“Reading is the ultimate weapon, destroying ignorance, poverty, and despair before they can destroy us. A nation that doesn’t read much doesn’t know much. And a nation that doesn’t know much is more likely to make poor choices in the home, the marketplace, the jury box, and the voting booth. And those decisions ultimately affect an entire nation . . . the literate and the illiterate.” -Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook
How is it that the most impacting and life-changing moments of my life almost always emerge from circumstances that seem at first purely coincidental and spontaneous, yet flaunt such incredible, miraculous timing as to reveal something nothing short of ordained? If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I encourage you to start paying attention to the transforming “coincidences” in your own life. Here’s a spoiler for you: I bet they aren’t coincidences at all.
This particular “coincidence” happened as I was taking a hot bath last night in the attempts of sloughing off some of the stress and anger I have been experiencing these past two weeks . . . you can probably guess the source. I desperately needed to get my butt into a hot tub and my nose into a good book. My husband recently picked me up a copy of the newest (unedited) edition of my beloved Read-Aloud Handbook and I decided it was time for a re-read. Ahhh . . . what could be more relaxing for a shameless book-lover than to take a tub and to read about reading? Just about anything else, as it turned out.
The Read-Aloud Handbook was not what the doctor ordered for this distressed American. Not even slightly. At least not to help me do anything resembling relaxing my mind or calming my . . . conscience. In fact, it did just the opposite. Upon reading the above quote, I sat straight upright in the tub, and found that bath time was bubbling over. I suddenly found the hot water I was in (indeed, the hot water we are all in) a little too hot. I was struck with this old and yet startlingly new revelation as to the source of all this hot water and felt an immediate urge to . . . pull the plug.
Why is our country in such turmoil? How can so many voters make such seemingly misguided decisions? How can there be so much contrasting information on the news?
It’s easy to see, really. In fact, it’s as easy as A, B . . . umm . . . C?
Statistically, as you can read for yourself in The Read Aloud Handbook, more than half of our beloved nation is practically illiterate (not to mention amoral, but I’ll come back to that). Don’t get me wrong . . . the majority of our United States’ citizens CAN read, they just . . . well . . . DON’T. Maybe not even on their ballot (not to mention the pre-reading research that should occur before filling in all those boxes).
Why doesn’t our country read anymore? Because as a society it is easier to be fed by a tube than it is to toil in a garden. Of course in this case the “tube” I’m referring to is the boob-tube (TV) or media in its myriad of outlets, and the garden is a fertile bed of living, breathing, truth-telling, wisdom-giving literature (my kind of garden to be sure).
There is abounding evidence to suggest that upwards of 90% of the news we are daily fed (through the tube or through that feed . . . you know, the fodder we consume like cattle in a factory-farm lot ) is negative news. That’s bad news, but what may be even worse still: perhaps more than 50% may be unconfirmed, undocumented, or even outright false news! Indeed, half or more of our brain’s daily diet may be junk, or lies, or both! And our kids may be victim to second-hand junk-food consumption, or worse still, they may be directly consuming it at home or even . . . dare I say it . . . school.
When you read, you take in information slowly and selectively digest it through the filters of your own *hopefully* discerning mind and possibly the litmus test of a strong moral character and conscience. But as a nation we aren’t selectively digesting information from vibrant, hand-picked reading material from a garden of nutrient-dense produce. Instead we are lining up, holding out our plastic beige trays and allowing the lunch lady to ladle us the same beige slop she dishes to everyone else from the same giant crock . . . each and every day. We’re not even sure what the slop is that we are being served, but we eat it regardless and without protest. For some of us, it’s the only food we’ve ever known.
What I’m claiming is that as a nation we aren’t reading, we’re feeding . . . on the junk and lies being spoon-fed to us from behind the shiny screens of our “tiny gods” . . . you know those little devices that consume almost all of our spare moments and whose artificial intelligence we believe to be superior to our own. And as Jim Trelease so boldly states: “the less we read, the less we know!” In other words, our nation is dumb and getting dumber. And the dumb are easy to dupe.
Does this state of our country worry you? Are you mad? Shocked? Confused? Have you been asking yourself “what are we going to do about all this?” What are we parents to do? What can we do to ensure the kind of world we want for our children? I humbly offer a possible solution to you. I did not envision it. The concept does not belong to me. I simply re-stumbled upon it in such inexplicably applicable timing. . . whether by chance or whether by providence, you can decide. . . and have since spent a little time and effort fleshing it out a bit. If you are willing, I would be honored to share it with you, dear reader.
