Children are made readers on the laps of their parents. ~ Emilie Buchwald
With the right strokes of a pen, we create symbols on a page that when strung together convey profound ideas, tell beautiful stories, and create compelling arguments. Reading those words shapes how we write, speak and think. Few would argue that reading is an important discipline to be inculcated into every person. As parents, I would argue that part of the stewardship of our children towards the Lord is to cultivate in them both the ability and the ambition to read.
Rightly motivated and mastered, reading is God-glorifying. God has revealed himself to individuals through his Word. He uses godly individuals and their writings to incline our hearts more to him, thus transforming people through them. Finally, he can use those writings to encourage others. Therefore, reading is an integral role to the Christian life and instilling the discipline of reading is a worthy priority for parents.
One of the first lessons we started with our children was the importance of reading by sharing nighttime stories before bed. As ministry became busier, this nighttime custom was pushed aside. Sadly, the termination of this important time passed without any of us noticing. Seeing what was lacking, we decided to make this a priority once again by reestablishing this time in 2019.
A delightful side-effect of this is that it has caused me to remember my youth, considering both how reading played a role in it and how others influenced me in my reading. It has been enjoyable to remember the books that our school librarian used to read to our class – books that I had forgotten about until I started getting the same ones for my own children. Or there was Pizza Hut’s Book-It whose competition lead me to discover the Boxcar Children. One of my fondest memories growing up was heading to Seattle for a weekend and making the obligatory stop at Barnes & Noble to pick up a new book – The Hardy Boys was a popular pick for many years until I outgrew them. There was a break for many years until two influential people, my pastor and my supervisor, subtly suggested books for my reading that caused me to enjoy the discipline of reading once more.
With those remembrances filling my memory, and the desire of raising up my children in the Lord (Deuteronomy 6:7) glorifying him in all that they do, I have pondered both why reading should be inculcated into our children from their early days and how to do so. Using the acronym READ, there are four aspects of reading that validates its necessity in our life.
- (R) Reorients Our Children to God: If the right priorities are established, reading can reorient our children away from this world and towards God. This important aspect requires much effort on the part of all parents because it stipulates they will prioritize Scripture before everything else and in the process teach their children to not only do the same, but to read all other books in light of what they read in Scripture.
- (E) Establishes Our Relationship with Our Children: Intentional development of reading as a discipline in our children can also reorient parents away from this world and towards their children. While the world seeks our attention, our children need our attention and reading creates the opportunity to deliberately focus on them. When they are younger reading generates time together. As they get older it can create a relationship by reading more challenging (I.e. theological) books, discussing them, and applying them.
- (A) Arouses Our Children’s Curiosity: Curiosity is a biblical characteristic that is missing in the Christian walk. We stifle it in younger kids, annoyed by their repeated questions, and grow into adults who wonder little. Yet, curiosity leads to learning. When we read with our children, we learn together by answering the questions, who, what, when, where, why, and how.
- (D) Develops Our Children for the Future: Finally, reading prepares our children for the future. In a social media culture that values emotion over reason, reading teaches our children to cultivate skills of logic, critical thinking, and evaluation. Furthermore, it refines the needed skill of lending attention to weightier areas, a trait quickly vanishing in a society demanding their information in short, easily parroted bursts.
Certainly, all of the benefits of reading are not contained only in this list, but these four provisions incline reading towards the establishment of God-desiring, mature, life-long learners.
The capacity to read a printed word is a gift from God that when rightly stewarded can bring glory to God by directing people to Him. With intentionality, reading can be cultivated in our children for great benefits.
In a follow-up article, I will address some ways in which we can cultivate reading in our children.