Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Oh fer . . .

I ran across this article in my Google Alerts about children's lit, and I found it a fundamentally flawed study. Let me say this: it's one book. I'm the last person to say it's impossible that a book can change a kid's life, but this is pushing it.

In a nutshell: a study was conducted with overweight preteens. Some were given a book with an unhappily overweight protagonist. Others were given a book with a normal-weight protagonist. A third group wasn't given any book.

There are a number of things it doesn't take into account. Losing weight includes lifestyle changes that (especially for kids) never exist in a vacuum. Case in point:
For the study, the Duke University researchers recruited 31 obese girls between 9 to 13 years of age, who had already signed up in the Healthy Lifestyles Program at Duke Children's Hospital. Italics mine.
These were girls who already wanted to make a positive change in their health (or their parents wanted them to). It's not as if they plucked kids off the street and changed their entire outlook on life with one book.

In a telling omission, it touts the 71% statistic of kids who read the first book, but doesn't mention the change in weight for the other two groups.

It may be the writing of the article that makes it sound like one book was the deciding factor, but to me, this study is reducing children's lit to manipulation, and children themselves to paper dolls.

Grrr.

6 comments:

Brent said...

That's just plain poor journalism on the article author's part. Thanks for bringing this to light.

Christine Fletcher said...

I saw an article about this and wondered about it, and you nailed what was bothering me. Good analysis!

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Thanks for posting this (even though it gave me the creeps). Will you write in to the author and editor?

Bibliovore said...

I hadn't thought of writing in, (choosing instead to concentrate on gnashing my teeth) but maybe I will.

A.S. King said...

Wow. That's a really great example of a poorly-thought-out article. (It didn't really make a lot of sense to me - the conclusions were a big jump.) Love your last comment. Paper dolls indeed. Geez.

Barbara Shoup said...

I agree, this is crazy! Yes, books can change lives--but it's way more subtle and interesting than this article would have you believe.