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What my kids read… May 3, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in education, younger son.
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The younger son has had a fear of reading due to his perfectionistic tendencies.  In the past few months, however, he’s really taken an interest in it, especially when there are comic books available.  (Yay for Marvel comics!)  I’m really not too picky about what my kids read.  I’m of the opinion that the more you read, the more you learn to think critically.

Or at least, that’s what I thought until the younger boy brought a book home from the library on “Unsolved Mysteries.”  Basically, the book talks about all these events that are apparently paranormal.  As a scientist who is also a bit on the skeptical side (though I don’t like the term skeptic, despite our subscription to Skeptical Inquirer), I have to admit that it got my hackles up a bit.  At first, I wanted to go complain to the librarian.

The funny thing is, though, that I had to sit back and remember that I used to read this stuff, too.  I remember checking out books on the Bermuda Triangle and astrology.  In fact, I, at one point, went through and plotted out full astrology charts for everyone in my family.  I fascinated my family by finding out interesting little factoids like that my sister was actually a Taurus and not an Aries, like we’d always thought, because her sign didn’t fall on the normal dates the year she was born, for some strange reason.

As I continued to read and learn about this stuff, however, I started coming across counter points to all the supernatural phenomena I was interested in.  As I became more educated as a scientist, I began looking at how people were conducting their ‘experiments’.  And, probably most important, I wanted to know how things worked: I wasn’t satisfied with explanations of, “It can’t be explained!”  Eventually, I began looking at things much differently.

I realize the younger boy will probably be walking around for a while talking about the stuff he reads in the book.  However, I’m trying to look at this as an opportunity to introduce him to questioning things that he reads and get him thinking about whether or not he can find what might be a more realistic explanation of how things work.  It’s a slow process, and it won’t be helped by not exposing him to these things.  And having a cultural reference to these things aren’t always bad: we still like to joke about my sister being bull-headed.

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1. nicoleandmaggie - May 3, 2012

I did a report on reincarnation in middle school. The one thing I remember about it is pointing out that all of the books I’d read contradicted each other– some said you always came back the same gender, some said you went from bug to angel… none of them had any proof.

I miss Martin Gardner! But I loved reading his books on skeptical stuff (I found his math stuff first), and I also loved reading books on urban legends. The Jan Harold Brunvand books are awesome.

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mareserinitatis - May 6, 2012

My husband is a huge Gardner fan, too. 🙂

I think that’s how I started coming to the same conclusions – the more I read, the more contradicting information I found. I think some people are able to compartmentalize this sort of stuff better, but I just found that I couldn’t deal with all the inconsistencies…and realized that a lot of it was actually made up. 🙂

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2. Pseudoscientific Scientists « FCIWYPSC - July 12, 2012

[…] talked a little while ago about trying to get my kids thinking critically about things that they read.  I think it’s important to try to be realistic in expectations of how our kids develop […]

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