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[Susan notes: Child psychiatrist Robert Kay often makes the point that if adults would stop abusing kids with coercive exercises with books, he'd be out of a job.]

Published in Parade Magazine

To the editor

While commercial interruptions are indeed a problem, Norman Mailer might have mentioned that it's now much easier for pleasure-seeking young people to push a button than to go through the effort of reading a book. And, unfortunately, most adults now feel the same way, thus failing badly in the imitation department.

Meanwhile, both parents and schools make many children dislike both words and reading by using flashcards, or by putting them on the spot to read out loud -- alone -- with all the fear, inhibition, tittering, judgments, labeling, and humiliation therein implied.

Almost every book a child encounters in school is in some way assigned or, even worse, made the object of quizzing, written reports, or testing. Reading is therefore usually associated with coercion, inquisition, boredom, and failure which then leads to resistance and a closing of the mind.

So, to generalize, books, like homework, seem to make many children "hate" learning, reading, teachers, schools, and their parents, unlike in the pre-television days when the folks both read a newspaper and read good stories out loud while letting the child watch what they were doing until the kids themselves gradually took over.

Robert E. Kay, M.D., psychiatrist

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