I guess I am going old school. You see, I have books on the brain. Just this week I stood in the mall with a very rare moment to myself, nowhere to be for two hours, and I found myself pausing, asking “Where would I be if I could be anywhere?” Surprised by the answer: the library.
When I realized the desire, I couldn’t drive there fast enough. Up the steps and into my two bags flew the unforgettable Rebecca, The Door in the Wall, Black Beauty, poetry of Robert Frost. It was a gathering of jewels; I departed with a collection of words that transformed those mere totes into brimming treasure chests of golden expression. I was downright giddy as I fingered the spines of each title, driving away towards home. (In the interest of full disclosure, this plunder caused me to officially exceeded the 50-book limit imposed by the powers that be.)
If you put a literary feast out for your children, they will begin to eat. I witness the gluttony every day. We treasure evenings around the fire in our bedroom, with Dad reading his own book and the others laid out on snatched blankets and pillows, quietly inhaling every word. The Odyssey by Homer, Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life, Treasure Island, even the classic Nancy Drew -- we taste and eat and find it is good.
I overheard a discussion yesterday about technology, about how schools simply must offer it starting at an early age (eek-- my preschooler tossed the iPhone out the open car window just last week) and how a lack of current Apple gadgets could somehow make our kids uncompetitive in this century. (The prevalance of apathy might lead to that outcome anyway.)
I think we may be missing something here.
Susan Bauer is a bit more eloquent: she emphasizes that education should be “language-focused: learning is accomplished through words, written and spoken, rather than through images (pictures, videos, and television). Why is this important? Language requires the mind to work harder; in reading, the brain is forced to translate a symbol (words) into a concept. Images, such as those on videos and TV, allow the mind to be passive.” And my favorite part: “when faced with the written page, the mind is required to roll its sleeves and get to work.” (The Well-Trained Mind, p.14)
I am not anti-technology; I am blogging after all. Technology can strengthen education, but used poorly it seems a diversion from actual learning. What good an iPad when children don’t have the attention span or vocabulary to read a good book? What app will help them write well when they’ve never actually read great writing?
Fill the storehouse of the mind with good things and there will be a harvest of wisdom.
I sit with the four and two year old, all cozy in their soft pajamas, and we revel in Charlotte’s Web. There are giggles as Fern pushes baby Willbur in the stroller, as he breaks free from his pen for a moment of freedom. The older two read in the flickering light of the fire: Boxcar Children for the first grader, his nineteenth book since Christmas, and the delightful All-of-a-Kind Family for the oldest. The Wii is unplugged, the iPhone sits idle on the charger, the TV off, the computer sleeps. These rich moments are worthy of pursuit; we lay the rails of expectation and they willingly fly down the track.
Why does it matter? Because our days should not be filled with diversions. God calls us to excellence. Am I passing that calling along to my children, intentionally guiding them on this rigorous yet lively path? For my children to strive towards godly excellence, they must be equipped to be well-versed, independent thinkers, and that will never happen if I serve them junk food (crummy books, loads of television, lots of gaming) or forget that training the mind for wisdom starts with the written word, not with early exposure to technology. Reading the classics buys them a ticket to join in the Great Conversation of the history of western thought and helps them come to understand the subtle complexity of God’s world.
Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Phil 4:8
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:8-9