, "It doesn't matter what they're saying about you, as long as they're saying something." But the raspberries in this case were pretty thunderous. Now how could I get this kind of publicity for next year's release of my first picture books? Maybe I should get pec implants before I go on tour!

Not to end on a sour note, but this article from Publisher's Weekly about RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) losing its funding is a real drag. I've met lots of kids whose only books in their rooms at home are from RIF's free book distribution program. There are links in the article if you'd like to encourage your representative, senator or the president to continue RIF's funding.

Chow for now!