I must own up to the fact that I love television. One of the first national television broadcasts was in 1947, the year I was born. When my sons were three and five, I bought them each a little black and white T.V. and put it in their rooms. I watched Sesame Street, the Electric Company and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood with them sitting in my lap. Twenty years later I find out I was a terrible mother for letting them watch too young. It scarred them for life. Really?
Early television sets were like buying a house or a car, you did it on payments. And the sets themselves were works of art, large beautiful wooden cabinets, some included a record player too. They were works of art; what more did you need? And in 1966 they also gave us color. I watched it all: movies in black and white, Hollywood costumed musicals from before my time and bless them all, cartoons. I never met one I did not like. I was so hooked on Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, when our sons outgrew them, I still watched to make sure King Friday and Queen Saturday were still together!
What about books, you ask? I taught English for 30 years and I love them too. I read every day and every way when I was growing up. I had a book in my lap when I was watching television while the radio was on. Ok, I am a little… weird. Or maybe I was a multi-media multi-tasker before it was cool.
So, what are the issues here? Let’s blame the pandemic. When I was a teacher, there was school for readers, and videos for those who could not read well. Those videos were used to supplement the classes and include all types of learners. And as it says in Funky Winkerbean, the coaches never needed to replace light bulbs because they showed so many reels of football film. Another story for another time.
Then about 15 years ago when I retired, the schools had one thought on their tiny little minds… computers. More than a toy for games, computers were at the top of the school food chain of importance. They closed Home Economics and Shop classes. Car shop disappeared entirely. At that time, I taught art, drama and journalism, and when I went, so did the electives. Some music classes and band stayed hanging on with their fingernails. If you can’t read it is hard to work a computer—not impossible, but difficult. Suddenly there were videos for computers, your watch, or your television. Most learning was given permission to go wild with these media; and from entertainment to learning your lessons, this would be the future.
When I ask my sons if they read my column, they tell me they will follow only on the net. Great. While I am a video-a-holic, I so value good books. They were my first friends. I met Laura Ingalls Wilder with her “Little House on the Prairie.” I understood Erma Bombeck when she said, “The Grass Grows Better Over the Septic Tank.” Dickens, Kipling, Shakespeare, were all my brothers, and they fit right in with my family. There is a new book called, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Little Golden Book,” by Diane Muldrow. Each page has a lesson like, “Is you life starting to feel like a circus?” and it shows a page from an original Golden Book. The answer is on the next page with a special book’s character: “Don’t panic, get dressed first, put on something nice and have pancakes.” All the pictures in the book are from our past and we read it and relax. Each generation has a favorite, the “Saggy Baggy Elephant” or “Pokey Little Puppy,” and the modern advice is “Choose your friends carefully” or “Go dancing.” “Believe in Santa and true love.” How can this not be a way of feeling better?
I still love television and all that it gives us. I use the computer, and I use best pencil ever. But my advice is to reach out and touch a book, especially one you had as a child when the world was new. It can be yours again. Roaring Mouse, looking at “Ben and Me”… out.