When Nathan, Christopher, and Sarah began homeschooling in grades three, one, and preschool, we had a regular time of me reading out loud after lunch. With the coming of babies a few years later, this enjoyable time went by the wayside. Recently, I have made a bit of time to read to Joseph (6), while the other little ones nap, and then to John (4) and Anna (3), before the baby gets up.
Reading children’s books to Joseph, which are more in depth than the picture books we used to read, has made me once more aware of the importance of the quality of our children’s reading material. We have taken Philippians 4:8 as our gauge of what we want to read ourselves and have our children read. It says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
First, I am finding, although some of the books are interesting to Joseph, there is no value in them, no virtue. They are simply entertaining. Then other books actually have negative behaviors and attitudes. They are not just or pure. For example, one book we read talked about a person wanting to punch someone else in the nose. My little boys laughed and laughed, and it came up in conversation between them after that. They had never before heard of punching in the nose. I don’t want them learning wrong behavior, thoughts, or attitudes from what they read. There are many books in which brothers and sisters have bad attitudes toward each other and say unkind things to and about each other. Is that what I want to foster in my children? Of course not!
We started reading a book from a very popular children’s series. Before we had gone halfway through the first book, it had brought up Jack Frost, Santa Claus, and the need for birthday spanks if a child is to grow. None of that is true. It may have been what actually happened in the family of this story, but it becomes very confusing to Joseph as I try to explain why the book character believed in these things, and we don’t.
Also, there was a whole chapter on the tediousness of Sundays because the children weren’t allowed to do very much. The book did not explain why these people chose to honor God by devoting a day to Him and limiting their activities as Isaiah 58:13-14 says: “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” Rather, they centered on the deprivation and hardship of the day for children. When we got to this part, I told Joseph we had to stop reading it. I was sad I had not stopped earlier.
Along this line, but down a slightly different path, is the choice of books for our daughters to read. Christian romance novels are very popular, but do they promote what we want our daughters to think about? It is hard enough for a young girl who is committed to waiting on God for a spouse to not think about young men, but when she is constantly immersed in romance, it becomes even harder. We have found it much better to encourage our thirteen-year-old daughter to read Christian biographies. These challenge her in her Christian walk and give true insights into the realities of love and marriage.
The tiny bit of reading time I have with Joseph is valuable for us just because we are together. However, I want to redeem every moment of the day. I don’t want to waste any of our time by reading books that don’t meet the test of Philippians 4:9. Reading-aloud time can be wonderful inspiration and encouragement to Joseph in the Lord. This is especially true as we find books about great Christians or stories that bring out character and right attitudes. We can have the benefits that educationalists tell us come from reading to our children, plus more, if they are inspired to godly behavior by what we read without the negative influences that come if we do not carefully screen what we read.
What about you? Have you put a high value on what your children are reading or what you are reading to them? Have you thought through what criteria reading material should pass in your home? It takes effort and sometimes means we miss out on what everyone else may say is great. I think choosing to please God in this way will have significant benefits in the lives of our children now and throughout the years.