Wednesday’s post talked about guiding kids in wisely choosing books (or any entertainment).
But what about those books your child (or teen) really, really, REALLY wants to read? Or a kid in your ministry asks you if there’s anything wrong with a specific book? Usually these questions are generated when a new book appears and immediately is moved into the best-selling, trendy spot in the kid-book-reading world. “Everyone” is reading it! (So your child or the teen in your ministry tells you.)
You know your child better than anyone.
In fact, I have an admission here. The only time Ken and I had a “should-our-child-be- reading-this-book” discussion with a teacher … was us allowing Kelli to read a book the teacher thought she was too young to read. Kelli was in second grade and the book was for teens/adults. Ken had just read it and not only thought Kelli would enjoy it, but that she was capable of reading and understanding the story. She did.
You know if your child can distinguish between fiction, sci-fi, fantasy and real life. You know if your child can handle reading about a tough situation or understand that a protagonist’s bad choice has consequences.
But what if you aren’t sure about a book? Or you would like to allow your child to read
the book that’s “everyone is reading,” but have questions about some parts of it?
- Talk about it with your child/teen and discuss it in light of the guidelines posted on Wednesday.
- Go to the library or bookstore and read a few chapters and become familiar with the story yourself. Don’t make a decision on what you heard your neighbor’s aunt say about the book. Even if you’re absolutely sure your final answer will be “no,” you need to be familiar with the book so you can give your child/teen valid reasons for your decision. They won’t accept, “I heard a radio program that said it was bad.” And, by giving them rational reasons, you are teaching them to make good choices themselves.
- Read the book with your child. If you’re overall okay with it, but haven’t read every single word – then read it out loud with your son or daughter. When you get to a questionable part, discuss it. (Unless the book becomes majorly objectionable and you realize there aren’t any good parts …)
- Be open in your discussions. Be honest about your objections, but listen to their side, too. Again, reading the book with your child can often solve the problem.
- Assure your child/teen that they can ask you about any book.
Okay, those principles work when we’re talking about our own kids, but what about the kids in our ministry?
I had several girls in my high school Bible study who enjoyed reading. I told them I would read any book they wanted me to read (when they weren’t sure about the content) and discuss it with them. A few took me up on it – and I read some … umm … interesting books. But I was willing to do it for them and the discussions were thought-provoking.
We need to react to a child’s question with sensitivity.. We can’t mandate what a ministry child/teen does. All we can do is prayerfully and carefully give them guidelines. We can share the check points similar to the ones talked about in these posts, but the ultimate decision is between the child/teen and the parent.
I have been on both sides. I have had kids tell me their parents didn’t care that they were reading blatantly immoral books. On the other hand, I have had kids tell me about books they weren’t allowed to read and I’ve thought, “Why ever not?” But expressing an opposing view from a parent isn’t wise. You might not only lose the kid from your ministry, but the parents as well. Ask the Lord for wisdom because we need it!
What we can do, is share Scripture. For instance, the book might be a positive viewpoint about a high school kid having sex and a teen says, “My mom says I need to know about things like that and this story is a good way to learn.”
We can say, “Let’s look at some verses and figure out what the Lord says …” without ever contradicting the mom.
As teachers, we are put in tough situations. We need to handle those situations wisely and with love, never criticizing the parent.
Let’s think positively. Supply your classroom with books that are fun and good to read. Work with your church librarian to expose the kids to good, Bible-based books. (Perhaps you could take five minutes out of class weekly, to read a few pages of a book to generate interest.)
Our prayer should be, whether concerning our own kids or kids in ministry, that we guide with wisdom as we work toward developing a biblical worldview – even in the library.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)