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Learning To Read With Click and Jane

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the that's-no-book dept.

Education 115

theodp writes "While earlier generations learned to Read with Dick and Jane, the NYT Magazine reports that today's tykes are getting their reading chops at online sites like Starfall (free) and One More Story (subscription). Quoting the Times Magazine: 'In their book "Freakonomics," Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt write that kids who grow up in houses packed with books fare better on school tests than those who grow up with fewer books.' So how will kids who learn to read online fare when they grow up?"

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115 comments

They learn to read online? (1, Insightful)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680079)

Aye tink day will bee find.

Kid that grow up with houses packed with books... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680189)

they do well in school ? Wow totally shocking. I would have thought that it was the kids that grew up playing video games that did well.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680203)

the kids that grew up playing video games that did well.

Story of my life.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

Adult film producer (866485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26682717)

Mine too and look how I turned out.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (0, Troll)

2.7182 (819680) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680223)

Thing is, that if a family has a lot of books in their house, they are probably are reasonably wealthy. (In particular, not working class. In other words, people with money have kids that tend to do better in school.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680341)

You can control for that easily in the analysis, and I'm betting at least a few studies have done so. But you're certainly correct that middle-class (and above) kids are much more likely to do better. Malcolm Gladwell in "Outliers" explores one key aspect of this, which is a different and more engaged and encouraging parenting style.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680387)

Thing is, that if a family has a lot of books in their house, they are probably are reasonably wealthy. (In particular, not working class. In other words, people with money have kids that tend to do better in school.

Who modded this comment 'interesting'? more like troll...

Your comment is total BS. 2nd generation 'working class', we get by paycheck to paycheck, and that didn't keep us from acquiring a 4000+ volume library over the years - some from my own childhood.

It has entirely to do with interest in knowledge, not wealth. If you were raised with that, you'll wind up with books.

An interest in money doesn't correlate at all with knowledge - look around at the economy today. It took some finely focused stupidity to create this mess.

Books are NOT expensive. Compared to the plethora of other ways to waste 10-30 bucks, a book is an investment. A GOOD book is a gem.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680901)

An interest in money doesn't correlate at all with knowledge - look around at the economy today. It took some finely focused stupidity to create this mess

Even Madoff will come out of it wealthy, while you'll be moving into the 3rd generation of working class.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681601)

How do you make a small fortune? Start with a large one.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26681313)

Your comment is total BS. 2nd generation 'working class', we get by paycheck to paycheck, and that didn't keep us from acquiring a 4000+ volume library over the years - some from my own childhood.

You appear to have fallen into the old pitfall of "taking statistics personally." You may have done an awesome job of exceeding the expected educational outcomes for your tax bracket, and you may even have found it pretty easy.

And it does nothing to change the fact that people with money generally have more books than people without.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681567)

(or is it that people with books generally have more money than people without?)

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (2, Interesting)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681739)

But did you know that there are many places around the world where you can have access to 200,000 or more books, for free? Its called a library. And while not everyone can afford books, almost anyone can go into a public library and read all they want.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (3, Interesting)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681921)

...people with money generally have more books than people without.

Within the context established by previous posts (where 'people without money' == 'working class'), above quote is a bald-faced assertion and more than likely wrong.

From what I've seen of middle class life styles in America, most people in the USA who have significant disposable income have more space devoted to their collections of CDs, DVDs, and computer games than they do in bookshelves. And then there is the camper with the water ski boat on the trailer, the TV in every room, the gaming computer for each family member, and the multiple iPods. With all that to play with, there is not a whole lot of time left for reading, so of course a big home library is not that important to the lifestyle.

A single bookcase in the study does not a home library make. A working class home with boxes of used paperbacks stacked in the corners of the living room and the bedrooms, brought home from the Goodwill Store, is a more literate home.

There are an awful lot of people in the USA who are living close to the hand to mouth level who are more literate than most of the upper middle class. Books, especially used paperbacks, are cheaper and in many ways much more satisfying entertainment than the unaffordable toys of the middle class.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

BeerCat (685972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681323)

Books are cheap, but the storage of the books is seen (by both (some)"wealthy" and (some)"poor") as expensive

However, "rich" parents with no interest in knowledge are more likely to indulge their offspring with an interest in books than "poor" parents with no interest in knowledge.

Hence, "rich" kids will tend to have more exposure to books than "poor" kids (excepting those cross-class boundaries of those interested in knowledge for its own sake)

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

Bodrius (191265) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681391)

I'm not sure that is entirely accurate - books in general are not that expensive, but some (arguably necessary) books ARE somewhat expensive. As any professional or college student, or many precocious high school students, can attest.

It really all depends on many factors: areas of knowledge, level of education we're talking about, geographical location, and availability of used books sales.

Some of this is balanced out now by easy access to public libraries and to basic information online (in my opinion, the true value of the internet). But this doesn't apply to every branch of knowledge, or every location, in the same way - e.g.: I still get requests to bring a medical book or two when I visit family out of the US.

I do agree with you on two things:

- General non-specialized books are a MUCH better value in the US than anything else you could buy for your family at that price range.
    Both for direct benefits (~1-3 bucks per hour, divided by the # of readers), and indirect benefits (literacy, ability to focus, and general education).

