Not just broccoli tv Jonathan Schwartz's class at Atalaya Elementary School in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has a special assignment. All year long, in addition to their schoolwork, these fifth and sixth graders watch new films, videos, and CD-ROMS and review them for KIDS FIRST, a program of the Coalition for Quality Children's Media (CQCM). The kids love doing it, says Schwartz. They love having their opinions respected. I love it too. It helps my students become critical viewers who can evaluate what they see and don't just take it all in. Hundreds of KIDS FIRST reviews are currently available in a new book created by the Coalition in conjunction with the New York Times. The New York Times Guide to the Best Children's Videos contains a listing of over 1,000 videos which have been kid-tested and adult-approved. I have great sympathy for parents, especially single moms, says Ranny Levy, CQCM President and co-founder. The days of extended families who provide free babysitting are over. If parents want to have a little adult time, they often need to park their kids in front of the television. Levy suggests that instead of complaining about how bad TV is, parents need to spend time seeking out good viewing for their children. Levy recognizes how difficult this can be, however. At least 400 videos come out every month. There's no way a parent could preview all that's produced and find what's good, she explains.
To find out what's good, Levy calls upon the students at Atalaya and hundreds of other children of all ages from across the country who do the KIDS FIRST reviews. In addition, evaluations are drawn from educators, child development experts, and teachers.
Selections vary from Veggie Tales: A Very Silly Sing-Along and How to Play the Spoons: Music from the Kitchen to Marzipan Pig, Linnea in Monet's Kitchen, and the recent popular feature, The Iron Giant. This is not Ã”broccoli TV,' states Levy, alluding to the titles listed in the new guide. They are not just good for you. They're fun. However, the childen in Jonathan Schwartz's class usually learn that even fun films ought to be a little more than that. On each evaluation form, they respond to the question: After watching this film, did you come away with anything of value? Sometimes the answer is no. For example, after discussing the animated feature Anastasia, students decided they didn't learn anything about Russia, history, or anything. It was nice to look at, that was all, commented one ten-year-old. Thumbs down for a KIDS FIRST endorsement. Rosemary Zibart is a reviewer living in Santa Fe, New Mexico.