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Dr. Joanne Meier

Along with her background as a professor, researcher, writer, and teacher, Joanne Meier is a mom. Join Joanne every week as she shares her experiences raising her own young readers, and guides parents and teachers on the best practices in reading.

Ad-ucation for kids

May 13, 2010

In today's media saturated environment, kids are confronted with ads all day long. From cereal boxes to pop up ads on the Internet to book club flyers, it's constant product marketing. Media literacy is a legitimate skill to develop in kids.

Admongo.gov, sponsored by the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Federal Trade Commission, is an online game that seeks to teach kids to always ask three questions: "Who is responsible for the ad? What is the ad actually saying? What does the ad want me to do?"

I spent some time playing the game. I could find the ads within the different situations (walking down the street, within the home), but my navigation skills were lousy! The navigation reminds me of Mario Brothers, but with a keyboard. Each time I found an ad (e.g., on the side of a bus, on a billboard), I was prompted to answer a question to earn points, for example "What is this ad trying to get you to do?". The site is designed for kids grades 4-6, and I'm sure they'd be able to find their way much more quickly and easily than I did! The site design was great. I'm sure tweens will love it.

Don't Buy It is a PBS project designed to teach media literacy, designed for grades 3-5. The site includes information for parents and teachers. Kids can work their way through sections called Advertising Tricks, Buying Smart, Your Entertainment, What You Can Do, and Free Stuff where, ironically, you can download color stickers to advertise the site!

PBS Parents also offers Children and Media, a site to help parents navigate by age TV and movies, computers, video games, and advertising. The recommendations start with preschool age kids — the reality is that preschoolers interact with far more media that we think — through teens.

The message across the sites is similar: Parents should have regular, ongoing conversations with their kids about what they're watching, reading and listening to. The conversations can help reveal what messages your child is really getting from the media. With huge amounts of money being spent each year on advertising directed at children, these are important conversations to have.

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"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." — Victor Hugo, Les Miserables