Roald Dahl fumes against the idiotic monster.

This morning I read an article in the Harvard Business Review about “How to Read More Books This Year.” The author quotes from this poem, which I had conveniently put into a draft post just last night. So this must be the time!

TELEVISION

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. Rate 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.

–Roald Dahl

11 thoughts on “Roald Dahl fumes against the idiotic monster.

  1. I suppose it’s a fine poem, but all of those exclamation marks and capitalized letters turned me off. Whatever it says, it looks like it was written by a gum-popping teen-ager who’s watched too much tv, or someone used to snap-chatting and tweeting. (My, wasn’t that critical? I tried twice more, but had the same response, so I’ll go ahead and post.)

    A side note: he is right. I got rid of the televisions after my mother died in 2011, and I’ve never felt the lack.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I LOVE it! We haven’t had a TV in years – and as I look across the room, DD is reading : )

    What a fine, whimsical way of explaining the nerve-wracking constant racket in most homes than the give you a little taste of that exclamation-filled, unremitting, toxic NOISE! : )

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s wonderful! I’ll be copying it and sending it to the parents of my grandchildren (who, I am pleased to say, don’t have cable television, but they do allow the occasional show). We haven’t had cable for several years and rarely miss it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It was such a favorite poem my kids memorized it all on their own. We didn’t own a T.V. until some of them were in high school. Isn’t that funny? So that was what they would say to kids who asked why all they had was books and no T.V. It makes me laugh to see it here.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this poem! Is this from Charlie and the Chocolate factory? It seems like something that Mike TV would have had said about or to him! It is wonderful and so true. At our school currently, we are really having to work hard to get our children onto books and to try and make them love them. I have some children who are wonderful, who just get sucked into a book but there are a few others who just sit there and I constantly have to tell them to read!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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