July 20, 2012 by
Categories: Articles | Resources
Marty Machowski leads the children's and youth ministries at Covenant Fellowship Church and is the author of The Gospel Story Bible, Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God, and Old Story New: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family To God. In a recent blog post at the Gospel Story for Kids, Marty discussed the importance of developing a culture of reading in our families for the purpose of biblical instruction. He also offered a few practical suggestions on how you might approach this in your home. We trust this will serve you as you work to transfer the gospel to the coming generation, Psalm 78:4-6.
It is critically important to develop and maintain a culture of reading in your family. This has never been more difficult than now, during the age of personal electronics. Our children’s attention is easily captured by the mesmerizing clarity of high def television, the excitement of computer games, and the ingenuity of hand held cell phones and other electronic devices. Against this explosion of technology, we must fight to retain the simple skill and discipline of reading, a skill irreplaceable by technology, and the key to learning.
But, most importantly, reading is a way we can get to know God. God speaks to us through his Word. In John 1:1 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Jesus is the Word who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14); and Jesus came to bring the Word of God to us. How did we receive this Word? Of course the Holy Spirit opens our hearts to Christ, but faith comes by hearing and hearing from the Word of God (Romans 10:17). The Bible is God’s written Word. Living and active, able to cut to the core of our being and judge our heart (Hebrews 4:12). This living Word, breathed out by God, is useful for teaching, correction, and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). But most important, God’s Word gives us his gospel truth, which he tells us is the “power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). It’s a great gift to be able to read God’s Word. You can encourage your children to cultivate that gift through developing a culture of reading in your family.
How do you develop and maintain a culture of reading in your family? Here are a few suggestions.
- Read to your children – Reading is kind of like a virus – it’s catchy. I can still remember my parents and teachers reading books to me as a child. Of course, the most important book is the Bible, and it is filled with stories. For younger children, we’ve developed the Gospel Story Bible to consolidate the larger stories of scripture, connect them to the gospel, and provide illustrations with questions to help children understand the stories you read to them.
- Fill your home with good books – It doesn’t cost a penny to take your children twice monthly to the library and borrow a bag full of books. You will be amazed at how quickly your children will devour the same books that excited you as a child.
- Limit TV and other media – Television isn’t inherently evil, but too much TV will sow the seeds of sloth in your children. It takes work to read. If you have a family that is hooked on a ton of TV, take a television fast for a month. It can be very difficult to regulate something you’ve become dependent on. But if you cut it off, you will soon see how little you need movies, sitcoms, and cartoons, and you can bring television back into your life in moderation.
- Read a classic to your children – Currently I am reading The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien to my youngest two daughters. On most days they beg me to read another chapter. Last night I was working on the bills when my daughter pleaded, “Only a spoonful Daddy, can you read just a spoonful tonight?” If your kids are old enough to see the movie, The Hobbit, when it comes out later in the year, tell them they won’t be able to see the movie until they first read the book.
- Keep the Bible central to your reading – Daily Bible devotions help you keep God’s Word the most important reading you do as a family. If you’ve struggled to know how to keep devotions a priority, or if you just want a tool to help make it easy, check out Long Story Short, the Old Testament family devotional that follows the Gospel Story Curriculum and helps you do Bible study with your children.
- Give your children good books for presents – Every Christmas we give our children books. There is something about opening up a book as a present that makes it more special. Don’t just give them any books, if you give them books as gifts, give them great books.
Once your children catch the reading bug, you will have to keep up with them, taking more library trips and giving them suggestions on what to read. When they hit college and find out that you actually need to read to get good grades, they will thank you. Far too many people have this unfortunate phrase as a part of their personal philosophy – “I hate reading.” By fostering a love for reading in your children, you open up the world of books to their understanding and give them a key that can unlock the greatest piece of information known to man, the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For more information related to the excellent resources Marty have developed, please visit the Gospel Story for Kids homepage.