- The 'wealth difference' levels out pretty quickly (assuming access to a good public library system), and is not terribly relevant for any middle-class family.
    It's not a matter of accumulating books as if they were jewelry - I doubt the wealthier family with 50000 books is that much better than the family with 5000, if those 5K are good books (and why would you keep any other?).
      It's really a matter of inculcating a reading habit, and the skills that come with that - and in that sense, 'book flow', as in easy/ongoing access to unread books, is more important than 'book wealth' (very large collections).

Ignore the books for a second (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26683455)

The best way of predicting how children will turn out is to look at their parents (this was also pointed out by Dubner). So, the grandparent is, in a sense, correct.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (4, Insightful)

blincoln (592401) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680403)

Thing is, that if a family has a lot of books in their house, they are probably are reasonably wealthy. (In particular, not working class. In other words, people with money have kids that tend to do better in school.

While I think it's true that the children of the wealthy are more likely to get a better education, I don't think that's the main force at work here.

Reading a book is a very different experience than reading something online. It requires a greater commitment/attention span, and the reward in return is a greater understanding of the subject (for non-fiction) or immersion in the story (for fiction). This is assuming the books are good, of course.

I suspect that children who "learn to read online" are going to have an even worse attention span than I do (and mine is pretty terrible). I also suspect that they will have a much more superficial understanding of the things they've read, and that their comprehension of spelling and grammar will be abysmal.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (5, Insightful)

jdigriz (676802) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680953)

Reading a book is a very different experience than reading something online. It requires a greater commitment/attention span, and the reward in return is a greater understanding of the subject (for non-fiction) or immersion in the story (for fiction). This is assuming the books are good, of course.

I read books online at both the Baen free library http://www.baen.com/library/ [baen.com] and Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/ [gutenberg.org] . Other than being able to click directly to the chapter I'm at, and to scroll instead of turn the page, I don't consider it a "very different" experience. Perhaps you meant that short-form reading -magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, cereal boxes- is a very different experience from long-form reading. And most web material tends toward essays, articles and short blurbs. There's nothing about the words being displayed as pixels rather than blobs of ink that makes for a different experience, at least for me. I understand that some people find it more difficult to focus on a screen for long periods compared to paper. But then again, some people find glossy laptop screens to be annoying as well.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (2, Informative)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681073)

I agree. About 8 years ago I had an HP Jornada PDA, and I found a library of some thousands of books, classics and sci-fi that had been ripped and scanned into either txt or .lit formats that I could load on the PDA and read. Didn't bother me in the slightest. I read probably 100 books that way. Click for the next page, always have my book in my pocket, I can read at night (backlight) or during the daytime...it was a good experience.

I wish they had better ebook offerings for the iPhone, as mine is always with me. It would be great if you could buy the Kindle versions of books and load them on the iPhone.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

zugmeister (1050414) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681687)

I did the same thing. Recently, I've replaced my 12" Lenovo with a 10" netbook for my primary device to read off of. At $400 (yeah, Lenovo again) it beats holy hell out of a Kindle / Sony ereader / whatever.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26682693)

I disagree on this one. I hair a small tablet PC which is perfect size for reading (Sam as a book) and I have a Sony PR 5-505. I refuse to read on the tablet but have red hundreds of novels on the Sony. It is way to easy to get distracted reading on a computer. The screen on the Sony is ***So*** much easier in the eyes. The form factor of the Sony is way better for holding + reading. It is worth the $300 for the additional dedicated divice I used a Toshiba e805 before the Sony & thought it was great, and it was) but after using the Sony for a week or two, I'll never go back.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26681093)

Entirely different.

Books smell, and feel... and it's a very tactile thing. Books just plain feel good to hold, and are usable in pretty much any sort of light. Books don't wash out and become unusable if it's "too bright". Books don't have an "optimum viewing angle". Books don't take batteries. I can lay down on my back and read a book.

And reading a text on a computer is just plain annoying. It's like in Ferris Bueller, or High Fidelity.... there I am, enjoying the story, my disbelief fully suspended... and then someone just HAS to go and break that fourth wall. Shit.
A book I can stay absorbed, and I turn pages without a thought... visualizing everything in my head... I can't very well get completely engrossed in a story if I have to constantly hit the stupid ass scroll wheel or scroll button, or click some stupid ass link, or some stupid ass button to go to the next page.

Plus there is absolutely NOTHING like having your own private library. I constantly loan out books to people, and people are constantly loaning out books to me... Not to mention that wonderful smell of old paper, leather, and time.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

Mprx (82435) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681401)

Books don't have an "optimum viewing angle" because all viewing angles are equally bad. No matter how you hold the book either your arms or you neck will get tired. I'll always read on screen rather than paper if I have the choice. The only advantage of books is the higher resolution printing, but you can increase the screen text size and sit further back to compensate.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

spazdor (902907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681447)

At least i don't have to turn some stupid ass page.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

_Sprocket_ (42527) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681679)

I hear you. There's nothing like a book. However, I'm also a fan of electronic text. Some reasons are...

