You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me. Strickland Gillian
"Give me a man or woman who has read a thousand books and you give me an interesting companion."Anne Rice
Children are pre-wired by God to long for knowledge and skill. It is why the average 4 year old asks 100 questions a day. Children also thrive when they are given grand resources in their souls--a vocabulary worthy of thinking great thoughts, grasping interesting ideas, discovering wisdom and knowledge.
One of the greatest ways we can love our children is by cultivating in them a love for learning, cultivating their intellect, and giving them a broad base of education. Research widely acclaims, in every venue of research, that a child who is read to will have a larger capacity for solving problems, a greater vocabulary, a greater ability to solve problems, is more socially adjusted, tests better, is more likely to become a leader, and the list goes on and on. This great habit of life is not developed by saying to your children, "Read!"
It is a habit that a wise woman cultivates at every possible moment. It must be planned, practiced, cultivated, acted on--do not think that anything else can replace this wonderful gift you can give to your children! There is nothing more miraculous for the soul or to draw children to your ideas of faith, than to invest long hours of reading profoundly together!
When we invest in our children's intellect and mental prowess, we give them a confidence and skill in life that will serve them all the days of their lives. But, developing reading as a delight and as a life-long habit requires choices. We must limit media for ourselves and for them--as they pick up what we model.
But we must also, at the earliest age, pick up our babies and hold them in our laps and talk and read to them if we want to pass on this skill and habit and mental strength. A reader does not just happen by chance, it is a cultivated habit, a discipline of life. And if you want to give your children a broad and deep soul, reading to them and spending time engaging in stories is an invisible gift that will serve them the rest of their lives.
People have asked me, how did you raise a child who was able to score a perfect score on one of Harvard's entrance tests? I held Sarah in my lap with little picture books from the time she was a wee baby. I would point to Richard Scary pictures of toys or bodies or animals and would say the word and the sound the animal made and she would point to them and say the words. I read sweet picture books every morning and every night. (love Eloise Wilkin as an Illustrator as all of her paintings are beautiful and family friendly, so I collected these books.)
I used interesting voices and dramatized and laughed and boomed whenever a story required it. By the time she was 3 years old, reading with me was a delight and we had read together hundreds and hundreds of hours. She loved cuddling up with her blankie or a small cup of her favorite juice or drink or just sitting in my lap and it became a bonding time for us as we shared stories and characters and life and interests together.
Next came Joel and he just squished in with us. Even Nathan, (positive peer pressure, you know--if the other kids did it, he followed suit), and reading out loud became a habit.
We must observe that God told us about himself through story--all the old testament stories are about real people who captivate our imagination. Jesus told stories constantly to teach a lesson. And so stories of great people, interesting histories, epoch or interesting or humorous tales, captivated them for hours,
I think if you asked all of my children what were the most defining habits that tied our family together, all of them would say "Reading together."
John 1 tells us that Jesus was the "Word." We were made to people of words. Words give us truth, knowledge, ideas, character, patterns for life, inspiration, companionship, conviction, encouragement, intelligence. There is no end to what I could say about the importance of words and their connection to all of the rest of our lives.
How do we develop a love for words? By talking and reading and engaging in great ideas and discussing great ideas. Many women I know are planning their children's year and measuring much of what they hope to accomplish by activities they are going put in their children's schedule and by classes their children will take and by curriculum on which they will spend all of their resources.
Many people ask me all the time, "What curriculum did you use to determine that your children would become academically excellent and score so well on their tests and get into such good colleges and get those scholarships? How did you give your children Biblical convictions so that they love the Lord and want to serve Him?"
First, let me say, it is all by God's grace. He resides in our home fully with life, truth, and dominion. But, the way God worked through our days was through reading, reading, reading--discussing each and every night, morning, noon and afternoon. Baskets of books everywhere--in all of the rooms, even the bathrooms!
I determined that I would expose my children to the best and wisest authors and minds and stories that would build the foundation of their souls and that would give them truth (the Word) and that would inspire them to build a world view that provided for them to want to invest their lives in the history of this world for His kingdom. We read hundreds if not thousands of books. We discussed truth. We cherished wisdom and ideas and models throughout history. We made reading the priority and giving our children a love for reading and knowing a foundation for their lives.
How did Sarah become such a wonderful writer? By being read to profoundly. How did Joel do so well on his essays for all college entrance and get such high test scores? By being read out loud to! Why was Nathan compelled to write a book? Why did Joy start a blog? (her most recent one here
--about books and about loving the Bible)
Because they loved learning, reading, thinking, teaching and sharing wisdom as a natural consequence of living in a world full of ideas and words. Not rocket science--just wisdom.
But, if you really want to give them this profound gift of love, you must stop all of the other things you are doing and read every day--every day--every day. If you wait until you have time, you will not do it--it must be a part of your rhythm of life and a priority.
Do not fill your schedules with unnecessary activities and lists of textbooks and unnecessary busy work--it will wear you out and demotivate your children.
Instead, delight in great stories, teach the word passionately. Greatly value and treasure words and ideas and history in front of your children so that they will fall in love with language and knowledge. (Of course it goes without saying--limit media to a reasonable amount--almost none when they are little and only a bit more when they are older until they are of age to be responsible for themselves.) You cannot expect children to fall in love with reading and thinking if they have media as an option all the time for babysitting them.
We still read outloud to our children. Sarah and Nate spent several hours a week this summer reading a several hundred page book together just for fun when they weren't working. No, they are not nerds. They are healthy, redblooded, fun, contemporary, highly convicted children. But they learned this habit of sharing great stories together and it became a part of their friendship and a part of their pleasure.
It started with our family culture--magazines in every corner of the house--creation science, nature, history, beautiful ones, captivating illustrations. Book baskets in every room--picture books, art books, history books, etc. Reading every day for an hour in the afternoon--a habit we still keep. And many other things.
So, be sure, no matter what else you do, in your planning to plan a great list of wonderful books to cozy up and read to your children all together. Make it a daily ritual. Cuddle up on the couch. Use great voices. Get excited. Pick exciting captivating stories. ........and and and and!
If we lose the gift of reading in this generation, we will lose the ability to reason, to understand God's greatness, to think well, to have convictions. We must keep literacy up! One of the most important works of our lives. If children do not learn to love to read, they will not become readers of the Bible--the best words. They will love reading if you read outloud to them and cherish them and celebrate great stories together with them in peace and joy.
"We read to know we are not alone!" C. S. Lewis