Magazine keeps tabs on children's media

It can be hard for parents to keep up on what their children read, hear, and watch. There is an explosion of children's books, with more than 2,600 children's books published in 1979. New television shows come out several times a year. Each month marks the premier of several movies.

Parents' Choice, a review of children's media such as books, television, movies, music, story records, and toys and games, seeks to help parents understand what is going on in the world that speaks to their children.

The bimonthly magazine, aimed at parents with children through age 13, was founded by Diana Green, who thought of the idea while teaching children's literature at Radcliffe College. Mrs. Green found that parents in her classes were wanting to know more about the abundant media to which their children were exposed.

"Parents are hungry for any information about television, movies, books -- the whole onslaught that we call media," says Mrs. Green, who is the mother of two grown children. There was no one place she could recommend that brought all the elements together, and many of the parents didn't have time to research each field. So Mrs. Green founded the Parent's Choice Foundation and launched the newspaper format review in October 1978.

"When he started, a Gallup poll came out that said that three out of four parents want to become more involved with the education of their children," says Mrs. Green. "But they feel they lack the information, skills, and confidence to do it. We feel if parents get the information, they will start using it and develop the skills and confidence."

Parent's Choice includes capsule reviews of media, plus additional stories that are catalysts to parent and child participation. Parents and children's authors contribute articles such as how to tell bedtime stories, family learning fun with cassette recorders, a rock music primer for parents, toys that travel, why black literature is important, and how children see the work world through television.

Artwork by children's illustrators is also an important part of Parents' Choice. The coming issue, which will have a cover illustration by Leslie Morrill, centers on the theme "Growing up in a Political World." The cover shows a young girl not quite sure what to make of the fuss around her involving a marionette donkey, elephant, and campaigners replete with signs, hats, and confetti.

Different themes sometimes follow suggestions from parents or children. One young girl visiting the office of Parents' Choice with her mother began to get hungry.She wasn't sure if she would get home for lunch, and asked: "Can we afford to buy some lunch?"

"We all stopped, and realized that children think about the economy, too," says Mrs. Green. As a result, Parents' Choice recently featured a book list titled "Not to Worry Books." The readings focus on families that have made it through hard times financially.

Most articles emphasize the positive side of children's media today. Instead of haranguing television, for example, articles point out how parents can help children make a wise choice of shows to watch. It talks about the values everything from series to quiz shows impart. Mrs. Green says that the ultimate responsibility for what a child reads or views is on the parents, and not merely on what books are printed, songs sung, and shows aired.

The review reaches a wide variety of homes. David Hartman of Good Morning America told Mrs. Green, "You stimulate us . . . you help us to look for the best in ourselves as parents . . . and you are in the process of helping many of us do a better job."

She also has a letter from a high school student in Dorchester, Mass., who has a two- year-old son. "I am a parent and would like to know more about your newsletter because my child watches a lot . . . I feel television has a dramatic impact in what and how he [is] learning."

Mrs. Green "strongly believes" that parents don't need to spend a fortune on books and records for their children. All the books mentioned in the review are available in libraries, as are many of the records. And the books are not just newly published. In one article on reading aloud to children, some of the recommended books are from 1978, 1968, and 1949.

Parents' Choice is run from the basement of Mrs. Green's home in Waban. The room is filled with books, posters, pictures of television and movie stars, and homemade desks set on sawhorse legs. Volunteers take turns using the two typewriters.

Subscriptions, grants, and donations from foundations and businesses have helped keep Parents' Choice out of debt, but Mrs. Green would prefer to be able to pay her volunteers. "We are not in the lap of luxury," she points out.

The nearly 7,000 subscribers to Parents' Choice come from all over the world, says Mrs. Green, including Scotland, Australia, Japan, and South Africa.

"We recently got a request for a subscription from Singapore," she says. "We did a little jig over that."

The address for Parents' Choice is: PO Box 185, Waban, Mass. 02168. The telephone number is (617) 332-1298. A one year subscription is $10.

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