I can pack a couple books in a easy-to-carry form factor. Even a single "pocket book" softcover is larger than my trusty 'ole PDA. And when I'm almost done with the book I'm reading, no problem, I have the other one (or several) loaded and ready to go.

I don't need a nightlight to read my book in bed. No problems with bad lighting. The PDA's backlight keeps everything nice and easy to see (if it does sacrifice my battery charge).

Easy to bookmark and annotate. I can do these things to my heart's content without worrying about losing a bookmark or damaging my book.

As for your comments...

I've read my electronic books on my back. I've never had to worry about an "optimum viewing angle". I have had to scurry for a charger to keep my PDA from shutting down - usually at night when I'm using that power-hungry backlight. I've never had the page turning or scrolling interupt my ability to become absorbed in a book.

Again - I'm a fan of having a library. I'm a fan of the tactile feel of a book. I enjoy sitting back with a book even if there are inconveniences in doing so. But I've also found that there are advantages to the electronic format as well. And if I had my way, every physical book I buy (and I'll continue to buy them) would come with an electronic copy to fill my digital library as well.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (4, Funny)

paintswithcolour (929954) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681569)

It's not just the viewing experience. Computers almost always do something crazy to my attention span; I can read a book for a long time, but on a computer I'd struggle to concentrate. It happens with almost everything, watching movies, reading, writing on a computer - there's an overwhelming feeling that I could just be doing something else too. I'm just too weak willed and...

Not enough data (3, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680513)

if a family has a lot of books in their house, they are probably are reasonably wealthy. (In particular, not working class. In other words, people with money have kids that tend to do better in school

That may be true, but it's not enough to tell which is the cause and which is effect. It could be that money is needed to buy books, and maybe poor people would have other priorities.

An alternative explanation would be that intelligent people read more, and intelligent people are more likely to be wealthy, because few people like being poor and if one's intelligent enough one will find ways to avoid poverty.

It could be that having books is a consequence of being wealthy, or being wealthy is a consequence of having books, or they are both consequences of another factor.

And what if having kids that do well in school is a cause, not a consequence, of having books at home? Because if kids do well at school they will have an incentive to read more, and will ask their parents to buy more books?

Re:Not enough data (3, Insightful)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680609)

And what if having kids that do well in school is a cause, not a consequence, of having books at home? Because if kids do well at school they will have an incentive to read more, and will ask their parents to buy more books?

More likely the opposite- if the parents own a lot of books, they likely care about their literacy and learning. That influences their children's opinions of both. And if they find learning important, they're more likely to help tech their kids and to take an active interest in their schooling. So its not likely the presence of book, but a root cause behind both of them.

Re:Not enough data (1)

epee1221 (873140) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680885)

More likely the opposite- if the parents own a lot of books, they likely care about their literacy and learning.

This is pretty much exactly the conclusion given in Freakonomics.

Re:Not enough data (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26681277)

Grew up dirt poor. Like... half a step above "christmas is for other kids" kind of poor.

That said... My mother recognized my desire to read and learn at an early age... so when I asked if we could get an encyclopedia set.... She found a way. A few weeks later, a local grocery store started selling a new volume of the Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia... one at a time, every two weeks I think it was. We weren't able to afford a new volume every time one came out, so we skipped around a bit... but when the set was done, and the store went back to the As... we got the ones we were missing.

And boy did I think that was cool. The minute we bought a new volume, I'd obsess over it. The words and concepts I didn't understand I'd ask about. I got my first dictionary and my first thesaurus that way at a yard sale... Thinking back, it was very cool what my mom did... There were a lot of things that she didn't know, but she always found a way to help answer my questions.... and more importantly - she'd learn with me so that she could better understand the things I'd want to learn and be able to help me more in the future.... and we'd read and discuss what we read...

Got my first library card (shortly after we completed the encyclopedia set) from the hospital library (I was kind of sick growing up, but I digress..)... and when I wanted to know more about something from the encyclopedias.... the librarian and my mom would help me out. I started spending a great deal of time there, and eventually exhausted their very small collection of books. So I discovered the public library system, and intra-library loans... and then inter-library loans. I got my second library card when I was nine because my mom couldn't afford the gas to take me to the library more than once a week, and my library card was only good for a dozen books I think.

I started building my personal library when I was fourteen and got my first summer job. My family wasn't rich at that point, either, and neither was I.... but used books from the library are cheap, and I discovered used book stores. An friend of mine used to drive me up to Half-Price Books, which I thought was the coolest place ever.

Anyway... the point of all this being that I have several college degrees, my own business, and I'm a partner in three other businesses. I went from being so broke that Kool-Aid was a treat.... to being 20 years old, too young to drink, and making more in a month than most people make in a year. When the economy changed, and I wasn't able to travel for personal reasons.... I re-tooled my business, adapted, and came out pretty damn well. I can't speak for others, but I can tell you that the secret to my success was the never-say-die attitude, the intuition, the hunger for understanding, and the resourcefulness that I learned from books and the mother who always found a way to entertain my curiosity.

