Parents: It’s Crucial That Our Kids Love Reading. Why?
As a Christian research organization, Apologetics Press is constantly pondering the best ways to produce materials so that they will be more likely to be ingested. Our mission is to defend the truth, and to help you to do so as well. How can that be done? Through monthly journals? Books? Web articles? Lectures? Seminars? CDs? DVDs? Short videos for YouTube? Tracts? E-mail newsletters? Curricula? A study Bible? Many, many options lie before us—and we run across more each year—and we try to utilize them all as we are able, since each person and situation might call for a different approach.
There is, however, a concern we have that people will become less and less interested in written materials in the future. That concerns us, because we know that there are some concepts which simply cannot be adequately taught away from the “printed page,” and a depth that cannot be reached apart from the “pen’s ink.” But as of 2013, 14% of the population in the United States cannot read, and 21% read below a 5th grade level. Shockingly, 19% of high school graduates cannot read.1 Imagine not being able to read, and having to completely rely on and trust others to relay to you material from God—even when those individuals may be biased or in error in their interpretation of Scripture. Add to those statistics the fact that the younger generations are becoming more and more reliant on more “stimulating” venues for their information, rather than “boring” printed materials.
We try to keep these truths in mind as we produce materials and accommodate this growing trend. But let’s face it: there is no substitute for the value of being able to read and study written materials. It is notable that, while the prophets originally spoke God’s messages to humanity, God preserved and disseminated His special revelation to mankind—the Bible—through written words over the 19 centuries since the Bible was completed, implying that developing the ability to read would be important to God. It could be argued that the venue through which we can gain the deepest level of knowledge and retain it is through reading. While oral lessons are certainly important, it is also true that it is difficult to communicate some concepts orally in an effective way. So, preachers sometimes try to be somewhat more superficial in oral lessons (which tend to have time limits) than they would be on paper. [Imagine trying to understand the book of Hebrews or Romans from merely hearing someone read the book to you once, without pauses.] When reading, on the other hand, a person is able to move slower to ponder hard concepts, and even allow his mind to stray when he needs to, without missing the next point being made by a speaker. Can one really argue against the axiom that reading increases knowledge dramatically?
And gaining knowledge is critical, according to Scripture. Solomon highlighted that truth time and again (42 times in Proverbs). Consider a few of his comments about knowledge: “Fools hate knowledge” (1:22). “Knowledge is pleasant to your soul” (2:10). “Receive…knowledge rather than choice gold” (8:10). “Wise people store up knowledge” (10:14). “Through knowledge the righteous will be delivered” (11:9). “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid” (12:1). “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge” (14:7). “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge” (15:14). “The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge” (18:15). “Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge” (19:2). “Cease listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge” (19:27). “There is gold and a multitude of rubies, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel” (20:15). “By knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches” (24:4). “A man of knowledge increases strength” (24:5).
To be honest, I loathed reading as a youngster. Being more of a “visual learner,” I struggled to stay focused while reading school materials that did not interest me. This made reading take longer, making me that much more frustrated with the whole process. As you can imagine, this problem affected my Bible reading practices as well—considering that so much of the Bible is not merely stories about David and Goliath, but deeper concepts that require the ability to read well. Thankfully, in college, I was introduced to some fictional books that interested me and captivated me enough to cause me to realize how much fun reading can be. I discovered that I could also stay focused and therefore, fly through books, if they were the kinds of materials that interested me. They did not even have to be fiction books. I just had to have the inspiration to learn something that was found within the pages of a non-fiction book. I literally felt like my mind had been unleashed. With that desire to learn, my love of reading blossomed.
I cannot tell you how important that lesson was. I simply could not have made it through college and graduate school without learning to love reading. The job I have now requires an immense amount of reading and writing—easily the equivalent of one book per week. More importantly, however, my knowledge growth would have been severely stunted. I did not realize that fact until after I had read so many books that helped me to gain knowledge in various areas—books that I would never have read without having developed an interest in reading.
Please do not misunderstand me. Can a person become a Christian and go to Heaven without being able to read? Certainly. Many do, and in fact, most people on the planet cannot read (and perhaps most people on the planet through history have not been able to read). In Bible times, copies of God’s Word were often hard to come by. Instead of being able to read God’s Word for oneself, he might have to rely on an individual he trusts to read it to him (e.g., Exodus 24:7; Deuteronomy 31:11; Joshua 8:34-35; 2 Kings 23:2; Nehemiah 8:3). But is there any doubt that one’s knowledge growth can be significantly enhanced if he can read and study for himself? There is a reason the Bereans were “more fair-minded” or “noble” than the Thessalonians. They were able to search the Scriptures for themselves to make sure they were being told the truth, and they did so daily (Acts 17:11).
All of that said: parents and grandparents, it is important that we strive to find ways to get our children to love reading—whatever approaches that might be in your particular case. Granted, that will be easier with some children than others, but if we can work to cultivate a love of reading in our kids, we will be giving them an important tool that will help them gain knowledge, study the Bible deeper, and prepare themselves to defend the truth as a soldier of the Cross.
1 “The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn’t Changed In 10 Years” (2013), The Huffington Post, September 13, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/06/illiteracy-rate_n_3880355.html.
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