I cannot state this enough, I love words! Words are amazing! They can mean just as much as you want them to and just as little as they’re meant to mean. I can tell you that something you did was “done well” or I can tell you that something you did was “exceptional.” The same idea comes across, but the connotation speaks volumes.
We have never believed in speaking “baby” to our children. We do allow for fun baby words like “num-nums” for food and “booty” for gluteus maximus. What we don’t do is carry on baby conversations with our children. We don’t say things like, “How wuz my pookie ookie ookums today? Did dadum’s wittle boi go tiddly widdly in his wittle dwiaperz?” So when we visit the pediatrician and he tells us that our two year old should know about 50-75 words and the two year old laughs at him, we think that maybe we’ve made the right choice. Now, our kids aren’t geniuses—not by a long shot—but they do know how to speak well. And their ability to speak well translates (eventually) into an ability to read well.
My oldest is ravenous for books. She just cannot get enough. Actually, for most of our children, taking books from them lets them know that we’re serious when they’ve found themselves facing the righteous anger of a parent scorned. We love this about our family and pray that this never changes.
We have a problem though—no matter how well we choose to speak to our children and no matter how much our children love to read—we have something that is constantly seeking to undermine our children’s love for literature. That would be … dad and mom. Dad and mom, I and my wife, are the two people in our children’s lives that are doing our best to destroy their love of reading. How are we doing this? We aren’t modeling. First off, we both really need to get back into shape before we start modeling again. One too many pizzas for me and too many fancy iced coffees for my wife. 🙂 Seriously, though, we’ve been failing our children in the reading arena because we don’t show them that we read. Do we read? Yes! Do we read around our children? Yes! Do they know this? Not at all!
Here’s the problem with our modeling, we do the same thing when we read that we do when we’re on Facebook or Instagram or (in my lovely wife’s case) Pinterest. We’re on our devices. Our noses are pressed against our screens and not in a book. It’s not that we don’t have plenty of physical books to read, it’s just that we have access to so many wonderful things to read on our phones. Heck, in one folder on my Dropbox I have access to a library of 12,500 Puritan books. I could read for the rest of my life and still not be done reading the wealth of information in that one resource alone. This doesn’t even take into consideration all the apps I have from different ministries, seminaries, news sites, my two different catechism apps, and my three Bible apps.
So ultimately, what’s wrong with this? As I stated above, when I’m reading on my phone, I know that I’m being fed, I know I’m reading; but all my children see me doing is sitting there Eskimo kissing my iPhone. And while I can tell them there’s a difference, while I can explain to them that I’m reading a book, it doesn’t show them that I value reading. It doesn’t show them that I know how to crack the spine of a physical book or juggle four or five books at once. All it shows them is that I know how to use my phone … and physical books make for great decorations. My wife and I don’t only make for terrible models (my last Vanity Fair spread was rejected), but we also model terribly.
How did we fix this? We didn’t. We’re still struggling with this. As I’m typing this, I have my headphones on, plugged into my iPhone, and I’m listening to Moby Dick. Do my kids know this? No, daddy’s just sitting at his computer with his selfie on the screen and he’s got his headphones on. Must be on those “sosh meeds” again (seriously, I looked it up, that’s how you spell sosh meeds … I think I just lost ten years of my life typing that phrase). So then, how are we going to fix this? I really don’t know. We’ve talked about electronics free times in our house. We’ve talked about only using physical Bibles when we’re reading the Word. We’ve talked about making it a point to have physical books in our laps when we’re sitting, rather than phones. But it’s just so easy to look at that screen. We’ve hardwired ourselves to pick up the phone and look at it whenever it makes the slightest chirp, the screen brightens for a second, or it buzzes with any amount of excitement. When I go somewhere, whether that be to the dinner table, to bed, or to the bathroom, my phone tends to go with me. We need to break ourselves of this.
We need to remove our dependence on these devices and restore to the written word the place of honor it so deserves. God didn’t tweet the gospel to us. He chose to create Scripture through men that were moved by the Holy Spirit to speak for God. They wrote those words on whatever medium they had to write them on. They wrote God’s narratives, His letters, His prophecy, and His poetry. God has spoken to us through His Word. And He has physically preserved that Word and will continue to preserve that Word for His church. While He might choose to preserve that Word in the future electronically (as long as He continues to tarry), we cannot afford to do a disservice to our children by having them see us on our phones all the time. Even if you tell them you’re in the Word, they don’t know the difference. When you can surf the web and surf the Word on the same device, you ultimately wipe out in setting that example for your children. We will be making a change in our lives. We recognize our sin and have repented. It’s going to take some time and quite a bit of prayer, but God will work this to His glory through us! So, my advice to you, don’t just do this well. Be exceptional and put that phone away! Take out your books, take out that physical Bible—dust it off—and let your progeny see you loving the written Word.