Without books, and without the kind of parenting and tutelage I had... I can say for a fact that I wouldn't be the person I am.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (4, Interesting)

NewbieProgrammerMan (558327) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680617)

Thing is, that if a family has a lot of books in their house, they are probably are reasonably wealthy. (In particular, not working class. In other words, people with money have kids that tend to do better in school.

I'd say that a family that has a lot of books in their house probably gives a shit about learning things whether they're wealthy or not. When I was a kid, we were frequently at or below the poverty line in terms of family income, and my parents had never been wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but we had thousands of books in the house--far more than any of my friends with wealthy parents.

I'm sure there's a correlation between wealth and academic performance, but it's probably two effects from the same cause in most cases: the parents have a habit of learning things, and that makes them more likely to have better jobs and children that care about learning.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (3, Interesting)

LurkerXD (996914) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680979)

While it may be true that having books around the house is related to disposable income, that does not mean that poorer parents can't encourage their children to become literate and interested in knowledge. In my case, my parents are only middle class-ish, but they most definitely went out of their way to provide plenty of books for me and my siblings to read (they're both teachers.) Instead of buying more obvious forms of entertainment, like video games or movies, my parents would instead buy books. However, when my interests turned more to technical stuff, I would simply visit the local library to fulfill my needs.

My mother also would often send me and my siblings to a local library after school so we would could get my homework done. In retrospect, that was one of the smartest decisions she ever made in raising me. It sure beat what I am sure is the insane cost of daycare, and it pretty much forced me to do my schoolwork. Even if for some reason I didn't want to do my homework, well, guess what, the only thing else to do at that point was read one of the hundreds of books sitting around me. Either way I ended up becoming a more educated individual, a definite win-win if there ever was one.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

conlaw (983784) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681431)

I was wondering if anyone would get to this point. Our family was not at all rich and we never had lots of books around, let alone a house packed with them, but we went to the library at least twice a month. These days, I enjoy reading news stories and short articles on line, but I don't think I'll ever lose the enjoyment of turning that first page of a new book.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (1)

mysticgoat (582871) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681969)

I do not think that number of books in the house is related to disposable income.

Large numbers of people with significant disposable income spend it on ski lift tickets, fancy automobiles, DVDs, iPods, and other non-literary goodies. Large numbers of people who have little disposable income find their entertainment at the used book section of the local Goodwill store and at the local library. Turning the kids loose in the children's section of a library or used book store has always been, and still is, a common way to brighten a child's day.

Re:Kid that grow up with houses packed with books. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26682343)

Thing is, that if a family has a lot of books in their house, they are probably are reasonably wealthy. ...

Sorry, but that old socialist chestnut doesn't hold up. It's been proven time and again that the importance placed on reading and education by the family and culture makes the difference. This is especially true in countries with public libraries.

I grew up with a single, working parent from a lower economic background, but we read together every night form the time I was a toddler thanks to the public library and reading programs. I graduated 4th in my class and did rather well, thank you, despite coming from a working class background.

Granted I got teased a lot and called geeky...

In soviet AI labs.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680587)

...graduates students teach computers to read!!

Re:They learn to read online? (2, Funny)

code4fun (739014) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680471)

Aye tink day will bee find.

close enough

It's true. (3, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680099)

Hooked on Slashdot worked for me.

internet speak? (3, Insightful)

overcaffein8d (1101951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680103)

LOL WTF OMG

This will be how kids speak if they learn to read only with the internet.

then again, some people already do.

Re:internet speak? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680133)

Don't forget that it's a big internet. If we're lucky the kids will find their way to Project Gutenberg.

Re:internet speak? (0, Flamebait)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680349)

Don't be such an elitist, in our global economy, today's youth will have to outcompete the chinese in goatse related careers as well...

Re:internet speak? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680663)

Youths competing in goatse related careers? That's disturbing.

Re:internet speak? (2, Funny)

spazdor (902907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681563)

I can scarcely believe the preceding two comments were by a registered user and an AC respectively, rather than the other way 'round.

Re:internet speak? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680559)

the scary thing is that it is all ready happening in college. I have found girls in my group projects who have used lol and omg. It is to late! but thankfully has only affected women so far...

Re:internet speak? (2, Interesting)

Korin43 (881732) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680727)

I learned how to type and spell because of playing video games. That was MUDs though. I sometimes wonder how things will be different with newer games. It seems like people will still need to learn to type fairly quickly to play a game like WoW (at least if they want to be in a group), but it's not like a MUD where you have to spell everything perfectly because you're talking to a computer.

Re:internet speak? (1)

innocent_white_lamb (151825) | more than 5 years ago | (#26682859)

I learned to type in school. Typing class with Underwood manual typewriters, where I was the only boy in the class. However, I never really learned to type the numbers very well. I could (and still can) out-type most secretaries, but numbers were something that I was never good at.

Until I got my Commodore 64.

Then I started typing in programs out of Compute! magazine, with their MLX program, and learned to type the numbers. To this day, I never use the number pad on the side of a keyboard. I always use the numbers across the top of the keyboard.

Typing class was one of the smartest things that I took in school. I learned to type, and do a lot of other things that many people don't seem to know how to do any more. How to fold a letter properly to fit into an envelope is almost a lost art, it seems.

