What Books do you Read to your Children?

Creating Lasting Values in Children

12/11/20234 min read

“Can you read it to us Daddy? Please, please!”

No, it wasn’t a cute little kid’s book like the one in the picture, but an actual grownup book with well over one-hundred pages. It was the story of their great-great-uncle Hugh, and Daddy just had to read it to them. As he read, they bombarded him with questions. “Did Uncle Hughie really do that? Was he just like us when he was little?” They were experiencing a “real book” about Uncle Hughie and they were loving it.

One of my earliest memories, from before I started school, was sitting around the table after the meal and listening to my mother reading a book about a man that had been clinically dead and had seen visions of Heaven. I’m not sure of the name of the book or of the writer, but I remember the story. It was thrilling to hear. I can even remember where I sat and where Mom sat at the table, even though I don’t remember much about eating my meals at that same table.

The food for my soul had obviously had the greatest impact on my mind, lasting for seventy years in my memory.

When I taught in Christian Schools I would sometimes read a book to students when the group was all together. The ages usually ranged from five to seventeen. I had just completed writing Susie’s Story, the first of the Russian Mennonite Trilogy, and although it was not written for five year olds, I read it to the school. I could tell it was having as much of an effect on the little ones as it was on the teens. I had a message from one of those, now grownup, five year olds not too long ago, and she still claims Susie’s Story is one of her favorite books.

Why do you suppose a book written for an adult, or older teen, could have such a lasting influence on a child?

A huge amount of thought and careful age-elated consideration goes into writing children’s books. I know; I have been to at least one children’s book writer’s conference. And yet, I have also observed what can happen in the heart of a child when someone reads to then from books not specifically designed for their age group, It is surprising what they will listen to, enjoy, and learn from.

Another of my memories from my childhood was of lying in bed with my mom while my brothers were in school, and she would read to me right out of her Bible. It was exciting for me to hear the stories which I had already heard from the time I was a baby, now being read to me from Mama’s “real” Bible. It meant more to me because I had already become acquainted with the characters from it, and now I was getting the actual facts from the sacred source.

When I grew up and had children of my own, I would try to read to them every evening. I remember one night when I had agreed to let a young friend of my son’s stay for the night. The friend was a “problem child” diagnosed as A.D.D. big time, but had been on his best behavior all week with no trips to the principles office, all just so he could stay with us for a single night. I had started reading a biography to my kids, of a man who had been raised by a drunken father, and I wasn’t sure I could hold this ten year old’s attention for a whole chapter, but I started. I went through one chapter and then another and another. He didn’t want me to stop.

Eventually I found out why. He could readily picture himself as the character in the biography. He was in the same situation. The Book reached his heart and probably never left him.

I just finished reading my Russian Mennonite Trilogy to my six year old granddaughter. The books are all about a girl named Susie who just happens to be my granddaughter’s Great-Grandmother. The incidents are all true even though the books are written as Amish/Mennonite fiction, and Maddie loved them. I hope the books had the same lasting effect they had on her as they did with other young children I have read it to.

Back on one of the reserves where I read to a school, a few days after finishing Susie’s story I had two different students coming to me privately, confessing lies they had told me. Those books definitely did change the lives of children most people would think were either too young or else too uninterested in books. And to be certain, they would never have made it through those books on their own. But as I read to them, the noise and fidgeting stopped, and they were drawn deeper and deeper into the life of a girl who lived in a land far away, but had problems very similar to what they faced from day to day.

When Hugh’s grand-nephew started reading to his kids, they were already excited about the book because they knew the main character. They had seen the front cover of the Hugh Neelands Story before Daddy even got the book, and it boggled their minds. Uncle Hughie on the front cover of a book! Wow! The youngest of the two held onto the book for the longest time, not wanting to put it down. It was special. And that made the words inside come alive.

I write this blog post to urge every Mom or Dad, every older brother or sister, every teacher, to read to the little ones in your life, and to chose the books, not solely from books written for children, but from the kind of books that will last in their heart for a lifetime and will help them become the grown-ups you want them to be.

For the previous post see: Declare to this Generation What God has Done

For the next post see: All Things for my Good - even the Bad Stuff

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