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Every trick in the book report

A front-page article in today's Buffalo News details a Census Bureau study that found parents are spending more time reading to youngsters, and setting more restrictions on TV watching, than they did a decade ago.

That's good news, but I can't help but wonder if a lot of the additional reading we are doing is due to book reports. That is, the books the kids are supposed to be reading themselves, digesting themselves and responding to themselves, well, the deadline looms, they still have 80 pages to go and so Mom or Dad ends up reading the last several chapters aloud to them.

I'm not proud of this, but that's the situation I was in earlier this week with our third-grade son, who was in tears because he didn't see how he would meet his book report deadline. So I split up the reading with him, but the split was more like 80-20, with me doing the heavy lifting of pages. (In my own defense, your honor, I did NOT write the book report for him. He handled that himself, with some questioning from me to jog his memory.)

In the past month I've heard two other parents say the same thing, that they had to read a book to their child (a sixth grader and a ninth grader) in order for them to get their assignments done.

My own theory is that online video games are to blame. They are incredibly addictive, as detailed in Steve Watson's story this week. I can almost hear the brain cells surrendering whenever I catch the boy turning the computer mouse into a gaming joystick. When I shut him down, it feels like a scene from a movie in which a father confronts his junkie son. The soundtrack I hear in the background is James Brown singing "King Heroin" ....

"I''m heroin ... I can make a mere schoolboy forget his books,
I can make a world-famous beauty neglect her looks."

If I can't get through to him, I'll have to call in a motivational speaker, like Matt Foley:


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