I leanred to red on /. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680123)

and it shows. Freakonomicy!

Dick & Jane (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680125)

I learned a lot of things by watching videos on Dick & Jane's paysite.

Re:Dick & Jane (2, Funny)

palegray.net (1195047) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680179)

That's the funniest thing I've seen on Slashdot in days. Thank you, you owe me a new keyboard.

Re:Dick & Jane (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26681265)

That's the funniest thing I've seen on Slashdot in days. Thank you, you owe me a new keyboard.

Ewww.

Re:Dick & Jane (1)

db32 (862117) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681531)

Wouldn't that actually be Dick in Jane?

I'll remain illiterate (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680149)

Please install the Flash Player Plugin or

  UPGRADE YOUR BROWSER.

YUCK!!!

Re:I'll remain illiterate (2, Informative)

Creepy Crawler (680178) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680181)

I'd say this whole article is made of FAIL.

Bad links. Bad sites. IM SP33K. And if you search for "Dick and Jane"..

Not cool.

Re:I'll remain illiterate (1)

shar303 (944843) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681335)

Quick question, have you actually visited the starfall site???

I'm afraid to say that it looks like a dogs dinner to me. Chances are it probably works as well as it looks.

Like most stuff that sticks to the "html than thou" attitude it comes across as a rotten 90s throwback. Definitely unfit for consumption.

If you actually ever have anything to do with educational software in any way shape or form (as I do) then you might find out that this is just another example of why Flash is king, like it or not.

Re:I'll remain illiterate (1)

Beezlebub33 (1220368) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681419)

My kids love Starfall. They read with me, they read by themselves, they read everywhere, but they also love to go to Starfall and play with it. The younger one (4 years old) gets reinforcement (whe knows them all now) with letter and sounds (that's level 1 on the screen) and is playing with level 2. The older one (6 years old) has pretty much outgrown it, but it was good in helping her.

The fact that it's flash means that it's interactive. The fact that it looks like a dog's breakfast means that kids are interested in it. The layout of the letters and stories is very intuitive (you just pick one!) and the green arrows is blindingly obvious. But it's the little features like the ability to click on the individual words and have them pronounced, or the animations of what to do next that really make it work.

For example, go to: http://www.starfall.com/n/short-u/su/load.htm?f [starfall.com] Yes, it's childish, but for heavens sake, it's for a child! It makes it clear what to do, and how to do it, and it emphasizes what it's trying to teach (the sound of the letter 'u'). So, it's a very good educational site.

Re:I'll remain illiterate (1)

BeerCat (685972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681385)

completely off topic (or is it*)

love the sig.

--
*The on-topic bit: knowledge of how things should stay put or move can be garnered by experience or reading about other people's experiences.
Or, put more simply - "learn more by doing, or by reading (whichever is quicker)"

I hate this tag, but... (5, Insightful)

do_kev (1086225) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680161)

Correlation is not causation. Presumably, it is not the mere presence of the books, shooting off their "bookly cosmic rays," that is the causal force which leads to children doing better on tests. Rather, there are two presumable possibilities, both of which probably work concurrently:

1. The kind of parents who own a lot of books are generally of above-average intelligence, and hence produce offspring that are as well.

2. The kind of parents who own a lot of books are likely to either read books to their children, encourage their children to read themselves.

The medium through with the information is conveyed likely matters very little, if at all, and so long as the children receive adequate instruction on how to access materials to read, and encouragement to actually do so, they will fare just fine.

Re:I hate this tag, but... (5, Informative)

SDuane (90331) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680235)

Your points 1 & 2 are precisely the same conclusion drawn by Dubner and Levitt in Freakonomics. They make it in reference to a program the city of Chicago enacted to send books to kids in hopes that they would get smarter by osmosis or something. You'd think by the off-handed way the Freakonomics reference was made that the submitter would've recognized that. I guess reading the allusory material is about as highly regarded as reading the original article around here...

Re:I hate this tag, but... (1)

BeerCat (685972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681423)

Your points 1 & 2 are precisely the same conclusion drawn by Dubner and Levitt in Freakonomics. They make it in reference to a program the city of Chicago enacted to send books to kids in hopes that they would get smarter by osmosis or something.

And yet sometimes it might just work - my wife is still astounded by her own mother looking at our bookshelves and commenting "have you read all them?"
Clearly, she became a voracious reader in spite of, rather than because of, points 1, 2 & your comment above

Re:I hate this tag, but... (2, Insightful)

Gorobei (127755) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680491)

Agreed, though I'd add:

3. Kids emulate their parents, so if the parents read a lot, the kids will tend too, as well.

My kids are 4 and 6, and I pretty much let them do whatever they want media-wise (no X rated, but otherwise, fine.) They mostly make choices we parents approve of.

Re:I hate this tag, but... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680687)

I grew up in a house full of books. I will say my parents were above average, but not by that much. My dad worked in a mill, my mom was a housewife. They had high school educations.

At some point dad's younger co-workers asked what he did to encourage his kids to read -- "When they picked up a book, I didn't bat it out of their hands." That's fairly accurate. Dad and mom were pretty normal TV-watching suburbanites, but they also liked to read. Newspapers, novels, sci-fi, magazines, history -- it wasn't something special.

