Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I'm afraid that when we think of discipling our children, we tend to think in terms of taking them to church, reading the Bible to them, or engaging in spiritual conversations with them. Those are necessary to discipleship of course, but in reality, our children are discipled much more unconsciously than we are aware. Just think of the last time one of your children said something or exhibited a behavior that made you wince because you knew all too well they had absorbed that attitude from you and that is the very one you most wished them never to acquire.

Most conscientious homeschooling parents are well aware of the "homeschool mandate" to teach your children, "When you rise up, and when you lie down..." from Deuteronomy 6 and acknowledge readily that true teaching occurs outside books and formal lesson time. Our children are molded by the atmosphere of our homes, follow our lead, unconsciously imitate us. Hence my oft repeated assertion that while children are not born reading, they become readers naturally enough if the practice of reading is part of the warp and woof of our home life: stories read to them, books prominently in the forefront, parents often engaged in a book an accustomed sight. We disciple them to the art of reading.

Last Thursday was library day in our home. Emily was at the desk attending to checking in books, my boys were trotting back and forth sorting and distributing books for reshelving, and I was engrossed in the ongoing task of moving books - making room in the biography section by shifting humanities and literature over a couple shelves. This allowed me to be in the center of things and a ready listener to the various conversations going on in the stacks. I confess to being an unrepentant eavesdropper. I gleaned quite a bit of knowledge about the preoccupations of busy homeschool mothers, and not a little amusement from their children's interactions.

"Guess what! I found five of those Happy Hollister books at the bookstore the other day!"

"You're kidding. I've never found any of those. Lucky you. I told you they were great books."

"I can't wait to look at the sale books over there today. I still have $4.00 left."

"Oh, did you see there's a Hollister book there?"

"Oh my goodness. Oh, here's On the Banks of Plum Creek and I don't have that yet...Mom, can I buy this one? It's $6.00, but I'll pay you back some time."

And so it went. In a few minutes there was a lively discussion between these seven-year-old and nine-year old girls about the relative merits of Marguerite Henry and C. S. Lewis. Bits of recommendations and advice flew back and forth in rapid fire fashion. All the mothers in the vicinity were highly entertained and one of them whispered to me as I balanced precariously to reach a top shelf, "Can you believe this? They're like little adults in some special book club."

As a librarian and someone who works endlessly to try to encourage reading in a culture that ignores reading (to put it mildly), I was gratified to say the least. This mother confided that it is deeply rewarding to hear her daughter and a friend making recommendations to one another and having opinions about various books they have experienced. I nodded in agreement, smiling to myself at the recollection of this same mother's despairing whether her daughter would ever "get the hang of" reading. It has been a couple of years since her tearful anxiety over her daughter's resistance to narrating lessons. I was always able to reassure her, not just because I've been through these early and often difficult years of getting a child on their own reading feet, but because I was able to be confident of her ultimate success because I observed her lifestyle. After all, she obviously loved books herself, had been a life-long reader, had read to her children from infancy, and not only joined a library of books outside the realm of the local public library, but spends a good deal of her spare change buying old out-of-print books. Her worries revealed her core values, and her practices informed me that she need not worry.

Truly reading is a habit that is caught not taught.

For the joy of reading,



  1. This reading habit in our home is and was one of the joys in my life.

  2. Bonnie,

    I agree with you. Reading itself is a gift from God, and reading withour loved ones is a lasting joy.