"Mom, I really need to talk to you about something that I keep forgetting to tell you. Please call me as soon as you can."
My heart skipped a beat. When I get this kind of text or email from one of my boys, I worry. Is he out of money? Has he had a fender-bender? It is something serious?
And so I called Nathan as soon as I could.
"Mom, I am out of books to read and in my days off, I want something to inspire me or encourage me. Will you send me a couple of more books that you recommend? I always read everything you and Sarah like and it keeps me going. The books you have sent over the past couple of years have almost been like companions to me and they speak to me when I am working. I am out of good reading material now and I miss it. Please send something soon."
Oh my goodness! What a relief! But to know that his soul still craves brain and heart food. To know that this boy who was wiggling, moving, always active when I was reading to him those long hours, was taking it into his heart and soul, was quite affirming to me a week ago when he wrote.
The book I put in the mail was one I had just finished. The Prodigal God. It was an easy read, but I knew Nate would enjoy it. Now Sarah has picked up a couple of pieces of fiction to send to him. Her last was Three Cups of Tea. Nathan loved that. He always loved Brother Andrew's book on his life story, God's Smuggler and used to give it to his friends.
Boys and young men need to have hero tales in their hearts, models of bravery in their souls. Books serve to feed their need for sacrificial, brave, hero living. Books give them a pattern for the foundations of their lives. Boys want to be a part of a movement or work greater than themselves. Good books call out to every boys desire to be a knight in shining armor. But modern day media just captures their time but builds nothing.
I let my boys play with legos while listening, if they were quiet. Some days I gave them sketching pads with colored pencils. Other days, popcorn and hot chocolate. In our cozy room by the fire place we spent hours upon hours of reading outloud and sharing in captivating stories. These stories shaped their souls, built vocabulary, encouraged amazing writing patterns. People ask me how it is that all of my children are exception writers. I think it is because the appetite of their minds was shaped by great writers--what went in came out. Great literature planted great patterns of communication in their minds--it was as simple as that. Far more important to a child's brain is reading aloud and capturing the imagination of children with great, inspiring stories than in using a grammar book.
Here is an article that speaks to these issues of building boys into readers.