What /was/ different is we had a good local library and went there weekly, just like groceries. I picked up my parents' habit of simply getting a large stack of whatever looked interesting, and finding out if it was interesting during the week. That access to variety was key.

The internet delivers that variety. Like libraries it is terrific access for young minds. But just like when I was a kid, only a certain percentage will turn out to be avid readers of thoughtful sources. Most won't. IMHO you should only expect a small increase representing the kids who would be avid readers but previously didn't have much access.

Re:I hate this tag, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680763)

You sir, are far to logical to be posting online. Please return your interwebs immediately; you're making the rest of us look bad.

Freakonomics (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680165)

It's not the books that cause the kids to do better. It's the fact that type types of parents who stock their houses with books are those who will produce better children. In other words, the books don't cause the good output, they simply reflect the environment that causes the good output. Thus whether one learns to read via books or computers isn't important; it's mainly what the parents do.

Re:Freakonomics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680729)

Agreed. This is what used to be known as "good breeding", and it has nothing to do with genetics.

Even shorter attention spans ... (2, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680191)

For one, even shorter attention spans than today ...

Second, they'll want to see a [citation needed], and if it's not on the net, they'll refuse to believe it exists.

Third, since they won't be "into dead tree newspapers", expect to see a rise in the number of people who bring their laptops into the john with them ... and also expect to hear more of "the sound of one hand clapping" ...

Fourth, most "science projects" will degenerate into "does it blend"?

Fifth, teachers will have to accept "a virus ate my homework" since they'll be saying "a virus ate your final mark" much of the time.

Re:Even shorter attention spans ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680477)

Third, since they won't be "into dead tree newspapers", expect to see a rise in the number of people who bring their laptops into the john with them ...

They're going to wipe their asses with their laptops?

Re:Even shorter attention spans ... (1)

Geekner (1080577) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680485)

1. What? Sorry, wasn't paying attention. Not much I can say about this one.

2. This is actually a good thing, it may teach them to be critical of the world. There is plenty of bias, and tons of new age junk science out there.

3. Dead trees? That's what they are. While they still have value, online news sources have reader comments, better retractions, and the ability to research the topic immediately.

4. Science projects have already devolved into this. At least when I did mine, our class was not allowed to do fluff-projects like the classic volcano. As long as they do some form of scientific method, then it's for the best.

5. An excuse is an excuse, but computer issues really do cause a lot of legitimate delays. I'm constantly asked to fix stuff just a few hours before their assignment's due date, even in the middle of the night.

Re:Even shorter attention spans ... (2, Funny)

macshit (157376) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680967)

Of course on the positive side, kids will become incredibly skilled at making animated powerpoint presentations with dancing chipmunks and disco soundtracks, to cover up their ignorance.

They should make ceo in no time with skills like that!

Re:Citations needed? (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681677)

That phrase bothers me.

I know there's a lot of flotsam in the threads, but "citation needed" comes out really arrogant because either he's right and Mr. Citation won't admit it, or he's wrong and Mr. C. won't bother to post the counter example. It's "I'm not even going to bother to read your post at all" - the internet version of "Talk to the Hand".

Your average poster with solid karma is likely to be at least half right, but botching a detail. Anwswer the thread instead.

Re:Citations needed? (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26682281)

I tend to use it strictly literally. That is:

You might have a good point, but I have sufficient doubt that I won't take it on faith without numbers to back it up. Either I'm too lazy, or I can't find that information. Either provide sufficient evidence to convince me, or we'll have to agree to disagree.

I think "citation needed" is a lot more succinct than all of that, and I think it's useful to know which of our ideas are based in actual fact, and which are merely speculation we've repeated until we believe it's fact.

Incredibly well (5, Insightful)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680201)

Children who grow up with the web should read incredibly well. The web is a massive library and without being able to read you won't be able to do much in internet and computer land. It solves a huge problem for parents and that problem is getting children interested in reading in the first place.

That said, a child growing up on the internet will be exposed to improper punctuation and grammar more frequently than a child growing up reading proofread and edited printed materials. That is probably a good thing. Those children will be less pedantic, and have less difficulty discerning intent and meaning from written text.

This is no different than the gamer generation versus their parents. The problem was not merely that the parents had difficulty with electronic interfaces, the problem was they had difficulty adapting to varied interfaces. The gamer generation can hope between operating systems, not to mention individual applications for the same purpose without too much difficulty. Their parents could learn and master an OS or application but when confronted with something different had/have a great deal of difficulty.

Why? Because every console video game has a unique and non-standard interface. Instead of learning the interfaces themselves, gamers learn the common elements that need to be and should be present in all video game interfaces. When they pick up a new game they don't stare at the foreign interface confused they start by figuring out how to navigate and then immediately proceed to look for the elements they know should be there and take note of extras found along the way.

That difference in how a new (insert almost anything here) is viewed while minor gives amazing flexibility when presented with tasks and arguably is the difference between genius and ignorance.

