Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Give Them Books

If you walk a mile in my shoes, you’ll end up at the book store.

       She was six, and already the bookstore was her favorite place to be. Friday night family time found us at Barnes and Noble for story hour. Emily ate cheese balls with Lilly of Lilly’s Plastic Purse (Kevin Henkes), twilled with Angelia Ballerina (Katharine Holabird) and had her picture taken with Sister Berenstain Bear (Stan and Jan Berenstain). I knew I had birthed a reader when Emily handed me a book and said, “Momma, doesn’t this book feel so good in your hands?” Deckle pages delighted her, word choices enchanted her, and those blue eyes twinkled when a favorite author released a new title.

       Common Sense Media’s 2014 research report found that 53% of nine-year-olds are reading daily. Every list I reviewed showed that 53% are reading fiction, indicating adventure, fantasy, some classics, fairy tales, and mysteries are the brain food of our children. I do believe fiction is an important part of a child’s reading. Nathan the Prophet told King David a story, Jotham shared a fable of trees, and Ezekiel related an allegory of a great eagle with wings. However there are so many other genres our children can enjoy. Remember, the words they read are filling their minds and forming their world view.

       Many use the excuse, “they are just kids,” but we are responsible for training our children for the Kingdom work. I purchased a book about strange animals so some fresh, informative reading would be available for the grandkids. All was well, until Ethan, then nine, brought it to me and said, “Mawmaw, this has evolution in it.” We can’t just randomly buy books and hope they are good because they were written for children. Review them first.

Here are some  alternatives to fiction for your consideration:

1. God’s Word

       Encourage devotional time early.  Before they learned to read my daughter established a time of personal devotions for her children. Listed on their picture reminders along with make your bed and fold jammies, was “read Bible and pray before leaving bedroom.” When Melanie was about twelve, I peeked into her room to see her reading her Bible. Three-year-old Emily was beside her, reading her Bible, too —upside down. There are many children’s devotional books available, but encourage your children to find the connected Scripture in their own Bible. We want them to fall in love with the Bible as a book. There will be time later for Bible apps and other electronic gadgets. 

2. Biography

       Reading biographies provides a cadre of heroes. Introduce them to entrepreneurship through Walt Disney, feed their patriotism with Nathaniel Hale or Sam Houston, and inspire them to pursue their talents with Handel and Mozart. Teach them compassion with stories of the Special Olympics and Rick Hansen. Challenge them to follow God with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jim Elliott and Amy Carmichael. 

3. Knowledge

       Kids just want to know – they like trivia and facts. Provide Ken Ham’s Answers Series. Give them books on sea animals, tornados, pyramids, national wonders and yes, even Zondervan’s Wacky Bible Gross Out book. Make sure they are up-to-date, colorful and fun.

       We have a responsibility to raise readers, to make sure books are available to them whether from our church library, city library or their own room’s library. When Melanie was a young teenager, she had over 500 books in her own room. Is it any wonder the main item on her Christmas list each year are non-fiction books?

       And my little Emily-reader-turned-teacher? Spring Break is coming up, and she has promised to spend a day with me, “curled up in the blue chair with a good book.”


Terra Hangen said...

These are sweet little stories of little ones and their love of books, and a great saying about wearing an old coat and reading a new book. I started out as a book loving child too and became a librarian and writer. Teacher sounds a natural too.

Shannon Wallace said...

Yes! I love books too! We are building a family legacy library that can be shared for generations. I couldn't agree more about filtering first what your children read! Some of the most popular books read by children are full of garbage and name calling. I love sticking mostly to the classics that reflect on our Lord. Also, reading aloud to the children daily, even when they are teens, is so important and builds a closer family relationship. :)

Scott LaPierre said...

Hi Pamela,
I especially appreciated your discussion of your children developing a devotional time. We generally read the bible as a family during our morning worship, but our children are getting old enough we think they should be reading on their own. We have six children, and the oldest is nine. She'd say, "Almost ten." :).

We've also enjoyed some biographies, especially missionaries. Keep up the great work directing your children toward the Lord!

lummy said...

You made some valid points here. We often assume children's books are just clean by default. I like the list of alternatives you created here. Thank you for sharing.

beka1211 said...

This is a great post! My best friend is a reading specialist and encouraged me to read nonfiction to my son from birth. Thanks for the useful reminders to review books first and to make sure they're up-to-date- definitely important.