Ok, I know this will cause some heads to shake, but when Michael has his free time, which allows him to play his Nintendo, I see it as an opportunity to sit close to him and read!
It all started one day several years ago when I was reading a Boxcar Children book to Michael. We were cuddled up on the sofa, and he suddenly said, "Let me play Nintendo while you read to me." Of course I looked at him as though he had completely lost his mind, and said, "Absolutely not!" He looked so sweet, and he said, "Why not?" Well, I started to list the reasons why I thought this was not a good idea, and he asked if we could please just try it once.
Well, I decided to give it a try. Michael has always been the type of child to do more than one thing at a time. He does things with his hands while he dictates, he listens to stories on tape while he plays with Legos, he listens to Adventures in Odyssey while he plays Nintendo - so I decided to try it once to see what would happen.
What a funny pair we were! Michael happily playing with Mario, me grilling him with questions every five minutes to be sure he was paying attention. I was delighted to find that he could answer everything I asked him, and he was winning his game, too. :-)
I suppose I should say that the Nintendo hasn't been a problem in our family. We have all enjoyed it very much. We had a few problems regulating Michael's time to play when we first got it, but hey! - if I'm honest, Rich and I had a hard time regulating *our* play at first, too! Tetris and Dr. Mario are quite addicting! Rich and I were up into the wee hours of the morning many nights while we played competitive mode in these two games. :-)
I continued to read books for entertainment to Michael in the coming weeks. Books like the Boxcar Children and The Sugar Creek Gang. As it became more apparent that he was able to play and listen attentively, I relaxed quite a bit. It soon became almost funny! Every time I would see Michael playing his Nintendo, I would run and grab a book! An opportunity to read!
As time has gone by, I have read more and more and more like this. I do not read the Bible while he plays, nor do I read our character-building books at this time. I also don't read "meaty" information books while he plays. But just about everything else is fair game! We have read loads of historical fiction, fiction, health, science, fun stuff ... just about anything ... while he plays.
I do have some guidelines to this "madness!" He is never permitted to play during our actual school hours. We do a considerable amount of reading in the mornings, and this he listens to while being quiet next to me on the sofa. "Nintendo reading" is sometimes done in the afternoon, but usually in the evening.
I also don't want to give you the wrong impression. All of our reading outside of school is not while Michael plays Nintendo; he doesn't even like to play everyday. He loves to just snuggle up on the sofa and have me read to him, and he loves to be in bed at night while I read.
People wonder how we read so many books in a year's time. I know that it is because I have gained many extra hours by encroaching on his free play time! :-) I have gone so far as to rent games for him so I could read an extra book to him!
This seems like a good place to tell you one of the other neat things we have done. On summer afternoons (generally), while Michael is outside playing, I sit with our boom box and read books onto a cassette tape for him. I have done this since he was very little. I would make full tapes of his favorite picture books. I've made several tapes of Uncle Arthur Bedtime Stories and Little Visits With God. Just this week, he listened to a tape I made a few years ago of The Sugar Creek Gang. He heard the whole of Howard Pyle's Robin Hood from my reading it onto tapes! Mr. Popper's Penguins and so many other books! I couldn't always read to him at night, but he still had *me* reading to him by popping in one of the tapes I had made. It took a day or two to get a tape made - but it was soooo worth it!
If you own a video game system, I guess you would just have to try this and see how it works for you. I've seen children who are so totally absorbed by a video game, they are completely unaware of anything going on around them. I am actually grateful that Michael is able to do both things at the same time - play *and* listen. I especially get a kick out of him when I realize that he has stopped playing and is listening intently to what I'm reading - that happens when we get to the really good parts of a book! :-)
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