Books still figure for modern kids

By Lydia Anderson

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Pukeko Room team leader Sara Wilson reads to some of the preschoolers at Active Kids Early Childcare Centre in First Ave on Friday. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER
Pukeko Room team leader Sara Wilson reads to some of the preschoolers at Active Kids Early Childcare Centre in First Ave on Friday. PHOTO/ANDREW WARNER

Most Kiwi 2-year-olds are watching TV every day, a new report suggests, but a Tauranga early childhood teacher says books still have their place.

Auckland University's government-funded Growing Up in New Zealand longitudinal study is tracking the early lives of almost 7000 Auckland and Waikato children and its latest report on 2-year-olds has just been released.

It showed about 80 per cent of Kiwi 2-year-olds were watching TV or DVDs every day, while 66 per cent had books read to them every day. The report said many 2-year-olds could use technology with ease, and most were spending an average of one-and-a-half hours each day watching television.

Active Kids Early Childcare Centre assistant manager Jan Rowland said she was not surprised by the finding that most Kiwi kids were watching TV every day. Books were still vitally important for a child's early development, with storytelling time helping their verbal language and listening skills, and seeing examples of the alphabet helping to prepare them for school, she said.

The centre used books in various ways, including making its own versions of popular stories, or making books based on the children's interests. "It teaches them respect and care for the books.nts she said.

"You actually have to look after a book. We teach them about where [to] find the author. We teach them the different parts of the book. We have trips to the library." She said she made sure all her grandchildren received books as presents.

The report said more than half of Kiwi 2-year-olds were in regular early childhood education, mainly because of their parents' work commitments but also because parents hoped early education had a positive impact on their children's social and language development.

A further key finding was the high level of mobility in Kiwi families, about one-third having moved house since their child was nine months old. About 55 per cent lived in family-owned accommodation, and about 45 per cent in rented accommodation.

Study director Associate Professor Susan Morton said the high mobility, the diversity of the environment, and the changing circumstances of families presented a challenge as to how health, education and social services were best delivered to children during their earliest years. The children and their families were recruited from Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waikato, but were now living across New Zealand and overseas.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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