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Volume 9, Issue 1: Cultura

Mothers Raising Readers

Nancy Wilson

We are all familiar with the world's views on reading: reading is neat, reading is fun, get your kids to read, read, read! We've seen the posters at the library, and perhaps our kids have even participated in reading programs through libraries or schools. With the alarming rate of illiteracy in our nation, it's even on television: basketball stars urge kids to stay in school or point out how cool it is to read.

Christian moms may think that on this one we can agree with the secularists. Reading is fun and neat and cool. We all delight to see our young children begin to be able to decode the writing on the page. We see them move from the skinny books with many pictures to the fat books with no pictures, and it is a joy. But I believe we have to look a little deeper and think about what the Christian view of reading should be and examine carefully what the secularists are really saying.
Christians should be people of the Word. God chose to reveal Himself to us through His Son the Living Word, and God has communicated to us through His Book, the Bible. Obviously, Christians, of all people, should have a deep reverence for the mysterious, God-given gift of language, both spoken and written. The secularists, on the other hand, view reading sometimes as an end in itself. Do we read simply because it is fun? Is this the chief end of man? Do we rejoice that our children read because now they can entertain themselves for hours on end without needing our supervision? Then how is this different from playing Sega games? Somehow reading seems more innocent, more wholesome; books still have a better reputation than video games. I have heard many, many mothers tell me with a gleam of parental pride in their eyes how much their children read. They check out stacks of books at the library each week and read them all! Now what could be wrong with this?
When a mom tells me that her fifth grader has read The Red Badge of Courage this week, I know she is thinking that I will be very impressed with the reading level of her child, and, in one way, I am impressed. But in another sense, I am alarmed. Why? Because reading is not an end in itself. Reading is a means of knowing and enjoying God and His world. It can and should make us better people. But in order for this to happen, we have to learn to read while bringing a Christian worldview to bear on all that is read. Parents need to do this and they need to teach their children to do this. So, if a fifth grader (or his parent, for that matter) reads Stephen Crane's book superficially, bad things can happen. He can be influenced to think like an unbelieving naturalist and not know it. Learning to think like a Christian is not as easy as learning to read. But it can and should be taught and practiced. When a Christian mom learns to do this, it should not ruin the enjoyment of the book; on the contrary, it should make the experience more pleasant because she is not being duped by the author. She can appreciate the beauty of the writing and understand the nonChristian mind better. Surely reading with our eyes open should enable us to appreciate even more the gifts that God gives to Christian and nonChristian alike.
To apply Christian worldview thinking is not to say that Christians should only read Christian books. Actually, the opposite is the case. Thinking like a Christian means that nonChristian writing can be read and understood and appreciated even while disagreeing with the author's analysis of God, man, and the world.
Parents and children alike must be taught to think like Christians. When we read, we must constantly be asking two questions, "What is the author saying?" and "Is it true?" Even if it is only a ketchup bottle label, we still must be thinking as we read. What is the author saying about the condition of man? Is man basically good? Does man have a problem? What is the author saying about God? Is He a loving Father who sent His Son to die for His people to purchase their salvation? Or is God portrayed as a malevolent force, toying with man and ultimately destroying him? Is God seen as simply a presence within man and nature alike? What is the author saying about the world? Is the world getting better and better as man progresses in the cycle of evolution? Is the world a meaningless, purposeless place where man simply exists for a short space and is then annihilated?
These are important questions and every author brings his own worldview to bear in his writing. After all, the author is creating a world in a work of fiction, and he is interpreting the world in a work of nonfiction; he assigns his own meanings to these important questions. All literature is teaching something. We must find out what it is. When we read carelessly, we are vulnerable to lies about God, about the nature of man, and about the nature of the world God made. Reading "all the classics" just so we can say we or our children did it, without reading critically is worse than reading nothing at all. As Christian parents fight to reeducate themselves and to educate their children, they must keep their defenses up and approach each book, each discipline of study Christianly. This includes implicitly Christian books, but just because it came out of a Christian bookstore does not mean it is teaching a right view of God.
A room full of books has a certain awe-inspiring aesthetic appeal. It implies study, thought, seriousness of purpose, even godliness. Books can be, as someone said, charming furniture. As the interest in reading continues to mount in Christian circles, we must insist that Christian thinking and analysis take place also. Christians must be prolific readers, readers of all kinds of books, but they must do so to the glory of God. This means that we as mothers must guide our children as they learn to do this.

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