Instill in Your Children a Love for Reading and Studying
FEW endeavors have greater potential for shaping your children’s future than teaching them to read and study. And what joy these activities can bring! Some individuals’ fondest childhood memories are of their parents reading to them. Reading can in itself be pleasurable, as can be its results. This is especially true for servants of God, since spiritual growth is greatly enhanced by Bible study. One Christian parent observed, “The things we value most are associated with reading and study.”
Good study habits can help your children to develop a closer relationship with God. (Ps. 1:1-3, 6) Though knowing how to read is not a requirement for salvation, the Bible does associate reading with great spiritual benefits. For example, Revelation 1:3 says: “Happy is he who reads aloud and those who hear the words of this prophecy.” Moreover, the value of concentration, an important element of study, is clearly implied in the apostle Paul’s inspired counsel to Timothy: “Ponder over these things; be absorbed in them.” Why? “That your advancement may be manifest.”—1 Tim. 4:15.
Of course, simply knowing how to read and study is in itself no guarantee that these abilities will benefit a person. Many who have these skills neglect to use them; instead, they pursue less profitable occupations. So how can parents nurture in their children a thirst for beneficial knowledge?
Your Love and Your Example
Children learn to enjoy study sessions when these come wrapped in love. Owen and Claudia, a Christian couple, recall about their two children: “They looked forward to study time because it was a special time—they felt protected and comfortable. They came to associate this activity with a warm environment.” Even as children grow into their potentially challenging teen years, a loving atmosphere surrounding a family’s study activities will continue to shape their view. Owen and Claudia’s children are now pioneers and continue to benefit from the love for reading and study that was instilled in them.
A powerful ally of love is example. Children who often see their parents reading and studying are more likely to view these activities as a natural part of their own lives. But how can you as a parent set such an example if reading does not come easily to you? It may mean adjusting your priorities or your attitude toward reading. (Rom. 2:21) If reading is a prominent part of your daily routine, this will speak to the heart of your children. Your diligence—particularly in Bible reading, preparation for meetings, and family study—will send a clear message about the value of such activities.
Thus, your love and example are fundamental in instilling in your children a desire to read. But what practical steps can you take to encourage them?
A Love That Begins With Reading
What are some important steps in your children’s journey toward loving to read? Make books available to them at an early age. One Christian elder whose parents instilled in him a love for reading recommends: “Let your children get used to handling books. That way, books become their friends and a part of their life.” Bible-based books, such as Learn From the Great Teacher and My Book of Bible Stories, thus become close companions to many children long before they are able to read. When you read such publications with your children, you expose them not only to language but also to “spiritual matters” and “spiritual words.”—1 Cor. 2:13.
Regularly read out loud. Build a routine of reading with your children each day. Doing so teaches them correct pronunciation and reinforces the habit of reading. The way you read is also important. Be enthusiastic, and they will be too. In fact, you may find that your children will ask you to read the same story over and over. Indulge them! In time, they will want to explore new topics. But be careful not to make reading a forced exercise. Jesus set the example by teaching his hearers only “as far as they were able to listen.” (Mark 4:33) If you do not push your children, they will eagerly anticipate each reading session, and you will move ever closer to your goal of instilling in them a love for reading.
Encourage participation, and discuss what you read. To your delight, your young children will soon be able to recognize, pronounce, and grasp the meaning of many words. Discussing what you read can greatly enhance their progress. Conversation helps children “learn the words they will later need to recognize and understand when reading,” explains a book on the subject of how to help children to become good readers. “For young children whose developing minds are striving to become literate,” continues the same source, “talk is essential—the more meaningful . . . the better.”
Get your children to read to you, and encourage them to ask questions. You may want to pose questions yourself and suggest possible answers. That way, children learn that books are a source of information and that there is a meaning behind the words they are reading. This approach is especially helpful when what you read is based on God’s Word, the most meaningful text of all.—Heb. 4:12.
Never forget, though, that reading is a complex skill. It takes time and practice to master it.* So be sure to feed young ones’ growing love for reading with generous commendation. Commending your children will encourage them to embrace reading with affection.
Worthwhile and Pleasurable
Teaching your children how to study gives purpose to reading. Study involves learning facts and grasping their relationship to one another. It calls for the ability to organize, remember, and make use of information. Once a child has learned how to study and can see the practical value of study, then it becomes both worthwhile and pleasurable.—Eccl. 10:10.
Introduce the essentials of study. Family Worship evenings, daily text discussions, and similar occasions provide excellent opportunities for introducing study skills to your children. Sitting still and focusing on a particular subject for short periods will teach them concentration, which is essential for learning. Further, you can encourage your son to tell you how what he just learned is related to what he already knows. This teaches him to make comparisons. What about asking your daughter to summarize in her own words what she has read? This will help her to grasp its meaning and remember it. Reviewing, that is, restating key points after reading an article, is another memory aid you can introduce them to. Even young children can be taught to take brief notes during study sessions or congregation meetings. What a boon to their concentration this can be! These simple techniques keep the learning process fresh and meaningful for both you and your children.
Create circumstances that promote study. Good ventilation and lighting, along with a quiet and comfortable setting, make concentration easier. Of course, the way parents view study is crucial. “It is very important for you to be regular and consistent in making time for reading and study,” observes one mother. “This helps your children become organized. They learn that this or that needs to be accomplished at a particular time.” Many parents simply ban other activities at study times. According to one authority, this approach is a major influence in teaching children good study habits.
Highlight the value of study. Finally, help your children see the practical benefits of study. Putting information to use underscores the real purpose behind study. One young brother admits: “If I don’t see any practical value of what I’m studying, I really struggle with wanting to study it. But if I can apply it personally, it becomes something I want to understand.” When young people see study as a means to an important end, they will become absorbed in it. They will begin looking forward to study, as they did to reading.
The Best Reward
It would take volumes to list all the positive benefits of instilling a love for reading in your children. Success in school, in work, in human relations, in understanding the world we live in, and in forging closer bonds of love between parent and child are just some of them, not to mention the sheer satisfaction that reading and study bring.
Above all, a love for study can help your children to become spiritually-minded people. Love for study is the key to opening their minds and hearts to obtain “the breadth and length and height and depth” of Scriptural truth. (Eph. 3:18) Of course, Christian parents have much to teach their children. As parents dedicate time and attention to their children and do everything possible to give them a good start in life, they hope that their children will eventually choose to become worshippers of Jehovah. Teaching your children good study habits gives them the means to secure their spiritual well-being and build a good relationship with God. By all means, then, prayerfully seek Jehovah’s blessing as you strive to incite in your children a love for reading and studying.—Prov. 22:6.
Reading and studying present special challenges for children with learning disabilities. For what parents can do to help them, see Awake! February 22, 1997, pages 3-10.
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Reading . . .
• Make books available
• Read out loud
• Encourage participation
• Discuss what you read
• Get your children to read to you
• Encourage your children to ask questions
Studying . . .
• Set a good parental example
• Train your children to . . .
○ take notes
• Create circumstances that promote study
• Highlight the value of study