Re:Incredibly well (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680381)

I'd like to share your optimism; but seeing the rise and spread of video into previously textual areas of the internet makes me wonder. Now, I'm not saying "OMG interwebs video is bad, back in my day we had gopher, and by god we liked it!". In many applications, video is entirely appropriate. However, I've been unpleasantly surprised by the number of areas where video is worse than text; but it has proliferated anyway, presumably because it is considered easier to make or easier to "consume".

Oh! Look! A training Webcast!

Re:Incredibly well (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680983)

I'm not worried. Video isn't a bad or evil thing. Video doesn't rot brains. And good luck getting to interesting video content on the web without being able to read.

Load google, okay maybe you know the big blue e and google is the default page or you have firefox with a handy lil bar in the corner. Next.... ooops can't google without knowing how to read and write.

Well what about youtube? You'll need to know how to spell youtube to start with. Then you'll need to be able to read the categories and understand the text to find other videos by that poster and related videos. The preview picture is rarely useful.

Reading will probably be more of a functional affair and Readers who read long novels and the like may decline and the decline of that media is very sad (particularly to a book reader like myself). But lots of old and beautiful forms of content consumption have gone the way of the dodo bird or been regulated to eccentric enthusiast groups and 'artists'. Ham radio, stage, vinyl, etc.

Re:Incredibly well (1)

meta-monkey (321000) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681107)

That's very insightful. Thanks for the thoughtful post.

Re:Incredibly well (1)

BeerCat (685972) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681445)

a child growing up on the internet will be exposed to improper punctuation and grammar more frequently than a child growing up reading proofread and edited printed materials. That is probably a good thing.

You think? I h8 txt spk*

--
*gt of mI lwn

Re:Incredibly well (2, Interesting)

Bodrius (191265) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681469)

I'm not so sure.

While I have little doubt that children growing on the web will be able to read very well in the most literal sense, I'm not so sure they will be 'literate' as we know that term.

The web provides invaluable access to information - it is accessible, global, searchable and 'to the point'. It may encourage a type of learning that is less narrative than we've historically used, and more... staccato, for lack of a better term. You can jump from fact to fact without necessarily going through a lot of research in the process, because the accumulated data of humanity is, well, searchable.

There is less need to develop the comprehension skills needed to reach new conclusions from existing data, because all the conclusions already reached are more easily accessible already. There is less need to develop the curiosity or habit of erudition, because the cost of researching answers for any question on-demand has become much lower than the equivalent cost of acquiring a broad/general education in advance.

In that sense, I have no doubt new generations will be reading something. But I'm not sure they will be 'reading' in the same sense we typically use the word now, as a shorthand for literacy.

Please re-read 'Freakonomics' (5, Insightful)

BanachSpaceCadet (1464109) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680215)

OK, the whole point in the chapter in 'Freakonomics' was that while the number of books in a child's home IS CORRELATED with how well they do on school tests, IT IS NOT A CAUSAL RELATIONSHIP. Essentially, families that put an emphasis on learning tend to have both smart kids and a lot of books, but simply having a lot of books around does not appear to make children smarter. The person who quoted 'Freakonomics' in this article either intentionally misrepresented the point, or (more likely) completely missed the point. The point was that we should quit spreading the exact fallacy that is being spread here.

Corelation etc etc (2, Insightful)

clarkkent09 (1104833) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680219)

kids who grow up in houses packed with books fare better on school tests than those who grow up with fewer books

Hmm, that's a strange way to put it. Yes that statement is probably true, but it doesn't necessarily follow that if you pack any kid's house with books they would do better at school tests. I think it's more likely that parents who tend to read a lot, and therefore happen to have a lot of books in their house, also tend to place higher value on learning and knowledge in general and then pass on that inclination to their kids. It would be more useful to say that kids whose parents read a lot tend to do better on school tests than those whose parents read less.

Re:Corelation etc etc (1)

eherot (107342) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680685)

I agree. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that it isn't the books themselves that cause the kids to do better in school. Instead it's being in a household where knowledge and learning are valued. Until the Internet came along, the number of books in one's home was probably the best way to measure the amount of reading that went on in that house.

Re:Corelation etc etc (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681697)

When I was growing up we had a saying: We buy him books and we buy him more books and all he does is eat the covers.

No Problem (1)

Zordak (123132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680347)

7h3y \/\/1ll B 1337 r33d3rz b4 7h0z3 BuX l4/\/\3rz!!!

ur so ossum! lol! bff! ;-) txt me 2C wassup!

Re:No Problem (1)

mkiwi (585287) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680473)

ur so ossum! lol! bff! ;-) txt me 2C wassup!

Ah, you show your age! The kids these days all use this: XD. Look in any youtube comment section.

...although I do consider it a bastardization of the insane genius that was lolspeak.

It could be interesting.. (2, Funny)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680367)

I learned to read playing Dragon Warrior on NES. For years the teachers would tell me not to use "thee" and "thou".

online literacy (2, Interesting)

HaynieMatt (755882) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680431)

These days I believe being able to use a computer is nearly as important as knowing how to read. I believe a combination of books and online tools is the best. My kids would sit and listen to me read to them all day if I were up to it so I'm glad there are sites like Starfall that give them additional interaction.