“Men are cast iron; but children are wax.” -Horace Mann, 1837
What if we truly honored our children as . . . wax? How do we primarily serve our children in a given day? Are we mainly focused on catering to our children, or cultivating them? Is most of our effort to entertain and appease them? Or is our focus anchored in our calling to “train up a child in the way he should go”? (Proverbs 22:6) And do those of us who claim to be Christian parents take that verse seriously enough? I will be the first to admit to you right out that I do not. Too many days have I wasted allowing our kids to watch fluff on the TV, or carting them around from one fun . . . thing to the next, or allowing them to spend an entire day or week serving only their own whims and desires as if they are the center of their own universe.
Perhaps we need to take this “training a child up in the way he should go” a whole lot more seriously and soberly. Do we view our children as perfect little hot-house potted roses? Or do we recognize them as roots and stems and twigs . . . to be pruned and bent in certain directions, to be watered and loved and cultivated into fruit-bearing vines? Are we treating our children like the wax, or the clay that they are? Are we bending a knee with our children at the beginning of each day? Are we in the scripture with our children each and every day? Are we reading superior, truth-telling, wisdom-building literature to them? Do we emphasize God in our homes and make Him the center of our lives and activities? Do we model service to our children, or do we model self-gratification?
Is your bath water feeling a little too hot like mine? Join hands with me and rally to fight against this infiltration, this war on our impressionable children and the future of our nation.
Let’s pour truth, wisdom, strong morals, and strong character into our children and watch what God does with it. Let’s try our damnedest to be living examples of the type of adults we hope our children will become. Let’s give everything we have, and exhaust ourselves in the calling and responsibility we have to shoulder the incredible task of training our children in the way they should go, praying steadfastly that God will bless our efforts and not let them depart from Him when they are old. (Proverbs 22:6)
We need to toil in the garden! Let’s trade in our false nails for real ones with dirt underneath. Let’s remove the junk, or cut the crap and give our children nourishing food . . . not just for their bodies but for their hearts, minds, and eternal souls as well. For me, that means no television (you know, the kind with commercials), no YouTube, no social media of any kind, no cell phone or handheld devices for the kids, lots of family time, an emphasis on God in our home and activities, plenty of practical life skills, service for our neighbors and community, and lots and lots of intentionally-chosen reading material.
Want to change the world? Then BE the change for a single child, even if that child isn’t yours!
What if every grandparent or lonely stay-at-homer across the country, or across the world, began tomorrow and read to a child every day via FaceTime or over the phone? I can’t decide who would benefit more . . . the child, the reader, the parent, the country, the world? I encourage you, I implore you, if you are already reading to your child, might you also easily read to another at the same time, even via your phone? A niece? A nephew? A neighbor? Let’s not be selfish to the cultivation of just our own children. Perhaps we could be a foster-reader for a child who hasn’t had the gift of story given to him yet.
Our Family’s 3-step Action Plan for training up our children in “the way they should go”:
1.) CREATE A FAMILY CREED
This was my beautiful mother’s idea. And it’s a good one. In a time in our country when we are so divided as to what we stand for, each American family can take the reins in creating a strong set of values for their home. For the Christian family, we can dive into the word of God to create our Christ-centered creed. Discuss with your family the values that you believe in and write them into a document worthy to be signed with a flourishing John Hancock. Print it, display it, recite it, practice it, live it. Ours will begin with: “As for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.”
No news is good news? Perhaps so, when roughly half of it is false and almost all of it is negative! Let’s turn it off! At the very least when the kids are awake. Also, let’s put down our phones, computers, devices and show our children with our eyes, with our ears, with our tongues, and with the service of our hands who we value: God, the earth He has blessed us with, and the people He has created to rule over it and honor His splendor.
3.) READ TO OUR CHILDREN (and others) EVERY DAY TRUTH-TELLING, WISDOM-GIVING LITERATURE
If I may be so bold as to add on to Jim Trelease’s creed for reading more to our children (or reading to them at all), I suggest that we pay special attention, now more than ever, to WHAT we are reading. Silly, fun, “fluff” books are fine. They can help our child learn to read, learn to love it, and enjoy some bonding time with their parents or grandparents in the meantime. That’s all fine and dandy and at the end of the day, truly valuable. BUT. What I am suggesting is something even more. Let’s take this idea and expand it. Let’s grow a future nation of adults (not to mention voters) who are deeply-rooted in God’s word and/or firmly-grounded in sound logic and wisdom.
We can use the wise words in “living literature” as soil, water, and sunlight to grow and cultivate our children into fruit-bearing vines.
Please join me today and every day in reading to our children wisdom-giving literature! Tune in Saturday for our Wisdom-Building Literature List!
Thank you for READING!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~