(This is a two-part post. Today’s post will talk about steps we can take to help our kids be discerning in choosing what to read. Friday’s post will talk about steps we can take if our kids want to read a new, trendy book and we aren’t quite sure whether or not it’s a good idea. Or, a kid/teen in our ministry asks us if a certain book is okay to read and we want to give the best answer possible.)
Remember when you were a kid and every month or so you’d get that brochure that listed all the books you could order for a reduced price? To me, a kid who loved to read, that was like Christmas! The variety of subjects with enticing titles always excited me.
Kids are still getting those lists today. Many of the books are worthwhile, but even on those chosen-for-school-lists, not everything is a great read. A mom of young children described the current offerings, saying that many of them have no plots and are picture focused – which isn’t necessarily bad, but doesn’t teach kids to be readers. She also said, “A lot of them are based on popular TV shows, toys or video games rather than having real plots.
In addition, kids often spend scheduled time in the school library. Again – a lot of great book and a lot of not-so-great-books.
My parents and then Ken and I had an general overview of what our kids were reading, but didn’t always know the details of every book. We semi-trusted that if the school librarian had chosen it or the book was in the book brochure it was at least sort of okay.
That might have been true at one time, but not anymore.
As I researched this post, I came across a selection of books on evolution – for three-year-olds! Even in the comments about the book – educators were saying that the information had changed and was no longer valid. Yet parents were excited that this wrong (on several accounts) information was available for their small children.
That’s just one example of subject matter that is floating around our kids’ lives.
(You might be thinking “my kids are homeschooled and/or I’m very careful about what they read.” I know at lot of parents are. Yet, if you’re involved in ministry, you are working with kids who are reading, watching, listening to – all kinds of books and entertainment.)
The thing is, when they are young, we can control what our kids read to an extent, but kids grow older and we don’t always know what they’re seeing at a friend’s house or at school.
Part of helping our kids develop a biblical worldview is teaching them to be discerning in all their choices – whether that’s choosing a TV program or a book to read.
Here are some decision-points we can teach them.
***Would my parents be ok with this book? Most kids know what causes their parents’ disapproval. If they’re fearful of showing their parents what they’re reading, then that’s a BIG warning signal!
***What am I learning from this book? Not every book needs to be educational or Bible-based, but a a book shouldn’t be focused on wrong information. (Evolution books for three-year-olds as mentioned above, is an example.)
***Is there bad language? (Yes, even kid books have bad language.) Bad language is a deal breaker for me. I can read a murder mystery or a biography of a jewel thief and that doesn’t tempt me to commit a crime. Language, however, gets in your brain and I don’t want bad language in my vocabulary or spewing out of my mouth in front of anyone, much less kids in my family or kids I’m teaching.
***Does the book teach me to be kind? This is a subtle point, that we sometimes don’t think about until one of our kids mouths off at us. One mom told me that her fifth grader was reading a series of books centered around a group of school kids and that her daughter’s personality completely changed. The daughter started sassing her parents, being cruelly sarcastic to her siblings, and ganging up with friends to meanly tease a neighbor child. The mom read one of the books and instantly knew what her child was imitating.
Another mom has no problem with her kids reading some of the popular fantasy series that are out, but absolutely will not let her children read books where the kids in the books are disrespectful to their parents. Disrespect too easily translates to real life.
***Does the book show respect to God? Does the book make fun of God? Does the book question what is right and what is wrong? Does the book make something sinful look appealing? As adults, we can sometimes read a book that is about someone rejecting the faith of their parents, or no longer attending church, or getting involved in a strange religion. We can think through what those people are saying and strengthen our faith by formulating a mental response. This is not true of an eight-year-old or a 12-year-old.
Because many books are chosen when we (the parents) aren’t around, we need to teach our kids to be discerning as we give them the tools to develop a biblical worldview.
Okay – I combined the points in the rhyme below. This isn’t classical poetry or anything, but it might help a child use discernment when choosing a book.
On Friday, we’ll talk about what to do if your child wants to read the latest trendy book or if a child in our ministry wants to know whether or not a book is good to read. (This has happened to many of us more than once),