Re:computer skills (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681725)

I'll go further.

It's a dead heat between ReadWrite, Math, and CompSci. A perfect tripod.

We wail and moan the lack of computer skills, and if you don't learn early how the computerized age mindset works at a gut level, it's basically like a lost language. Unless they wake up and study like demons later say in college, such as my exact generational strata, the minute they graduate without comp skills they get hosed applying for a job.

Healthy Gaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680435)

More News on health and exercise related video games here:

http://www.healthygaming.com/blog/ [healthygaming.com]

Or, check out www.childrenslibrary.org (5, Informative)

bederson (471644) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680439)

Or, a really good source of free children's books is the International Children's Digital Library (www.childrenslibrary.org). It has thousands of free (current and public domain) books from around the world, many of them available in multiple languages.

The new Roland Piquepaille? (2, Funny)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680601)

So how will kids who learn to read online fare when they grow up?

They'll probably post half baked, inaccurate stories with misleading summaries to forum based websites.

Don't know about reading ... (1)

BarryHaworth (536145) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680667)

... but my son learned to count through a video game. When he was four or so he used to sit on my lap and watch me play an on Mac game called "Scruffy" (or was it Scruffy versus the Martians?), which featured a little dog who jumped about, avoided worms and Martians, and dropped bombs behind him. At the start of every level "Welcome to level nn" was displayed in big letters on the screen, and my son quickly learned to recognise the numerals.

Fortunately for me and my (lack of) game playing skills, he learned to count higher than ten of his own accord.

SightWords helps young readers on iPhone/iPodTouch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26680821)

Kids, learn to read on your iPhone! SightWords puts the top high-frequency "Dolch" words onto your iPhone along with pronunciations. It's even listed as an Apple Staff Favorite: http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=300907064&mt=8

in my school district (4, Interesting)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26680849)

...the techs call this babysitware. it has nothing to do with education and everything to do with a teachers union who demands teachers "need a break". couple this with computer lab aides who get paid under 10 bucks an hour and aren't technically allowed to teach anything.

Same as they did reading books (1)

LurkerXD (996914) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681029)

Reading online isn't really going to make a difference in a child's learning. As many other posters have noted, the question isn't online vs books, its whether parents encourage their children to learn.

To those who moan about "they'll all learn chat-speak", I would say it depends on what a child reads online. Some sites have more value in them then others, and a good parent should try to direct their child's interest towards the more valuable ones. However, when you think about it, doesn't the same thing go for books? If you go into a library, yes you'll find Shakespear and Hemminway, but you'll also find a well-sized section with trashy romance novels. The question isn't how you read it, its what you read in the first place.

I'm sold ... (5, Informative)

starfall_dad (1466217) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681225)

I have a 2.5 year old son. About 6-8 months ago, I sat him on my lap and I clicked through the ABCs of starfall every night. He would point to letters, laugh at cut scenes, and basically bond with me. I let him put his hand on mine as I navigated the site. Then I started letting him click the mouse to advance the letters and games. I would point to the mouse cursor as it moved across the screen with his hand on my hand as I moved the mouse. He made the connection and started taking over the mouse. His gross motor skills frustrated him when trying to do some of the finer details of the website, but that improved to the point where he could handle the website. Part of the site has a concentration-esque game of flipping over tiles and matching them. Well, my wife and I were in the bedroom watching TV with him in the same room as he was surfing Starfall. We look up to see what he is doing and he had accessed the game already matched two tiles. Flabbergasted. I watched him do it, and it was all random. Then, he started remembered the letters and would return to the correct tile when he saw it again. The progress he has made has blown my mind. He reads his letters and numbers. He has been on parts of Starfall I didn't know existed or how to get to! Also, every night I review the letters and numbers with him using ToddlerLock on my G1. He looks forward to it and scoots over in his toddler sized bad for me. I have to fold myself in half to position next to him. Good times. And my 9 month daughter is already taking an interest in the G1. I had to extract it from her mouth today, turn it off, and let the drool dry out! Ahhh, I love my kids.

Bad idea (2, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681645)

We're raising a generation who will base their life philosophies on bad car analogies.

Probably better, it will be their adult world (1)

h4x354x0r (1367733) | more than 5 years ago | (#26681877)

It matters not one bit whether they learn to read on my lap in front of a physical book, or on my lap in front of a computer screen. The important thing is that I'm there teaching them how to expand their knowledge. After they've learned how to read, I think it's extremely important that they learn how to use computing and the internet to keep expanding their knowledge. If I can give them a computing environment to explore and learn to exploit, you bet I will. They will need that skill as an adult.

What about adult literacy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26682111)

Are there successful equivalents for teaching adults to read?

Starfall is way better! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26682639)

I had never head of either of these. I brought up starfall and thought it was fantastic. I called my kindergartner over to show him d was informed that they use that in school (the early reader part). So I called my sister-in-law to recommend it for her preschooler who has shown an interest to find out they use it. at his preschool as will (the learning the ABC's part) I was ready to pay up for a subscription to one more story, but after looking at it , realized that stay all was much better. Stanford encourages the child to read while one more story just reads to the child.
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