“Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105
Last Sunday morning at my church we gifted our kindergarten students with the Karyn Henley, “Day by Day Begin to Read Bible.” (http://karynhenley.com/site/Product-individual-pages/BeginToRead_Bible.html) This particular children’s Bible story book is very special to me. It has served as a primer for my oldest three children: Haylee, Cassie & Brayden. Currently, I am reading it with Bryson & Baron as part of our bedtime routine.
But more personal than this particular children’s Bible is the importance of reading and education. I was blessed with the opportunity to attend good public school as a child and teenager. College was always an assumption, and graduate school was a rich blessing. Today, as a reader, I can learn from people all around the world and from across the ages. As a matter of fact I just experienced the thrill of opening a box of new books ranging from theology to parenting to child development to spiritual formation. I write today because I don’t take words for granted, and I don’t want you or your children to either.
My grandfather, Papa, was not afforded the same opportunities in life that I was. We buried Papa a little over a year ago. It was surely the most emotional eulogy I’ve ever delivered. Papa is one of the greatest men I’ve ever known. He taught me the value of a hard day’s work and providing for my family. He taught me to appreciate the simple things in life like the front porch swing and a cold glass of sweet tea. I never heard Papa speak or pray publicly, however, I watched him quietly live out a life of simple faith and deep love for his God and his neighbor.
Children today, and we their parents, often view compulsory education as a series of burdensome requirements that have little bearing on the important things in life. I never spoke with Papa about the struggles he faced in life being unable to read and write. I can only imagine the feelings he knew so well when he was asked to sign his name and all he could do was put his “X’ and have a witness testify to his identity. He never spoke about these things, but I know I did right in his eyes by taking the work ethic I inherited from him and applying it to academic pursuits.
All these things are a part of what I wanted to pass on to the children of our church as I issued them a challenge last Sunday to learn to read. Out of about a dozen children I suspect one or two could already read the stories with just a little prodding. I also know that a year from now a few will still be struggling through the process of becoming literate, and that is ok! They won’t all learn at the same rate and in the same way. God has engineered each of them uniquely. As parents, and as a church body, we desire for each of them to make the most of the gifts with which God has gifted them.
Reading is not a necessity for rich faith, but it certainly opens a lot of doors and allows for a level of independence in one’s pursuit of God through scripture and other holy writings. Beyond that, literacy opens the door for the pursuit of knowledge in all fields, thus, enabling a child of God to more fully pursue whatever vocation to which he or she is called. My prayer for our children is that they gain as many tools as possible that will assist them in their pursuit of God and the carrying out of His will and purpose in their lives.
Additionally, in the here and now, I pray that we as parents will take the time to read with our children, realizing it is as much about the time with them as it is the stories. Preschoolers are so blessed by time in our laps as the objects of our focus and love. There are few things we can do that more thoroughly nurtures their development and tightens the bond between child and parent…