by JOHN C. KWASNEY
Recently, a Facebook friend with a two-year-old daughter posed the following question:“Moms or dads—InnoPad or LeapPad?” Now I typically don’t respond to questions in my social media newsfeed not specifically directed to me, but I couldn’t resist this time. I tapped out on my iPhone, “Books. Lots of books.” Yes, I know, my Luddite response could be construed as a less-than- subtle slap on my friend’s wrist. But thankfully, she took it in stride and retorted, “Got it, John. But she isn’t into books as much as I would like her to be…she will sit longer with stuff moving than a book.” Which sums up a very modern dilemma—how do we raise children who love to read in this age of excessive entertainment media?
Now don’t get me wrong; I absolutely love technology. From my very first Atari (yes, I’m dating myself) to my iPad, I have been and still am quite the techno-geek. In my home, you would find more than one family’s fair share of media devices. Even my two-year-old son is remarkably talented with a touchscreen. Yet I have also always been a voracious reader, and thankfully so are my children. So I understand the struggle to train children to love reading books in an age that has too much “stuff moving.”
My guess is that most parents want their children to read well and even to love reading. If that describes you, why not make a resolution towards that end this year? Better yet, let me suggest a complex of resolutions that will help your family move towards the high goal of literate, book-loving children.
Resolution 1 EXAMPLE
As with much of our parenting, resolving to raise children with a love for reading begins by example. Do they see you reading? Are you reading to them? Do you read books as a family? Your affections will often be embraced by your children. A love for reading—whether for stories or study—must be put on display by parents.
Resolution 2 INTERACTION
Both the research and common sense is clear: Reading to children increases the real possibility of a lifelong love for reading. It’s essential to start young, when children want to read the same book hundreds of times. Do it, even if you have to employ the time-tested trick of turning two pages at a time! Handing them a tablet that reads to them is not the same. They need your voice, your laughter, your questions, and maybe even your tears. Resolve to interact with your children about what they learned from the story and/or a study book.
Resolution 3 TIME
Stepping up your resolve a notch requires making time available for your children to read. Many families have chosen much too busy lives, often from fears of their children either being bored or left out. Reading takes time. You may have to make that time for your child. It certainly is easier when they’re young, but make sure to persist through the elementary and teen years too. Hopefully, the love of reading will compel your children to make the time for their self!
Resolution 4 SPACE
Modern homes tend to design spaces for everything except reading. We have huge kitchens and bathrooms. Entertainment and recreation rooms dominate most floor plans. The living room has the flat screen television as its focal point. It may sound radical, but readers need quiet spaces to read. With our family of ten, my wife has taken great pains to develop as many reading nooks as possible. If you want children to enjoy reading, they could use places that are pleasant and quiet, so they can focus.
Resolution 5– Books
Yes, you actually must have books on hand to develop children who love to read. Even ebooks are acceptable, as long as you follow all the rest of the above resolutions! Book lovers require a large quantity of tomes, as well as good, quality material. And, our children should be exposed to a wide range of literary genres, even if they later settle into just a few.
In days past, only the wealthy with abundant luxury time read books. The poor were too busy trying to survive to even learn to read. So what does it say about a society that doesn’t read primarily because there is too much useless and trivial “stuff moving” around us? And, most important of all, how do we expect our children to have a love for the greatest BOOK of all if they don’t have a general love for reading? If you think about it, that’s really the best motivation to resolve to develop children who love to read. Loving books should lead our children to love the knowledge, the wisdom, and the stories of Scripture!
John C. Kwasny, Ph.D. is a Biblical Counselor, Director of Christian Education and Children’s Ministries at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church, and the Director of One Story Ministries (www.onestoryministries.org). He and his wife, Martie, have eight children.