Reading vs. Ritalin

by | Nov 3, 2005

There’s so much talk of “attention deficit disorder” in children today. The unquestioned, never disputed premise is that brain chemistry causes young people not to pay attention. Yet attention deficits were never such problems in earlier eras. What gives? A major factor is the lack of reading. Children are not encouraged to read, and parents […]

There’s so much talk of “attention deficit disorder” in children today. The unquestioned, never disputed premise is that brain chemistry causes young people not to pay attention. Yet attention deficits were never such problems in earlier eras. What gives?

A major factor is the lack of reading. Children are not encouraged to read, and parents don’t read to their children. The prevalence of video games, computers and televisions means that reading has gone by the wayside. What are some of the advantages of reading?

1. It gives a child psychological visibility. When parents send kids to watch the t.v. or play on the computer, they aren’t getting attention from the parent. When a parent sits down, spends time and reads to a child–and even laughs or thinks with the child about what they are reading–it’s invaluable to the child.

2. It provides for abstract thinking. Abstract thinking refers to imagining, conceptualizing and active thinking. It’s not merely a passive response to a bunch of figures or actions on a television or computer screen. The child has to do something with what he reads (or what is read to him); he has to go somewhere with it, intellectually.

3. It encourages writing skills. So many children today are less than literate. Yes, the mediocre school system should have a lot of the blame for this. But if more children read, more children would be able to think and write about their thoughts and ideas, even without the benefit of great teachers. If children don’t get the message at home that reading (and therefore thinking) is important, then even a great teacher won’t inspire them to write well.

4. Reading, by definition, means focusing. Focusing is a skill, like anything else. If your child isn’t in the habit of focusing, he will display attention deficits; if he is in the habit of focusing, he won’t.

Before rushing to Ritalin, or whatever else, for your child’s “attention deficits,” consider doing something about his reading deficits first.

Dr. Michael Hurd is a psychotherapist, columnist and author of "Bad Therapy, Good Therapy (And How to Tell the Difference)" and "Grow Up America!" Visit his website at: www.DrHurd.com.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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