Roald Dahl on Television

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When I came across this poem by Roald Dahl on Thank God for Books, I just had to share in my blog. For the past year, I have been very pre-occupied with the piglet because of which the snubnose has been slowly but surely getting sucked into the idiot box.

It’s taking a huge effort on my part to get the snubnose back into doing artwork, reading books, playing outside…things which she used to enjoy just last year. My efforts work well sometimes, sometimes not so well.

Do you have any tips on weaning a child away from the TV? I know I shouldn’t have let her watch in the first place 🙁 but the damage is done now, and I would really like some advice from other bloggers who have dealt with similar issues. Somehow, I doubt whether Mr. Dahl’s suggestion in his charming poem below will work quite so well in my household where my husband himself is such a couch potato 🙁

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.

In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.

Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!

‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’

We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ‘round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)

The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!

So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!

You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

  • How about cutting off cable , I know it’s bit drastic but that’s what we did a year back and the kids survived 🙂 Everybody is happy now… Sumana.
    P.S. finally got back to blogging again after a lin break , it feels good to be back.

    • @Let’s Read: hey, long time, nice to see you back 🙂 Cutting off cable would make K very unhappy indeed. Instead, I am using distraction techniques. It works sometimes.

  • poupee97

    Fabulous! Made my day. I’ve never been much into Roald Dahl, but this was lovely.

  • Wonderful poem and so true. I’m afraid I can’t help you there, as both S. and me grew up watching lots of television (and reading, it wasn’t TV all the time), but I’d love to have our future children do a lot of activities that have nothing to do with the television at all :/

    Perhaps Jenn has a point? Making really clear rules about tv times?

  • That’s rough. I can’t imagine being a mom and having to juggle, so don’t be too rough on yourself. My mom always had specific times we could watch TV. When it was time, we watched. That was it. And she never allowed us to have TV in our rooms (not that we could afford it), and I’m grateful. I’m still not a big TV watcher and haven’t had cable in nearly a decade.

    Maybe slowly add a TV schedule and then plan other fun stuff for after her favorite shows? Not sure, but let us know how your attempts go.

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